Juan González de Mendoza O.S.A. was born at Toledo in Spain in 1545. He was from a rich and noble family.
He first made a career in the army, and only later became a member of the Order of Saint Augustine.
He was sent by Philip II,
the King of Spain, to China. He was there from 1580 to 1583, and collected materials for the book he would later write.
In 1585 he published a book in Rome that was written in Spanish. It was named, Historia de las cosas mas notables, ritos y costumbres, del gran reyno de la China : sabidas assi por los libros de los mesmos chinas como por relacion de religiosos y otras personas que an estado en el dicho Reyno ... / hecha y ordenada por ... Fr. Ioan Gonçalez de Mendoça de la Orden de S. Augustin ... ; con un itinerario del nueuo Mundo
The first edition stated the city of publication, the year of printing, the name of the publisher and the name of the printer, as follows: Rome, Bartholome Grassi, en la Stampa de Vicentio Accolti 1585.
As well as his own insights about China, the book is an editing by Mendoza of the experiences of other priests not only in China but also much of the New World and Asia generally.
First there is a succinct tour of Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Central America.
Topics of special interest to Mendoza were natural history, the practices of land owning and management of the local people (inaccurately called "Indians"), and Spanish cultural developments.
Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), the famous maker of maps at that time, stated in his atlas that he obtained more information concerning America from this book by Mendoza than from any other single work. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Ortelius
The important section entitled, Itinerario del Nuevo Mundo ("Travel in the New World"), describes the voyage from Spain to China, via the Canary Islands, Santo Domingo, Mexico, New Mexico, Acapulco, the Ladrones, and the Philippines.
Mention is made of commodities available in the various places, the condition of the peoples met with, and a wide variety of other useful information.
The book had been called "an advertisement of nearly all of the Spanish and Portuguese overseas connections."
In addition to its great content about Latin America, the book offers rich data on China. It was the first book printed in Europe to contain an illustration of a number of Chinese characters.
As well, it makes important observations on the nature of Chinese writing and its ideographic nature.
It was the most influential and detailed work on China prepared in the sixteenth century, and was the first history of contemporary China published in a European language.
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