Jesuit history during the Ming and Qing dynasties

Wong Tsz

Professor Tang Kaijian offered in this book a previously overlooked perspective of cross-cultural history initiated in Macau between Europe and China during late-Ming/early Qing time, with a focus on the early engagements of European missionaries from Macau to mainland China during that time.

1) The first official treaty for trade between Ming Empire and Portugal was made between Leonel de Sousa and vice maritime inspector of Guangdong, Wang Bo (p.192) in 1554, also known as the Luso-Chinese agreement. How this agreement was made remains controversial; different terms were used in this book for the description: the treaty was ‘signed’ (p.8), and ‘oral agreement’ (p.192); this may cause confusion to readers.
2) The origin of ‘三巴’ (St. Paul’s) Church and later St. Paul’s College. Although ‘三巴’ was used mostly as an equivalence to ‘St. Paul’s’, it is not to be mistaken with ‘小三巴’, which actually refers to St. Joseph’s Church (p.79), also known as ‘三巴仔’ by the locals.
3) St. Paul’s College was intended to train missionaries and functioned as the haven of the exiles from the Japan Mission; it later became a stepping-stone for missionaries to enter China.

The brief historical background was backed by an accurate but concise summary explaining why Macau was significant in an early China-Europe connection: It was the single channel to enter China legally (p.42-44), and illegally (p. 44-47). 
Supplemented with primary sources from the First Historical Archive of China, the second chapter explores the historical importance of Macau’s educational establishment for the preparation of missioning. A remarkable summary of missionary schooling is given here, introducing the early Jesuit school in Macau (p.56-58), and the foundation of St. Paul’s College (p.58-61). How early European missionaries learn Chinese language is also given here (p.63-64). Additional material of Jesuits’ efforts in learning/ teaching Chinese can be found in the Ratio Studiorum for China Mission developed between 1622 and 1624 by the Rector of St. Paul’s College, Manuel Dias (See: Ratio Studiorum para os Nosso que ham de Estudar as letra e lingua da China, 1642, BAJA 49-V-7: 311r.) The reformed Jesuit education is often helped by the expelled missionaries sent back to Macau, whom acquired advanced Chinese proficiency in mainland China. A detailed description of their activities can be found on p.84-89.
Separate chapters on the missionary activities in Qingzhou (青洲) and Hainan (海南) follow, where the Jesuits’ defensive city wall against the pirates was once mistaken for a military construction against the Ming government (p.103-105). Jesuit Lazzaro Cattaneo (郭居靜) was even rumored to have wanted to conquer China and become the emperor himself (p.106-108). The happenings in Hainan demonstrated one of the most under-researched parts of Jesuit history in China; comparable to Jesuit history in Macau. Jesuit Bento de Matos is identified as one key mediator between Zheng Chenggong’s (鄭成功) force and the defending force in Hainan. Different accounts of Mato’s death are also presented here (p.140-141). After Zheng’s retreat to Taiwan, Jesuit activities in Hainan continued to blossom under Kangxi’s reign, another detailed list of Jesuit personnel (p.144-146) and churches (p.146) is summarized.
Chapter 5 deals with the funding of missionary; other than the three conventional sources, namely: from foreign government, from private donations, and from Chinese government (including salaries of the missionaries), an interesting summary of Jesuit investments via trading (p.173-175), property investments (p.175-178), and even by providing banking service (p.178-180) – the “religious in the St. Paul Cathedral were very rich (三巴和尚鉅富)” (p.174). Perhaps helpful to the discussion, would be the importance of silver in Ming-Qing China, especially after Zhang Juzheng’s (張居正) taxation reform, namely the Single Whip Law (一條鞭法), silver became the only accepted taxation payment; Jesuit’s involvement in trade couldn’t happen at a better time when domestic demand for silver kept soaring.
Chapters 6 and 7 discuss the spread of Catholic art/art objects and music in Macau and China. Catholic paintings and religious artworks, mostly the figure of the holy mother, was very well received in the Chinese speaking world, and therefore there was an urgent need of training local painters (p.186), they include Manuel Pereira (游文輝), Francisco de Lagea (石宏基), Mateus Vaz (魏瑪竇) (p.190-191). Some of the remade art objects presented in China were proved to be of high quality, including a portrait entitled Virgin Mary Holding Jesus Christ in Her Arms and John the Baptist (聖母抱耶穌和施洗者約翰像), Jesus Christ the Savior (救世基督像), and Virgin Mary (聖母瑪利亞像); they were actually repainted by Manuel Pereira (p.202). In Kangxi’s time, more missionaries were sent to China for their artistic talents, including Giovanni Gherardini (聶雲龍), Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世寧), and Charles de Belleville (衛嘉祿) (p.203). A separate sub-chapter 3.1 is presented here to discuss the challenge of learning Chinese; from the reader’s perspective this arrangement seems peculiar, this discussion may better be put together with the general discussion of Jesuit’s Chinese learning (p.63-64).
Since the first clavichord was presented to the Wanli Emperor by Matteo Ricci (p.236), the interest towards European music and musical instrumentals continued in Qing dynasty, where Emperor Kangxi ordered more European music to be played in the court, Pereira even taught European musical theory (p.243-244), eventually leading to the publishing of Lülü  Zuanyao (律呂纂要) and Lülü Zhengyi Xubian (律呂正義續編), Kangxi’s collection of musical instruments also expended to winds and strings (p.238-239), some European instruments were even manufactured in the imperial court (p.240-241). Perhaps what could also be helpful to the discussion is the function of music – I note here that one important function of music is actually to help master the Chinese language. Lazzaro Cattaneo (郭居靜) was accredited to have applied musical knowledge in identifying the different tones of Chinese language (See: Pasquale d'Elia, Fonte Ricciane 2, p.32-33.). A music-to-Chinese graph was also presented by Sabatino de Ursis (熊三拔) in a letter dated 23.8.1608 (See: ARSI Jap-Sin 14-II:316v.).
The last chapter gave sole attention to the clock diplomacy and the use of clockworks in China. Since the first mechanical clock was introduced to Ming court, clockworks remain a popular European wonder, under Yongzhen’s reign the Bureau of Clock-Making (做鐘處) was established for domestic clock production (p.271-273). The mania of European clocks reached its peak by mid-Qing era, where clocks were manufactured in China more as toy than for telling time. Here I note the equivalent importance of music/art diplomacy – musical instruments and art objects were often presented as a gift for establishing formal connections, or sometimes, as bribes.
What may be bettered in this book are perhaps the translations. Problems with translations often cause ambiguities, for instance in The Case of Interrogating Criminals Including Alfonso Vagnoni ( 會審王豐肅等犯一案 ) (p.48) states:
The money and grain for Alfonso Vagnoni is brought to Macau by commercial ships of Western countries. The money is worth about 600 taels. If a house is to be built, the money is increased by 1,000 taels. The money is allocated once per year. It was distributed to various places for the use of Diego de Pantoja and others.

‘The money’ apparently refers to different sources of money, which is unclear in the translation. Similar problems with pronouns could be found in the Portuguese version of the Five Articles on the Maritime Ban, Article III (p.124): 
Military ships are prohibited. It was said that these boats were warships. I heard that when the Portuguese came to Macau, they had always paid the tax according to law, did not stir up trouble, and had traded peacefully. Now they use the issue of the Dutchmen as an excuse to tell many lies and are cunning. It is said that the Dutchmen engage in robbery on the way and thus the large boats are commercial ships while the big sailing boats are warships. Such a deceitful trick leads to serious losses in taxation and brings much trouble to government officials. … With two capitals and thirteen provinces, China is very big, therefore, this country does not need the tax of 20,000 silver taels from us. … You shall not play the trick of warships again. Otherwise I will destroy you, the ships, and the commodities. 

The use of pronouns here is almost confusing: ‘these’ boats may refer to the Portuguese vessels. Note the difference between boat and ship – ‘large boats are commercial ships’, and ‘big sailing boats are warships’; the difference between two is unclear. Furthermore, ‘they’ refers to the Portuguese, yet the later use of ‘You’ also refers to the Portuguese. Similarly, the ‘we’ may refer to the Chinese officials, while ‘us’ could either refer to the officials or together with the Portuguese – as the Portuguese were to pay the tax. In general, translations were made without the provision of original text, this made cross-referencing more difficult. It is highly recommended to have original text for translations in block quotations.
The value of this book lies in its research on the Catholic history between Macau and Ming/Qing Court. This book not only serves as a helpful reference to scholars in this field, the readable narration and category of subjects will certainly appeal to a wider readership.

Wong Tsz, Research associate of Centre for Modern East Asian Studies, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen