Macau, Macau


Main Themes

  • Cultural background of Wu Li's time
  • Relationship between painting and calligraphy in literati works
  • Wu Li's poetry
  • Use of music and ritual in religious practice in China at the time of Wu Li
  • Spiritual quest and conversion in Early Qing: a search for meaning


  • 27-29 November, 2003


  • Pousada de Mongha, Macau


  • English and Mandarin


The decline and fall of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the coming to power of the Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) caused a dispersal of many eminent scholars who, loyal to the Ming, chose to become recluse painters and poets.

Wu Li, courtesy name 漁 山 Yushan, one of the "Six Masters of Early Qing," lived his life during this period of historical and spiritual turmoil. His tireless quest for the True Way of Heaven led him in 1681 to the Jesuit College of St. Paul in Macao. Later on, as a Jesuit, he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1688.

The forthcoming Symposium would like to get a closer look at the cultural, spiritual and historical background of Wu Li's time, as well as focus on his journey as painter, poet and Christian author.

Organising Institutions


霍啟昌 FOK Kaicheong

The "Macao Formula" In Crisis Over Quest for Spiritual Faith

The "Macao Formula" had stemmed from special historical circumstances and events leading to the worsening of the "Wokou problem" and the rise of problems related to the coming of the first batch of Europeans by sea, the Portuguese, during the first few decades of the sixteenth century. Even though relations with the Portuguese under the formula did not gain direct imperial endorsement throughout the Ming dynasty, it was, nevertheless, passively tolerated. The fact that the trade made permissible under the formula could satisfy imperial needs for foreign rarities and at the same time keep the militarily formidable Portuguese in check, certainly helped to keep the opposition by the staunchly doctrinaire central officials at bay. After the Ming dynasty fell, the formula was continued for practical political reasons by the Qing in dealing with the Portuguese in Macao. Consequently, the Qing not only continued the Ming trend of strengthening the local defense system around the Macao area but also successfully extended civil administration control over Macao's foreign settlement. Based on the study of Sino-Western relations according to the Macao experiences, it is clear that from the point of view of the Qing emperor, the concept of "dujian fangwei" (forestall the growth of abuses by strict enforcement of preventive measures) served its purpose of asserting imperial power in the frontier regions. Since Macao was recognized as a sea frontier port in this area by the Qing, measures and regulations to control the foreigners must be viewed as part of the "dujian fangwei" policy of the early Qing emperors to consolidate political control and to enforce national security measures in this frontier area.

During the lifetime of Wuli (1632-1718) and under the Macao formula, even though there were no major eruptions of hostilities between the Portuguese community and the late Ming and early Qing governments, there were various occasions when Sino-western relations were strained in Macao. One was the crisis over the spiritual quest for an alien faith, Catholicism, by Chinese residents in Macao and its immediate vicinities. This study first traces the genesis of the crisis then it makes a thorough examination of an outstanding case of such a crisis, the affair of "Nossa Senhora do Amparo" when, in 1747, Qing local officials closed down this Catholic seminary which sparked off resistance from the foreign community. The findings of this examination will serve to illustrate how the principles and rationale behind the Macao formula were being actually applied to manage foreign affairs, including the spread of the Catholic faith in Macao and its immediate vicinities. This case study particularly sheds light on the flexibilities and discrepancies in the actual execution of the Macao formula. More importantly, it will illustrate that political considerations were the primary factor leading to the early Qing emperors' suppression of Christianity.

David M. Kowal

Jesuit buildings in Asia: reflections on the practice of architectural accommodation

By 1681, when Wu Li arrived at the Jesuit College of Saint Paul in the Portuguese-controlled enclave of Macao, the Society of Jesus had long established its primacy among the missionary orders in the East. Moreover, over a century had passed during which the westernized Jesuits active in the East had evolved and practiced a policy of cultural adaptation and accommodation in their interaction with Others (from Indians in the initial heartland of the Portuguese Indies to the Japanese and Chinese of the Outer Circle regions). Although the Jesuits practiced this policy with varying degrees of consistency, application and success, their proclivities toward accommodation in the East ultimately differentiated the Society's multiple endeavors from those of its fellow religious competitors.

One of the societies foremost accomplishments was the establishment and construction of churches and colleges which, by the 17th and 18th centuries, stretched from India to Japan. Among all the religious Orders active in this vast region, the Jesuits were the most prolific and innovative builders of ecclesiastical edifices, often constructing and embellishing their major college churches in a manner that not only reflected their European spiritual roots and political allegiances (in addition to maintaining their particular religious practices), but just as often responding to localized circumstances and indigenous, non-western artistic currents and ideologies. A multitude of ecclesiastical structures erected by Jesuits in those areas of the "Portuguese Indies" where the Society held exceptional sway, reflect in their fabric and/or architectural adornment, a formal and symbolic hybridization that generally corresponds to the Society's syncretic practice of accommodation and acculturation to Others. The extent to which such artistic and architectural synthesis was consciously promoted and carried out by Jesuit builders does, however, vary between their regional Asiatic missions, affected, among other things, by the Society's level of respect for the individual cultures it worked within, by the degree to which Jesuits in these respective areas could pursue policies independent of their political sponsors in Portugal and spiritual adherents in Italy, and by the makeup of its constituent missionary forces in Asia, particularly those leaders who set standards.

This presentation will briefly survey the circumstances and policies of Jesuit ecclesiastical construction in India, Japan and China (including commentary on both the Jesuit mission to the Middle Kingdom and the Jesuit presence in Portuguese-controlled Macao). Using a selection of Jesuit-built churches as example this paper will focus upon the varying degrees of accommodation and hybridization reflected in these structures. Furthermore, the paper will attempt to offer explanation for such variations, differentiating, for instance, the essentially practical basis of grafting Indianized motives onto the Bom Jesus in Goa from the self-consciously purposeful adaptation of Oriental elements into the syncretic showcase church where Wu Li worshipped, Saint Paul in Macao.

César Guillén-Nuñez

Science and Art: The college and church of Madre de Deus at the time of Wu Li

Wu Li arrived at the College of Madre de Deus in 1681 on his way to Europe. For rather mysterious reasons he never left, staying behind at the Jesuit College in Macao. In fact, the city and College were to provide his only experience of the West. At the time of his arrival the High Baroque style had reached its zenith, often in the colleges of the Society of Jesus in Europe. But it was equally a time when Western science had reached conclusions that came into direct conflict with Roman Catholic beliefs.

Although contemporary art historians have already addressed aspects of the conflict in Europe, this paper examines its repercussions for the Society of Jesus in Macao. To begin with, the Jesuits' zeal for modern science, especially astronomy, is evident in their scientific endeavours in China and probably in the little-known curriculum of the College of Madre de Deus. But in what seems like a contradiction, the images and iconography of the decoration of the Church of Madre de Deus, as well as the Jesuits' use of ephemeral structures, emblems and religious spectacles in Macao provide first-hand evidence of the strict Tridentine theology that they largely espoused. In his writings Wu Li has left a brief yet precious poetic account of the religious spectacles staged by the Jesuits in the city. He was evidently equally aware of the importance they attached to science. Wu Li's internal conflict and spiritual progress in Macao should therefore be located in the midst of the historic clash between Western science and religion, a clash that nonetheless resulted in a more poetic and spiritual art in the Macao College and Church.

Elisabetta Corsi

"Dar a otro modo y orden" (EE2,1) Wu Li's education in Christian visuality

By examining the role of images, prints and emblems in Jesuit Colleges such as Coimbra and the Collegio Romano during the 17th century, this paper explores what must have been a significant part of Wu Li's Jesuitical education at the College of Saint Paul.

The tendency to view visual culture almost exclusively in the context of "art" has often prevented scholars from considering the broader range of purposes such images where intended to serve.

By the same token, the fact that Wu Li maintained an autochthonous style in painting has often been misconstrued as an outright rejection of Western technique.

In point of fact, meditation practices employing mental and visual imagery such as those ones developed by the Jesuits, may have actually exercised a major impact on Wu Li's poetry and, more importantly, contributed to the formation of his personal perception and spirituality within Christianity.

韓琦 Han Qi

Chinese Catholics & their activities in the Jiangnan Region (1669-1702): new research through archival documents

In the first years of Kangxi, the anti-religion case instigated by Yang Guangxian against the development of Catholicism led to a very great offensive which, for science and society alike, generated a deep and far reaching influence. Up to now no deep and penetrating research has ever been done on the situation of the faithful after the anti-religion case in the Jiangnan region (that is mainly Songjiang, Jiading, Taicang, Changshu, Suzhou, Jiangding, etc.). In reality, during the years 1700-1702, the "Rites Controversy" reached its climax. The Jesuits, in order to gain support for ancestor worship and the sacrifice to Confucius, in every place collected extensively the "certificate of oath" so as to make the Church authorities hear the voice of the Chinese faithful. Since the Jiangnan region was the stronghold of Catholic propagation, a great number of faithful at the request of the Jesuits expressed their own views on the question of the rites.

This paper intends, on the basis of newly discovered material, to discuss the role that the Jiangnan faithful have played in the midst of the "Rites Controversy", their views regarding the sacrifice to Confucius, ancestor worship, and their relation to the Jesuits, with the hope to gain a clearer knowledge of the History of Chinese Catholicism at the time of Kangxi. In addition, the paper hopes to form a better understanding of the epoch Wu Li lived in and his religious life in the Jiangnan region.

莫小也 Mo Xiaoye

The exchange of Western and Eastern art in Wu Li's time

The epoch of Wu Li's life (1632-1718) was really a time where a "Silk Road" was crossed on the seas, and all the more so through Macau, which became a window that China opened to foreign exchange. In this epoch, East-West relations developed rapidly. It was also a time when the old Chinese society, because of the replacement of political power from Ming to Qing, once again experienced a violent change as all literati, officials and artists once again went through a period of extremely serious choice and rigorous test.

Under such a background, Europeans, group after group, reached the East. From the Occident the Jesuits Matteo Ricci, Ferdinand Verbiest, Luigi Buglio, Michal Piotr Boym, from the Roman Congregation De Propaganda Fide Matteo Ripa, the secular painter Giovanni Gherardini, and others, progressively brought along Western art (including painting, architecture, sculpture and handicraft). They aroused in the Orient--from the Imperial Court and the nobility above down to the ordinary folk--an extremely great astonishment, which provoked all sorts of debates.

At the early stage, the knowledge and absorption that Chinese literati and officials have had about Western art was rather cautious and positive. For instance, the usage of Western perspective, colors and composition and the transformation of what is the main way of oriental expression, the ink and water painting. Therefore, in the midst of the radical change of figure painting, landscape painting, etc., they certainly obtained results.

As in spirit Wu Yushan accepted Catholicism, he also adopted, towards Western art, a rather cautious attitude. He expressed his opinion on the differences and similarities between Chinese and Western painting, each having heavy side artistic ways. Separately, in the midst of some painting and through undertaking trials he did not, nevertheless, fall into the ranks of Occidental art but leaned on a synthesis of the spiritual aspects.

Macau, being in that time the only open port and harbor and in the wake of the economic development, changed progressively into a modern city. From architecture and painting up to handicraft arts, everything merged the traditions of remote origins and long history that are the Latin civilization and the civilization of China. In the exchange between Eastern and Western art, Macau played an extraordinary special role.

It is also exactly by passing through Macau that the spirit of the art of the Oriental culture and its outstanding masterpieces have been introduced and shipped to the Occident, giving the Europeans the occasion of a more direct impression. To sum up, this paper intends, through the East-West artistic exchange of the 17th century (Wu Li's time, which people have overlooked), to emphasize the points of difference with the exchange of the 18th century (the time of Giuseppe Castiglione).

Glenn Timmermans

Michael Shen Fuzong's Journey to the West: A Chinese Christian Painted at the Court of James II

When Philippe Couplet SJ left China in 1681 for a tour of Europe, where he planned to promote the Jesuit's China Mission and plead the Jesuit cause before Pope Innocent XI, he was to be accompanied by five Chinese candidates for the priesthood, including Wu Li (Simon de Cunha) and Shen Fuzhong (Michael Shen). In the end only Michael Shen and another young candidate left with Couplet, and after a delay in Batavia, only Michael Shen went with Couplet on that tour of Europe.

In France, Shen was presented to Louis XIV at Versailles and in England he was granted an audience with James II who ordered the court artist, Sir Godfrey Kneller, to paint Shen's portrait, which was then hung in the king's bedchamber. That portrait still hangs at Windsor Castle. Shen also visited Oxford, where he helped catalogue the Bodleian Library's collection of Chinese books.

Using what little information we really have of Shen's journey with Couplet through the royal and papal courts of Europe, this paper will examine that encounter between a young Jesuit candidate and the English king. This meeting was only possible during a brief period in post-Reformation English history, when the king was a Roman Catholic and Jesuits were received at court. A year later, in 1688, James II was deposed and replaced by the Protestant William III, and so that encounter between king, Jesuit, and artist — James II, Michael Shen Fuzong, and Sir Godfrey Kneller — could not otherwise have happened. But the result of that encounter was an important Western portrait of a Chinese subject, and hence also its name, "The Chinese Convert". This paper will try to read that portrait as a Western idea of China and the Chinese, as well as an idealised view of the Chinese Christian convert in the context of English domestic and religious politics.

This encounter was also a moment of lost opportunity, for had Wu Li been on that journey, as originally planned, it would have been a meeting between an important Chinese artist and a Western artist, and Wu Li may, instead, have been the subject of that portrait. This is a "what if" moment, so tantalising to historians, and one which allows us to speculate on what the influence on Wu Li's own art may have been. Of that we can only conjecture, but the portrait of Michael Shen — the Chinese Convert — is itself a rich subject for discussion.

Gauvin A. Bailey

A tale of two Jesuit artists: Wu Li and Giuseppe Castiglione in Qing dynasty China

Wu Li (1632-1718) and Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1768) were the most talented Jesuit artists ever to work on the China Mission-and possibly anywhere in the mission world. Although they only intersected for three years, they were both leading lights in the artistic world of Qing China, one with the court and the other with the traditional literati world of wenren hua. They were both men of extraordinary adaptability, being able to change their style to suit their patrons, or matters of faith. And they were both Jesuits, the one a lay brother artist from Baroque Italy and the other a priest and missionary who was one of the "Six Great Masters" of the orthodox school of painting of the Early Qing. Yet there was one profound difference among them, aside from the obvious difference in their ethnic backgrounds. Castiglione was compelled to abandon his European of painting almost entirely, and the paintings he executed at the court of Emperors such as Kangxi and Qianlong operated within the traditional parameters of Imperial court painting: they were colorful, full of pageantry and imperial propaganda, and they were secular. Wu Li, on the other hand, was extremely flexible in his poetical works, founding a uniquely hybrid Christian-Chinese poetical tradition-yet in painting never abandoned his essentially Confucianist style even after converting to Christianity, living for a time in Macao, and moving back to his native Jiangsu as an itinerant preacher. Castiglione believed strongly in the power of didactic art but was unable to use it. For Wu Li, didactic art was a contradiction in terms.

This paper will consider the lives and careers of these two remarkable artists, looking at the influence of their faith and family life on their artistic choices, the influence of the court vs. literati world of painting on their two styles, the vastly different styles and techniques in which they worked, and the notion of "religious imagery" in the context of early Qing society.

駱潔 Luo Jie

The Missionaries and the Conversion of Wu Li to Christianity

This paper, taking Wu Li's contacts with the missionaries as its principal foundation and in connection with Wu Yuchan's epochal background and humanistic outlook, attempts to analyze the causes of his religious conversion.

The paper first looks at his epochal background and humanistic outlook. Yushan lived in a time of transition between epochs, specifically during the timeframe of the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Qing, when officials and literati of Han nationality were conducting an examination of philosophical thought that dated back from Song and Ming times. Yushan received the influence of the point of view that Chen Hu, his master in the School of Principle, had about this philosophy. Changshu, where Yushan lived, was a place remarkable by its site and personalities; and from the friends and masters who were in contact with him since his young age, Yushan received the influence of "noble souls and firm characters" along with that of the contemporary "vogue of Chan meditative retreat." Although his contacts with his meditative Chan friends were principally for exchange of paintings and calligraphy, he was influenced by his master Chen Hu, so that he most probably could not accept the Buddhist tenet of "emptiness".

Second: the paper takes a view at the Sino-Western cultural exchange as background for his religious conversion. At the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Qing, the missionaries entered China and adopted a "strategy of accomodation." Many literati and officials took at heart the Western learning. Both sides made efforts so that the Chinese and Western religious philosophies developed an inchoative and effectively fruitful exchange. The Catholic doctrine became the spirit and refuge that these officials were looking for, a peaceful place in the land of thought. Third: the paper looks at how Yushan came into contact with Western learning, along with his association with the missionaries:

1. Since the end of the Ming, Changshu had become a place of propagation of Catholicism. Just to the side of Yan Zi's residence, where Yushan passed his childhood, was a Catholic church and one may speak of a long day by day influence on Yushan from that church.

2. The understanding of Catholicism, which his masters and friends had, exerted some influence on Yushan. In the midst of his contacts with Qian Qianyi, Xu Zhijian and others, Yushan must have obtained some knowledge of what Catholicism was all about.

3. Yushan himself came directly into contact with the missionaries. As Fathers François de Rougemont, Philippe Couplet and others were teaching the doctrine in the Jiang Nan region, Yushan had occasions to get acquainted with them and their doctrine and discourse necessarily could have moved his heart. By that time, Yushan's master Chen Hu and his Chanist friend, Morong, had all already passed away so it is natural in a number of ways that Yushan was free to enter the religion.

In conclusion, Yushan entered religion under the influence of the general background of his time and of the humanistic background of his life. It was also a kind of the choice made by the traditional Chinese intellectuals after reflecting on the thought of the tradition and it is still more one of the successful examples of the apostolic strategy of the missionaries of that time.

李普文 Li Puwen

Wu Li's inner journey and his art of painting

Wu Li lived in a turbulent period at the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Qing Dynasties. In his early years, he received a traditional Confucian education. Being greatly disappointed when the Qing Dynasty was established, he often betrayed his sad feelings and thoughts about the event in many of his poems and prose. As the Qing government consolidated its power in the country, Wu felt hopeless. At that time, he turned to Buddhism but also developed a close relationship with Jesuits missionaries, who had come to China. He finally did not chose Buddhism but eventually left for far away Macao, where he received spiritual formation and studied Catholic doctrine. Later on, as a Catholic priest, Wu Li returned to Shanghai where he spread the Catholic faith in the area.

Wu Li was to his very core a man of letters and filled with a deep sense of Chinese culture. He could not be totally "Westernized." As a priest, he preached the Gospel and taught the doctrine in many places, yet Chinese culture was so deeply rooted in his heart and mind that it could not be easily eradicated. This has been the true reality of Wu Li's spiritual path.

In Wu Li's early period of landscape painting, Spring Scenery of Lakes and Sky is his most representative piece of work — simple and elegant, bright and beautiful, charming and calm. These characteristics remain in his later works, becoming more verdant and rich, with more powerful and vigorous strokes. Regardless of the period, his personal style is always explicitly manifest in his works, something very different from the "copy" methods of the past. At the beginning of the Qing dynasty, among the Six Great Masters (the four Wang, Wu and Yun) Wu Li's and Wang Yuanqi's personal styles were the most remarkable and the most distant from the "copy" methods of the past, though even these two would at times sign the works they had personally done with the names of other ancient painters. It is most important that we should not be misled by the polite signatories on these pieces but instead focus on the style and characteristics as actually painted by Wu and Wang.

黃鐵池 Huang Tiechi

The Status and Influence of Wu Li in the History of Chinese Modern Painting

The status and influence of Wu Li in the history of Chinese modern painting is somewhat special and it ought to be examined within the context of the history of the entire development of modern painting and the general background, as well, of the evolution of the Chinese schools of modern painting.

First, Wu Li was regarded as the terminator of the "traditional" (also called "orthodox") genre of landscape painting. Of his paintings he made before the age of 50, could "cross over the fence" of the influence of the Four Wangs (four master painters: 王時敏 Wang Shimin, 王鑑 Wang Jian, 王原祁 Wang Yuanqi, 王翬 Wang Hui). Wu Li himself had been chasing after the so-called "ethos of copying" from the former masters in which "any stroke has its reason." But after Wu Li went to Shanghai and came into contact with Western painting, which had just been introduced, his sense of art appreciation was updated; particularly when he returned to Shanghai from Macau after his religious training, he seemed to have put a new and vigorous breath in his paintings, Although these changes were extraordinarily small, it is "by one single leaf that one knows it is Autumn." In this way, the fact that such a painter, who had scrupulously abided by traditional painting skills for years, had begun to change of direction was a significant indication of coming changes in landscapes styles in China. Obviously, to the public, Wu Li's changes were a message: the landscape painting of the old style, which had ruled over the painting scene for several hundreds of years, was going to come to its end. Although the overwhelming force of habit kept the old style around for some time, there is nevertheless no doubt that the change in Wu Li's painting style was actually the beginning of its fall.

Next, Wu Li was a pioneer among those Chinese modern landscape painters who had tried Western painting skills. Wu Li's painting career may be divided into two phases, roughly speaking around the year 1685. Before that date, Wu Li was an accomplished master of the orthodox, Yushan Painting School. In the works of his later years, though, he frequently intermingled some of the expressions dominant in Occidental painting with Chinese painting, a practice which was the result of the subtle influence he had received from Western paintings. Wu Li, at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, had already been able to absorb from Western paintings beneficial nourishment to recreate the stereotyped landscape painting skills, a kind of avant-garde, which exerted on later painters, especially all those landscape painters of the Haishang Painting School, some immense influence.

Still more, Wu Li was also the precursor of the famous "Haishang Painting School," which surged in Shanghai at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China. At the time when he was active in Shanghai, it was still the Emperor Kangxi's epoch at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. After Wu Li's return from Macao to Shanghai, his main activities were missionary work, which included instructing disciples, and painting. Wu Li was the first famous painter who had moved to Shanghai where he supported himself by selling his paintings, which were similar to those painters of the Yangzhou Painting School, and for the Haishang painters of later time, he went out on a new road.

Wu Li lived at the turning point of a radical transformation from the old to a new painting style. His special life experience had enabled him to take a lead in experimenting with the combination of Chinese and Western painting skills, and to exert a role as precursor in the formation of the Haishang Painting School. It is therefore worthwhile for us to renew our vision of, and increase our attention to, his status and influence in the history of Chinese modern painting.

李金遠 Li Jinyuan

Deep Insight, Open Mindedness — the Art of Wu Li's Landscape Paintings

Wu Li was a famous landscape painter during the Qing Dynasty. The uniqueness of his conceptualization of art was expressed in his intuition of the essence of the painters who came before him, as well as his unification and communion with heaven and creation. During the Qing Dynasty, the majority of literati and artists were just flirting with their brush and ink but Wu Li, in his works, engaged his own life experiences, his caring, and compassion of human kind. This revealed his noble personality and his magnanimous and compassionate heart. It was exactly due to his open-mindedness and his communion with the will of heaven that we find so much truth in the feelings, texture, composition and expressions in his creation of landscape paintings. In our contemporary realities, we are surrounded by a world of materialism, frail wealth and deceitful fame. Wu Li, being a man of honor, magnanimity and in search of uniqueness in his artistic creativity, all but deserves our appreciation and respect.

聞立鼎 Wen Liding

A brief discourse on the external factors of Wu Li's change of thought

At the end of Ming Dynasty, the imperial court was overshadowed by dismay and void. Within this void, the Queen Mother, the Queen and the princes were subsequently baptized into the Catholic faith. Through a close observation of the accelerated spreading of Catholicism at late Ming and early Qing epoch, and the reflection of Wu Li's spiritual milieu in his poems, the purpose of this essay is to examine the cause and process of Wu Li's change of thought.

Wu Li was a descendant of Confucius' only disciple from the South, Yan-yan (courtesy name Zi-you, from Chang Shu). According to tradition, it is believed that the Wu family home dated originally from the time of Yan-yan. Actually, numerous vestiges of Wu Li are still found in Chang Shu.

Tereza Sena

Macau at the time of Wu Li - some reflections in his poetry

This paper intents to describe, in a general scenario, the city of Macau at the time of Wu Li, during his stay with the Jesuits at Saint Paul College, in the middle of the 17th century, namely from 1681 to ca. 1688. Wu Li adopted the Portuguese name of Simao Xavier da Cunha when, as a Jesuit, he was in Nanjing and ordained a Catholic priest in 1688. Being one of the first Chinese poets to describe Macau life and its habitants through direct observation, some additional comments suggested by his poetry will be added.

Wolfgang Kubin

The translation of the 'Other': towards a theory of Wu Li's poetry

Wu Li is quite an unusual thinker both in his times and even today. I find in his work a lot of new strings of though which could help to minimize sometimes very much stressed relations between East and West. For instance Wu Li's poetry on Macao (Aomen Zayong) is quite unusual in many respects. The poet is aware that he faces a new world after entering Macao from Guandong province. He tries to translate the new world which he is facing both for himself and the foreigners in Macao. In this respect he has the unusual conciousness that there must be something alien for the Chinese and for the Europeans, something that cannot be explained in the context of both world views. In this respect it seems very likely that Wu Li is able to develop traces of a hermeneutic thinking that reminds us of the hermeneutic approach which Gadamer and others developed at the end of the 20th century in the Western world. My approach will be mostly based on the poetry of Wu Li, especially on the cycle "Songs of Macao" (Aomen Zayong).

陸葦 Lu Wei, 袁觀 Yuan Guan

From Nuremberg to Nuremberg

Tentative analysis of the texture of Wu Li's religious and artistic thought

Wu Li, living in a complex and disorderly historical background, did not pay close attention to the trends of the time, nor did he fundamentally cut off all personal relations with this mortal world. In a quite distinctive inner journey, by immersing himself in the midst of the artistic boundaries of calligraphy and painting, Wu Li preserved a life of "ultimate concern severed from the secular, coming and going by one's self only."

Taking everything into consideration — including that it was the end of the Ming dynasty and the beginning of the Qing dynasty — the social reality of much development in economy, politics, culture and art, and by looking at the whole of Wu Li's life and art, it is possible to explore Wu Li's inner journey. This cannot be compared, for instance, with the situation where the crowds gathered together to attack "the Eight Masters of Jinling." Nor can one compare Wu Li with Ba Da Shan Ren who, in his calligraphy and painting, had but anger for the world and disgust for the vulgar. Wu Li immersed himself deeply in calligraphy and painting. With his own experience of the roughness of human existence, the nature of an introverted psychology, an eminent talent, wisdom and understanding, after venerating Buddha he turned himself heartedly to the spiritual training of religion.

The sublime worlds of art and religion communicate with each other. Wu Li, on the foundation of Chinese culture and religion, accepted comprehensively the Catholic doctrine of the Occident. The Catholic ideal of virtue became Wu Li's interior affective experience. Thanks to a religious psychology, he went to know life and death; and thanks to his highest intellectual sensitivity, he reached a level of utter satisfaction. Wu Li finally, after using art as a negative escape, turned towards the positive predication of the Gospel.

章文欽 Zhang Wenqin

On the value of Wu Yushan's human life

The value of one person's life does not reside in the glory or wealth one might have fully enjoyed while living. This form of value is what Wu Yushan called "false felicity, ephemeral happiness." The perpetual value of human life has to be what ancient Chinese sages were summing up in edifying virtue, grounding merit, and forging maxims, what they called the "three imperishables." To the sages, these were "virtue in men's heart," "merit towards the country," and "maxims handed down and remembered forever."

Wu Yushan lived at the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Qing dynasty, an epoch when "heaven fell apart and earth loosened up." From his childhood, he took the oath to not serve as an official in the new establishment. Thus, there was no further reason to ground "merits towards the country" for him. However, as one of the young adherents to a former dynasty who grew up in this roily period of change from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, he insisted on such ideas of being loyal to the old empire all his life. As an offspring of famous literati, he had been cultivated with refined Chinese cultural attainments. In poetry, calligraphy and painting, he had achieved the fame of having perfect "Triple Mastery." However, in spite of such unique skills, he chose rather to live a poor and humble life. The intellectuals esteemed his reputation and behavior and addressed him respectfully as "Eminent Scholar Wu." People would for thousand years afterwards come to admire his lofty spirit.

Because of his disdain for the "bogus wealth" and "temporary felicity" of the secular world, Yushan, in his forties and later, progressively devoted his mind to Western learning. When he was nearly fifty years old, he studied the Christian faith at St. Paul's College in Macao and entered the Society of Jesus. After returning to the Jiang Nan region, he was ordained a Catholic priest and did missionary work in Shanghai and the Jiading area for about thirty years. Having reached the age of 87 years old, and due to ill health, he passed away in Shanghai. He had entirely devoted the latter half of his life to God; considering the study, the cultivation and the propagation of the Christian faith as his responsibility, following the examples of Francis Xavier and other earlier worthy members of the Jesuit order and persevered in seeking immortal life and eternal felicity in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In order to render the "Learning of Heaven" more adapted to the compost of Chinese culture, Yushan had exerted his energy in inheriting the tradition of "synthesizing Chinese and Western cultures," as initiated at the end of Ming times by those earlier Catholic sages such as Xu Guangqi. Wu Yushan even tried, through poems on the "Learning of Heaven," to combine Chinese and Western literature and, in compiling the Tian Yue Zheng Yin Pu (Compendium of Orthodox Sounds of Heavenly Music), to combine Chinese and Western music. In order to study the differences between Chinese and Western paintings and scripts, with assiduity and endurance, Wu Yushan learned Latin (in spite of his old age). In the conclusion of his Chronicle of Mr. Wu Yushan, Professor Chen Yuan praises him, saying "[s]ince Matteo Ricci entered China, many scholars followed him but that a scholar enters religion to be a friar, Mr. Wu Yushan is the first case." At end of the Ming Dynasty among those scholars who followed Matteo Ricci, Xu Guangqi was the most outstanding and we may therefore say that both Xu Guangqi and Wu Yushan respectively represent the epoch of crossing currents between Chinese and Western cultures in the time of change from Ming to Qing Dynasty.

During all his life, whether as "Eminent Scholar Wu" or "adherent to the Ming Dynasty" or "as Chinese scholar and friar of the "Learning of Heaven," Wu Yushan had always kept his remarkable image and outstanding personality. His virtue deserved to remain in people's hearts and his words to be remembered for long ages to come. About Wu Yushan one may say that to merit honor is certainly due and in this resides the value of his life.

顧衛民 Gu Weimin

Critical evaluation of Wu Li's religious thought

Wu Li was born in the late Ming time, a descendant of government officials since both his grandfather and great-grandfather had been functionaries in the Ming Dynasty. After the invasion of the Qing Dynasty, he was unwilling to give allegiance to the new establishment. Overwhelmed as he was by the cruel suffering of seeing his nation in ruin. He had the mindset of an expatriate.

Wu Li’s father passed away when he was still young and his mother, famous in the local community for not remarrying, raised Wu Li and his two brothers to adulthood. Wu Li’s life ideals were noble, deep, firm and pure—all in conformity with his motherly education. After his mother passed away, Wu Li was deeply afflicted. An official career, wealth and rank were of little interest to him, and his teachers, Qian Qianyi and Chen Hu, during this same period of time, after another had also passed away.

Wu Li’s thoughts, therefore, gradually inclined towards religion. In his early years Wu Li had had a very close relationship with Buddhism. However, through comparison and selection, he finally adhered to Catholicism. Wu Li’s old house in Changshu was very close to the local Catholic church and Changshu was also one of the places where the Jesuits had earlier, in the southern area of the Yangtze River, begun to preach. The Obituary by the priest Li Wenyu states that Wu Li “considered that human life flows imperceptibly, but is not fortuitously born, nor does it fortuitously die; the design that one conceives has some origin, some end also, it must find some abode. Later on he heard of the fame of Catholicism, developed good relations with the missionaries, inquired about the doctrine, and suddenly received the illumination to follow their steps. Accepting the force of his true desire, with determination he converted, received baptism and entered the Catholic Church. Then, when his wife passed away, he progressively had the inchoative intention to cultivate himself in following religious life, and thought about entering the Society of Jesus… a project the realization of which gave him a place to rest.”

Wu Li practiced his religion with utmost sincerity:

1. He had thought to go to Rome, following Philippe Couplet, but only reached Macao. In his book San Ba Ji (Anthology from Saint Paul’s), he left a great number of poems and prose to indicate his true intention to study Catholicism in Macao.

2. He followed Bishop Luo Wenzao for missionary work in the southern area of the Yangtze River. Because of the Qing Government’s policies to close the seas, it was a difficult time for Catholicism in China; and since foreign missionaries could not enter China, the functions of the Chinese clergy became all the more important. Bishop Luo Wenzao was the first Chinese apostolic vicar and legitimate bishop, in spite of the fact that his appointment met with obstruction from many sectors. Wu Li was just one of the first three Chinese priests personally ordained by Luo Wenzao himself. In the letters of Bishop Luo, Wu Li is described as having a faithful zeal to evangelise and could say Mass in the Latin language. Wu Li had also a very deep affection for Bishop Luo, as is proved by his poem Crying for His Lordship Bishop Luo. At that time, the Qing Government considered the missionary activity in the southern area of the Yangtze River as illegal, so Wu Li journeyed hither and thither in this very wide area, going to preach from one parish to another as a “vagrant parish priest”, as it was then called. The condition of hardships he had to endure, if compared with that of Luo Wenzao, had nothing to be wanted.

3. Apart from his paintings, Wu Li has left a number of various religious writings, such as San Ba Ji (Anthology from Saint Paul’s), San Yu Ji (Anthology of remaining writings), Tian Yue Zheng Yin Pu (Compendium of Orthodox Sounds of Heavenly Music), Zhan Yong Pian (Provisional Eternity), and Wu Yushan Xiansheng kou duo ri chao (Daily Record of Mr. Wu Yushan’s Words). His close friend Father Li Wenyu has compiled the Mo Jing Ji (Ink-Well Anthology) to bring these works together, the content of which will be evaluated in this paper.

4. Wu Li was a solitary person of a supremely high literary talent. Fang Hao considers that “in Chinese Catholic history, since the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Wu Li was the unique and only person similarly gifted in poetry, music, calligraphy and painting.” However, given the time in which he lived, because of the “Rites Controversy” and the proscription of religion by the Qing Court, there were already fewer and fewer Catholic intellectuals. Very few people were able to alternate with him poem for poem, the audience of his predications were only fishermen and farmers scattered from East to West and South to North in the midst of rivers and hamlets in the southern area of the Yangtze River. Moreover, from his poems and writings, we see reflected the fact that fewer and fewer people believed in the Christian religion. Among his teachers and friends, not a few had passed away. Together with practicing faithful and famous scholars like Wang Shigu and others, the religious belief tended to become more indifferent and that is why in his old age, Wu Li’s interior disposition was dejected and desolate, his only support was absolutely to observe wholeheartedly the faith in God.

何琦 He Qi

Comments on the three stages of interpretation in China, of Nadal's "Pictures of the Gospel Stories"

I. Tentative analysis of works of Late Ming and Early Qing epoch, when Western art infiltrates into the East.

1. Jerome Nadal's works reproduced in various Chinese editions.

2. The "Western style" in the midst of Wu Li 's scenery ink paintings.

II. Influence of Chinese "craftsmen" art on the Rococo style.

1. Influence of Sino-Western trade during the 17th and 18th centuries on the interest for European art.

2. Comparable nature of Chinese "craftsmen" art and Rococo style.

鄭妙冰 Christina Miu Bing Cheng

Wu Li: In Search of the "Western Lantern"

吳歷 Wu Li (1632-1718), an accomplished painter, poet and calligrapher, came to know the presence of Jesuit missionaries in his hometown, Changshu in Jiangsu province, when he was a boy. Though the Wu family was already in decline, he received good education and excelled himself in scholarly studies. Like most literate elites in his time, he was familiar with the Three Teachings: Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. Given the political turbulence and social unrest during the late Ming and early Qing period, he had long envisioned a "Land of Peach Blossoms" (a paradise on earth) and sought spiritual enlightenment. In 1665, he traveled to Suzhou and became an intimate friend of the Buddhist Abbot, 墨容 Morong. In 1670, he accompanied 許之漸 Xu Zhijian to Beijing and made acquaintance with the Jesuits in the imperial court. In the early 1670's he began to draw closer to Catholicism and see the light of life. In 1681 at the age of 50, he left Changshu for Macau in pursuit of 天學 tianxue (literally, heavenly learning, referring to Catholicism) and entered the Society of Jesus as a novice in 1682. His physical travel to Suzhou, Beijing and Macau constitutes a metaphor of travel to thought. That is, he cogitated on various kinds of religious doctrines and incessantly sought new horizons in widening his spirituality. After he was ordained as a priest in 1688 at the age of 57 in Nanjing, he went to Shanghai and Jiading for the propagation of the Western 道 Dao (Christianity). At that time, there were two historic religious forces prevailing in China. On the one hand, the harmonization of the Three Teachings became a popular syncretic phenomenon; on the other hand, the prolonged Controversy on the Chinese Rites almost reached a boiling point. This paper examines Wu Li's earnest quest for spiritual exploration in this specific epoch. Although he scarcely painted after he had been engaged in the mission of proselytizing, he left behind a prolific collection of poems and verses on Macau and on religion. These literary texts give us a vivid portrayal of what difficulties an aged novice encountered at the Collegiate Church of St Paul's; how the "Western lantern" lighted up his life; and how he survived as a rural priest when foreign missionaries were gradually expelled from China in the wake of the proscription of preaching Christianity.

余三樂 Yu Sanle

The pioneers of seeking truth from the West: the generation of giants among Late Ming intelligentsia

In late Ming dynasty, Wang Yangming's thought of the "School of the Heart" and Zen Buddhism have generated an atmosphere of empty learning. This couldn't solve the problems of the world and also prevented the enlightened intelligentsia from seeking the truth in the midst of the non-personal world. It showed that Chinese civilization, since that time, had gradually stopped to advance.

There were some intellectuals who did not like this atmosphere of empty learning and Xu Guangqi is an excellent example of them. They were looking for a practical learning and were strongly interested in the "Western learning" through what they knew of it from the Western missionaries who had come to China. These scholars were all great men who always thought about the Chinese nation and its people. In an effort to serve the Chinese nation and its people, scholars like Xu Guangqi studied the Western learning very hard. These scholars had no traditional prejudice about "the ravine between Chinese and foreigners". They said "In the seas of the East, in the seas of the West, the heart is the same, the reason is the same." They opened their eyes to look at the world in a way that Chinese people never knew. They paid great attention to transmit the Western learning to other people. They compiled books, translated books and wrote prefaces for the works composed by the missionaries. And many of them tried their best to turn their hopes into reality. Rewriting the calendar was an example. With great courage some of them became Christians by converting to Christianity, which was a new and strange religion to the eyes of the Chinese people. Generally speaking, I cannot say that one religion is better than another. But I would like to say that Christianity and the related advanced science and technology benefited people more than Buddhism in China during the late Ming till early Qing times.

Conclusion: this special group of Chinese intellectuals were the pioneers who sought truth from the West — they were a "generation of giants" among the intelligentsia during the late Ming Dynasty.