Michael Boym was born in 1612 year in a Polish city of Lwów (presently Ukraine) in the family of the royal physician to the Polish king, Sisigmund III Vasa. His grandfather was a Hungarian national who came to Poland following the king Stephan Batory (Hungarian of birth, who became the king of Poland) and settled in Lwów. In his childhood, having saved his life from a grave illness, young Michael Boym took an oath to serve the Lord until the end of his days. This oath, just as all the future ones, he faithfully kept and in 1631 he joined the Jesuit Order. Because of his outstanding intellect and great talents in math and natural sciences, he was sent by the Jesuits in 1643 to the Chinese island of Hainan to work as a missionary (the Chinese greatly valued the sciences so to gain their respect, the missionaries sent to China were chosen in function of their great scientific talents.)
Already on his way from Europe to the East, the observation and drawing talents of Father Boym came into full bloom. It was thanks to these talents that just a few years later he was able to describe in depth not only many of the Chinese fauna and flora, but also other things that he carefully studied such as: the Chinese traditional medicine and pharmacy, philosophy, customs and wear of the inhabitants of that country. Thanks to his detailed descriptions and his using Chinese writing to mark names of places and things, seventeen century Europeans and their descendants could better acquaint themselves with the Chinese Empire and for the first time in a scientifically systematized manner.
Among his greatest contributions to the western world sciences, one can list his confirmation that many of the lands previously mentioned by Marco Polo and other European travelers to China and thought to be parts of different countries in fact belonged to the Chinese Empire. What’s more, he was the first European ever to prepare a detailed Atlas of the Empire according to its provinces, indicating the main cities, rivers, lakes and even mineral mines. It is to this outstanding Pole, that the western world owes the discovery and description of many a fauna and flora of Far East Asia, as well as the ultimate confirmation of the first presence within the Chinese territory in the 8th century of the first Christians, the so-called Nestorians. Father Michael Boym travelled in person to Xi’An in Shaanxi Province, where in 1625 a mysterious stela had been discovered that contained the history of Nestorianism in China written in both the Chinese and Syrian characters. Father Boym made its copy and then made its first translation from Chinese to Latin thus providing the first material proof in establishing that, until then, legendary presence.
Apart from the above contributions to the western world, Father Boym has made a very important contribution to the Chinese history, especially to that of the majoritarian Han people. He was the last envoy sent by Ming Yong Li - the last emperor of the last ethnic Han dynasty in the Chinese history, whose whole family – the empress and the first son as well as the most important members of the court had been already converted to Christianity. His promise to the emperor was sacred – notwithstanding many obstacles and against the will of the highest Jesuit leaders involved in yonder European courts’ foreign politics, accompanied only by Andrew Cheng, the Chinese Christian appointed to assist him by the Ming emperor, he travelled afoot to Mediterranean Sea, from where he took a ship to Venice and Vatican to ask Christian powers to assist militarily the Christian Ming dynasty in its fight against the barbarian Manchu invaders.
Unfortunately, as always, short termed economic interests took over and such help to Yong Li Emperor was practically refused. In spite of the mission failure, and notwithstanding the advice of friends who asked him to remain in Europe, Father Michael Boym remained faithful to his promise and on his own, accompanied only by his loyal assistant, Andrew Cheng, undertook the return trip to China, which ended in his premature death due to exhaustion. He died at the age of 47 at the southern border of the Empire which by that time had been already overpowered by the Manchu Qing dynasty. Father Boym was not only a Polish patriot, but also a loyal friend of China, a man of honor for whom the once given word, as the Chinese say "yi nuo qian jin" 一諾千金 was worth 1000 pieces of gold. And in Father Boym’s case it was worth even more - his life.