Michel Benoist

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Michel Benoist (Chinese: 蔣友仁; pinyin: Jiǎng Yǒurén, October 8, 1715 in Dijon, France – October 23, 1774 in Beijing, China of a stroke) was a Jesuit scientist, who stood in the service of the Chinese Qianlong Emperor for thirty years and is most noted for the waterworks he constructed for the emperor.


Michel Benoist studied in Dijon and at Saint Sulpice, Paris. He entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Nancy on March 18, 1737. Before he went to China as a missionary in 1744,[1] he completed astronomical studies in Paris.


At the court of the Qianlong Emperor, Michel Benoist worked on the design of the Western-Style Palaces (Xi Yang Lou) on the grounds of the Old Summer Palace. In particular, he designed several large fountains, including a "water clock" in front of the Hall of National Peace. This clock consisted of a fountain basin surrounded by 12 statues depicting the animals of the Chinese zodiac each of which was associated with one of the 12 Chinese hours by the Earthly Branches System. Each of the statues would successively spew water for the duration of the hour it represented. Michel Benoist also conducted astronomical studies and showed the emperor how to use a telescope. Furthermore, he produced a large world map and a map of the Chinese empire and neighboring territories. He set up a printing shop which produced prints from a set of copper engravings showing the battles of the emperor, which had been received as a gift of king Louis XV of France. Several literary works are attributed to him, including a translation of "The Imitation of Christ" into Chinese.

See also[edit]

Catholic missionaries in China[edit]

Protestant missionaries in China[edit]

See separate article List of Protestant missionaries in China.


  1. ^ p. 237, Jesuits Go East, Felix Alfred Plattner, translated from the German by Lord Sudley and Oscar Blobel, The Newman Press, Maryland, 1952