Ming Forbidden City in Beijing

Today’s Bible reading

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. — John 10:16

More thoughts for meditation

We are on a spiritual pilgrimage with daring Jesus-followers who were convicted to act on today’s reading.

Xu Guang-qi (1562-1633) was one of the earliest Chinese Christian converts of the modern era towards the end of Ming Dynasty. He was also a scientist, and a translator. Born in Shanghai, Xu passed the national examination and became a scholar as a young man. On his way to Beijing, Xu met Matteo Ricci. In 1603, under Ricci’s influence, he was baptized and became a Christian, taking the Christian name Paul. Xu became a high ranking official in 1604 and continued to study under Ricci. On his way back to Shanghai to attend his father’s funeral, Xu dropped by Nanking and urged Lazaro Cattaneo to preach in his hometown. They held church meetings in Xu’s house and baptized his family members and friends. Xu set up astronomy instruments in Beijing in 1610 and established Catholic schools in 1616. In 1625, Xu resigned from is position, returned to Shanghai and wrote the Book of Agriculture. Xu regained his position in 1628 and wrote the  Book of Annals of Zong Zhen. He also translated many books written by Ricci as well as brought to China by Ricci.

Matteo Ricci arrived at Macau in 1582 and began his study of Chinese. He also worked at acquiring understanding of Chinese culture. In 1589 Ricci moved inland and began to teach Chinese scholars European math. After several attempts, he was allowed to live in Beijing, where he taught mathematics to Chinese students, including the high-ranking public official Xu Guang-qi. Xu Guang-qi became the first native of China to publish translations of European books into Chinese.  Xu Guangqi wrote:-

Rules in the West different from ours we do not have. Rules in the East that are the same as in the west are all right, those different from those in the west are all wrong. … Therefore though The Ten Mathematical Classics are lost, this is not a pity, for they were nothing but worn-out shoes.

During the last few years of his life Xu Guang-qi was an extremely influential figure at the Imperial Court of the Ming Dynasty. When the Ming were under attack by from the Manchu, Xu Guang-qi, with his strong belief in the superiority of all things European, persuaded the Ming emperor to have his army adopt advanced European artillery against the Manchu. Initially effective, the strategy collapsed after Xu Guang-qi’s death when the Manchu learned European iron-smelting technology and acquired Western arms themselves. The Ming dynasty was defeated by them in 1644.

What do you think? Was Matteo Ricci “being all things to all people” in order to win their faith in Christ, or was he a prejudiced European undermining Chinese culture? Was Xu Guang-qi a collaborator with invaders or a person enlightened by faith and science? There is probably a little of both, isn’t there?

Suggestions for action

Pray: Give me a heart to care about the sheep who are not of my fold.

Jesus is talking to people who think the wall around the sheepfold is set and they are in it. When he sets his sight on those yet to enter the fold, it must seem disturbing. How is it for you? When you imagine people who are not yet “in,” what do you think and feel? 

Pray for people you know Jesus is imagining to be part of his flock.