In Chinese society, the emperor was the mediator between earth and heaven, and much of the scheduling of public life was predicated on the calendars issued in his name. These calendars were calibrated by precise observations of the sun, moon and stars. By demonstrating the advantages of European astronomical predictions (of eclipses, for example), the Jesuits were able to convince the Chinese that European ideas could be valuable. The Chinese were also fascinated by the things the Jesuits brought with them, including clocks, prisms and world maps.
Despite the Jesuits’ significant tenure in China, Christianity was never adopted there on a large scale. But the long association between scholars from East and West led to the transmission of knowledge in both directions and sparked cross-cultural curiosity that continues today.