1663  — 1738

Jean-Baptiste Regis

Jesuit missionary and cartographer in China.

Born in Istres pres d’Aix, Bouches-du-Rhone, France, Regis entered the Society of Jesus at Avignon in 1679. He left La Rochelle in March 1698, reaching Canton (Guangzhou) in November, and was called to Peking (Beijing) because of his knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. To fulfill the 1708 imperial rescript ordering the Jesuits to make an atlas of the empire, Regis and several confreres first completed a map of the area from the Great Wall to Peking. After this initial success, he was occupied until 1715 with mapping Manchuria, seven provinces of China, and the island of Taiwan. During such travel he and his confreres were able to establish several new mission stations.

Returning to Peking in early 1717, Regis and his colleagues assembled fifty maps into an atlas presented to the emperor in 1718. They were later engraved and published in Paris. Regis was the first missionary to translate the I-ching (Book of changes), then considered the oldest of the Chinese classics and one of the most difficult to comprehend. Some of his essays on that work and on Chinese chronology were published after his death in Peking.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Huang-ch’ao yu-li tsung-t’u (General atlas of the empire, compiled by Regis et at.) (1718). M. d’Anville, Atlas General de la Chine (1730-1734); Jean-Baptiste du Halde, Description geographiqne, historique, chronologique, politique et physique de l’Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise, 4 volt. (1735; 1736), 4:1-32, 423-451, 459-472, and the 25 maps; Walter Fuchs, Der Jesuiten Atlas der K’ang-hsi Zeit (1943). See also I-king, antiquissimus Sinarum liber, 2 vols. (1834-1839); “Agreement of the Chronology of the Chinese Annals with the Epochs of Ancient History,” North China Herald, no. 64 (October 18, 1851); Shanghai Miscellany for 1852 and Shanghai Miscellany for 1853.

About the Author

John W. Witek

Associate Professor of East Asian History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA