GÓIS, Bento de (Benedictus Goes)

GÓIS, Bento de (Benedictus Goes). Vila-Franca-do-Campo, Ilha de S. Miguel (Azores) 1562 — Suzhou, Gansu, China 11.4.1607. S.J. Portuguese Missionary and Traveller in India and China. Originally a jew, baptized in 1572 as Luís Gonçalves, took the name B. de G., when joined the S.J. as lay brother. Came to India first as a soldier in 1588. As Jesuit missionary (member of the mission from 1593, took his last vows in 1598) he was sent to the court of Akbar and then to Central Asia to search for the Cathay of Marco Polo. In January 1603 he left in the disguise of Armenian merchant (he also spoke Persian). He went to Afghanistan, crossed the Pamir to Yarkand, took the northern route via Turfan and eventually reached China. He was thus the first known European to travel by land from India to China via Central Asia. He died soon after this travel in China, but left an account proving that Cathay indeed was China. His journal was brought to Jesuits in Peking, where Mateo Ricci made an Italian version of it and this was later translated by N. Trigault into Latin.

Publications: The journal was published in M. Ricci’s travel account: De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas. Augsburg 1615, translated in H. Yule’s Cathay and the Way Thither. L. 1866, 529-596, new ed. by H. Cordier. Vol. 4. L. 1916, 167-259.

Sources: Grande Enciclop. Portug. e Brasileira 12 with further references; Wessels 1924, 1ff.; Wikipedia with portrait and more references.

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