Xu “Paul” Guangqi


Xu “Paul” Guangqi, the scientist. Photo: Jeremy Clarke

Xu “Paul” Guangqi (24 April 1562–08 November 1633) was a Chinese theologian, governor, astronomer, agricultural scientist, and mathematician. A friend of the Jesuit missionary Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552–1610), Guangqi is known for having written “Nong Zheng Quan Shu,” an extended scientific treatise on agriculture. He also translated Confucian texts into Latin and co-wrote a Chinese translation and commentary of parts of Euclid’s “Elements” with Fr. Matteo Ricci.

Guangqi is known as one of the “Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism.” He is currently “Servant of God” in the ongoing canonization cause from the Archdiocese of Shanghai.

In 1596, Xu encountered Catholicism for the first time, but he received baptism only at the end of 1603. He had thus studied and seriously researched this doctrine for a full seven years. He arrived at the conclusion that the Christianity preached by the Western missionaries was not contrary to Confucianism, rather, it only added that which is missing from it. While studying Christian doctrine in depth, he produced a brief written summary:

“To place the service of God in the centre; to concern oneself with the salvation of the soul and the body; to attempt the way of filial piety and charity; to convert from one’s own sins and to aspire to sanctity in order to enter the gates of Heaven; to make penance and the purification of vices the heart of ascetic life; to aspire to paradise as the reward for good deeds; to be aware that eternal damnation will be the inferno for impenitent sinners. All of these teachings are part of a fundamental truth regarding Heaven and humanity. These teachings can render men [sic] more brotherly and sincere, and stimulate to the highest degree their commitment to eradicating evil from their existence. The salvation that comes from the Lord is a great grace: the doctrine concerning the reward for goodness and the punishment for evil is demonstrated in a very clear way, it is capable of touching the deepest part of the heart. This doctrine moves men to fear and the sincere faith that is born from the depth of conscience.”

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—Jin Luxian, Aloysius (金魯賢). “In Praise of Xu Guangqi 徐光啓.” Trans. Jeremy Clarke. Chinese Heritage Quartery. 23 (2010): pp.1-

Images: https://www.maa.org/sites/default/files/images/upload_library/46/Swetz_2012_Math_Treasures/Euclid-China/Image-3.png

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