Bento de Goes’ Search for Cathay

Nora C. Buckley describes how a soldier from the Azores became a Jesuit priest in India and how his extensive travels proved that ‘Cathay’ was in fact China.

In 1602, at the direction of his Jesuit superiors, Brother Bento de Goes set out from India to cross central Asia in search of the Great Cadiay, the fabulously rich kingdom that Marco Polo had described three centuries earlier when he returned to Venice after some twenty years in the Far East. European explorers and missionaries, particularly the Jesuits, had become extremely eager to find Cathay, which on their maps was a country located north of China.

Five years later Goes solved the mystery of its actual location; and his findings both altered the West’s maps of the world and enhanced the Jesuits’ wide reputation for excellence in the fields of geography and cartography. But perhaps his greater achievement was the search itself, the journey that ended only with his death at the border of China.

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