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Scientific and cultural Relations between Spain and China through the Philippines: Fray Juan Cobo and his Works in Astronomy

Josi Antonio Cervera (Jiminez University of Zaragoza, Spain)

The Jesuits were very important in the transmission of Science from Europe to China. This is very well-known. But not only the Jesuits went to China, some other religious orders did it too, and some friars (Agustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans) tried to enter China and used Science for this purpose. This is the case of the Spanish Dominican Fray Juan Cobo (?-1592) who, as far as we know, wrote in the Philippines the first book in Chinese about European Science, the Shi Lu (published in Manila in 1593).

When the Spaniards arrived to the Philippines, an important Chinese community was stablished in Manila. The friars tried to enter China, but at that moment (late 16th. century) they could not do it. Then, they learnt Chinese in Manila, in order to go to China in the future. Cobo was one of these friars. His contributions were quite important: he made the first translation from a Chinese book to an European language (the Beng Sim Po Cam), and he wrote the Shi Lu.

This paper gives a general idea about Cobo, his life and works, and especially about his contributions to Astronomy. In his book Shi Lu, he introduces the geocentrical cosmological system, and he proofs that the Earth is round. The sources that Cobo may have used will be discussed, comparing his system with some other European and Chinese cosmological ideas.

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