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Reviewed by:
  • Kuoduo richao: Li Jiubiao's Diary of Oral Admonitions: A Late Ming Christian Journal, and: Francisco Varo's Glossary of the Mandarin Language
  • R. Po-chia Hsia (bio)
Erik Zürcher, translator. Kuoduo richao: Li Jiubiao's Diary of Oral Admonitions: A Late Ming Christian Journal. Monumenta Serica Monograph Series, vol. 56: 1–2. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica; Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 2007. 862 pp. maps, illustrations. Hardcover €80,00, isbn978-3-8050-0543-2.
W. South Coblin. Francisco Varo's Glossary of the Mandarin Language. Monumenta Serica Monograph Series vol. 53: 1–2. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica; Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 2006. 1,033 pp. Hardcover €115,00, isbn978-3-8050-0526-5.

Both titles under review originated in a specific historical context: the Christian communities of coastal Fujian province between 1630 and the end of the seventeenth century. One is a historical record of the interactions between Chinese converts and their Jesuit interlocutors; the other, a massive Spanish-Mandarin dictionary compiled by Francisco Varo, a Spanish Dominican, who was probably the best linguist of his religious order in Ming-Qing China. Different as they may be, taken together, the two titles reflect details of Catholic missionary life and the cultural interaction between European missionaries and Chinese society that is of wide interests to scholars of China.

A Christian convert in the early seventeenth century, Li Jiubiao and his brother Li Jiugong came from the small town of Haikou on the central Fujian coast. They had been baptized in Fuzhou by the Italian Jesuit Giulio Aleni (1582–1649), who arrived in China in 1611, one year after the death of the founder of the Jesuit mission, Matteo Ricci. A native of Brescia, Italy, Aleni spent the most fruitful years of his missionary work in Fujian province, where he acquired a reputation as "the most learned Jesuit after Ricci" and the sobriquet of "Confucius from the West." Like many, the Li brothers considered themselves Aleni's disciples. The Diary of Oral Admonitionsis the record of the teachings of the Jesuit master Aleni (together with some entries on three other Jesuit missionaries: Andrzej Rudomina, Bento de Mattos, and Simão da Cunha), compiled primarily by Li Jiubiao, with the collaboration of other Aleni disciples.

Kuoduo richaois a unique and difficult text. It is the only substantive source of the interaction between Chinese converts of the late Ming and European missionaries, covering, in snatches of recording, their conversations and activities just over a period of ten years (1630–1640). As such, it offers an invaluable and intimate perspective on the practice of the early Jesuit China Mission. It is, [End Page 470]however, also a difficult source to use, not only because of the fragmentary and disparate nature of the recordings (Aleni's different travels; conversational topics ranging from astronomy to confession), but also because of the large number of interlocutors present in the work: a total of ninety-eight Chinese interlocutors, of whom seventy-three were converts and twenty-five interested or sympathetic nonbelievers.

This present edition, carefully translated and annotated by Erik Zürcher, the late professor emeritus of sinology at Leiden University, represents an invaluable contribution to scholarship. A long introduction of 167 pages formally analyzes the text, identifies to the extent possible the interlocutors and events recorded, and discusses in insightful details the missionaries, the converts, the outsiders, the doctrines, the rituals, and the sociocultural background of the Fujian mission that formed the background to Kuoduo richao. In this endeavor, Zürcher has drawn not only on his knowledge of the Chinese Catholic literature of the seventeenth century, written by Jesuits and converts, but also on the latest research by Eugenio Menegon, Ad Dudink, Nicolas Standaert, and Zhang Xianqing. It is a handsome edition, with a full introduction, notes, a translation, a reproduction of the original Chinese text, as well as a full scholarly apparatus.

Compiled as an internal text for the edification of the growing Christian community in Fujian, Kouduo richaoblithely fails to mention the brief spell of persecution between the winter of 1637 and summer of 1639. While this challenge to the Jesuit mission in Fujian proved transitory, another...


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