Castner, Gaspar

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Missionary to China; b. Munich, Oct. 7, 1665; d. Beijing (Peking), Nov. 9, 1709. He entered the Society of Jesus on Sept. 17, 1681, and, after distinguishing himself in his theological studies at Ingolstadt, he was named professor of philosophy at Regensburg in 1695. The following year he set out for China from Lisbon, arriving in Macau in 1697. For five years he preached in the neighborhood of Guangzhou (Canton). He also directed the construction of a memorial church on the island of Shangchuan (Sancian), where St. Francis Xavier had died in 1552. He was sent to Rome with Father Francis Noël in 1702 to represent the bishops of Nanjing (Nanking) and Macau concerning the chinese rites. Together with Noël he composed a memorial on the suitability of the Chinese words Tian (T'ien) and Shangdi (Shang-ti) as the equivalent for God. Before returning to China in 1707 he convinced the Portuguese that ships sailing for China should strike out from the Cape of Good Hope directly for Timor, without passing through the Straits of Malacca, thereby cutting the journey to Macau to less than a year. After his return to China, Castner was ordered to Beijing, where word of his skill in mathematics had already been received. The Emperor Kangxi (K'ang Hsi) named him president of the bureau of mathematics and tutor to the imperial prince. He was also a noted cartographer and did excellent work mapping the Chinese empire.

Bibliography: l. pfister, Notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les Jésuites de l'ancienne mission de Chine 15521773, 2 v. (Shanghai 193234), 1:486489. l. koch, Jesuiten-Lexikon: Die Gesellchaft Jesu einst und jetzt (Paderborn 1934); photoduplicated with rev. and suppl., 2 v. (Louvain-Heverlee 1962), 1:959960. c. sommervogel et al., Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, 11 v. (Brussels-Paris 189032; v.12, suppl.1960), 2:853854.

[j. h. campana]

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Castner, Gaspar

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