From 1580, the Jesuits introduced European sciences to China―an autarkic civilization whose intelligentsia was dominated by Confucian literati. Drawing upon prefectural distributions of the Jesuits and Chinese scientific works, this paper demonstrates that the Jesuits stimulated Confucian literati to study science. On average, the literati’s scientific works increased four times in prefectures with Jesuit scientists after 1580. But this effect shrank after the Jesuits were expelled by the emperor of China in 1723. Since China’s scholar-official system remained unchanged, the literati’s scientific research aimed to serve the needs of statecraft rather than translating into economic progress.