Fan Shouyi: The first Chinese person to tell of the West
21 July 2017
Many people are familiar with European missionaries like Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) who served as cultural bridges between China and the West. Not only did they bring Western knowledge and Christianity to China, translating with Chinese literati important works of philosophy, theology and science. They also brought knowledge of China to the West, through letters, reports, books about China, and notably through their Latin translation of the Confucian books in the “Confucius Sinarum Philosophus” (1687).
In the last 30 years, scholarship has come to stress the role of Chinese individuals and local communities in this cultural transmission. I would like to highlight here the life and role of Fan Shouyi 樊守義 (1682–1753), a Chinese Christian who lived and studied in Europe for ten years (1708–1718), who became a priest in Europe and was the first Chinese person to write impressions of Europe and the Americas. With his double identity as a Chinese subject of the Emperor Kangxi and as a Jesuit priest, he made efforts to fulfill his religious and political duties at the difficult time of the rites controversy.1
This article is restricted to paid subscribers