Juan González de Mendoza O.S.A. was born at Toledo in Spain in 1545. He was from a rich and noble family. He first made a career in the army, and only later became a member of the Order of Saint Augustine. He was sent by Philip II, the King of Spain, to China. He was there from 1580 to 1583, and collected materials for the book he would later write.
In 1585 he published a book in Rome that was written in Spanish. It was named, Historia de las cosas mas notables, ritos y costumbres, del gran reyno de la China : sabidas assi por los libros de los mesmos chinas como por relacion de religiosos y otras personas que an estado en el dicho Reyno ... / hecha y ordenada por ... Fr. Ioan Gonçalez de Mendoça de la Orden de S. Augustin ... ; con un itinerario del nueuo Mundo
The first edition stated the city of publication, the year of printing, the name of the publisher and the name of the printer, as follows: Rome, Bartholome Grassi, en la Stampa de Vicentio Accolti 1585. As well as his own insights about China, the book is an editing by Mendoza of the experiences of other priests not only in China but also much of the New World and Asia generally. First there is a succinct tour of Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Central America. Topics of special interest to Mendoza were natural history, the practices of land owning and management of the local people (inaccurately called "Indians"), and Spanish cultural developments.
Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), the famous maker of maps at that time, stated in his atlas that he obtained more information concerning America from this book by Mendoza than from any other single work; that certainly was great praise. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Ortelius The important section entitled, Itinerario del Nuevo Mundo ("Travel in the New World"), describes the voyage from Spain to China, via the Canary Islands, Santo Domingo, Mexico, New Mexico, Acapulco, the Ladrones, and the Philippines.
Mention is made of commodities available in the various places, the condition of the peoples met with, and a wide variety of other useful information. The book had been called "an advertisement of nearly all of the Spanish and Portuguese overseas connections." In addition to its great content about Latin America, the book offers rich data on China. It was the first book printed in Europe to contain an illustration of a number of Chinese characters. As well, it makes important observations on the nature of Chinese writing and its ideographic nature.
It was the most influential and detailed work on China prepared in the sixteenth century, and was the first history of contemporary China published in a European language. Its popularity may be accounted for in part by the great and unsatisfied demand which existed everywhere in Europe for a comprehensive and authoritative survey of China. In fact, the authority of this book by Mendoza was so great that it became the point of departure and the basis of comparison for all subsequent European works on China written before the eighteenth century.
Japan, the Maluccas (the Spice Islands), and the Philippines were also included by Mendoza. The Philippines, their history, indigenous populations, and "conquest by the Spaniards and missionaries" are treated in several places. For this coverage, he had reports of the first Christian activity in the Philippines by the Order of Saint Augustine, which had begun ten years previously in 1575.
For interesting materials on the Malaccas (the Spice Islands) and Indochina, Mendoza reported, for example, the experiences of men such as the Franciscan, Martin Ignatius de Loyola; the latter was a relative of Saint Ignatius Loyola, and served in Asia in 1579. Before the end of the century this book by Mendoza had been translated into most European languages and had become one of the best-selling books of its day. Its translation into the Italian language happened in 1586, only one year after initial edition appeared in Spanish at Rome. Two more Italian editions quickly followed.
The rate at which demand for this book increased is indicated by the rapid appearance of nine editions in four major Continental European languages in the following eight years. It was printed in Italian at Rome during 1585 and again in 1586, in Venice during 1586 and 1588 and 1590; in Spanish in Madrid in 1586 and at Anvers in 1596; in German at Frankfurt during 1589; and in French in Paris during 1589.
On 31st May 1593 Mendoza was appointed Bishop of Lipari, which is a volcanic island off the coast of southern Italy. He resigned in 1599, and on 7th May 1607 was appointed Bishop of Chiapas (Ciudad Real de Chiapas), Chiapas, México. On 17th November 1608 he was then transferred, and made the Bishop of Popayán, Colombia (then called New Grenada), where he died in office on 14th February 1618.
He had served on three continents, and had successively been the bishop of three different dioceses on two of these continents. To have been a bishop of three different dioceses is relatively rare. In that Phillip II of Spain had a direct voice in the appointment of bishops in the colonies of Spain, possibly the fact that Philip knew the Mendoza family in Toledo and knew Juan Mendoza personally caused this to happen without there needing to be any suggestion that Mendoza himself had either wanted it or had sought it to happen.