Catholic Textbook Project 2016 Essay Contest Year 7/8 Homeschool. Servant of God Paul Xu Guangqi

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1 History Essay by Winona Born Student from West Victoria, Australia WINNER of Grade 7/8 Catholic Homeschool Division Catholic Textbook Project 2016 History Essay Contest Catholic Textbook Project 2016 Essay Contest Year 7/8 Homeschool Servant of God Paul Xu Guangqi On an autumn day in 1616, as a chilly breeze swept across the land, and the few crimson leaves that still clung to the Katsura trees quivered, a Chinese scholar and official, Paul Xu Guangqi (SHOO GWAN-chee), received some distressing news. Soldiers had surrounded the Catholic Church in Beijing and thrown those inside into prison Shen Que had written yet another petition to the Emperor. Five months earlier Shen had written his first petition to Emperor Wanli on the necessity to expel foreign missionaries. In answer to this, Paul Xu, who had converted to the Catholic Faith thirteen years earlier, wrote his own petition to the Emperor. Although Xu was an official a high place in the Imperial court his position was inferior to Shen Que s. Yet this did not deter him from defending the faith. In his Petition on the Discernment of Real Knowledge, Xu showed great courage when he confessed his own Catholic belief, and agreed to the same sentence the missionaries would suffer as punishment for my blindness in discerning what is false 1, if, indeed the Emperor found anything morally wrong or contradictory in their teaching. He pointed out that the Jesuit missionaries had brought only good things to China. The best of these was the Gospel of Christ, and crowning it were the contributions they made to agriculture, science, and mathematics. Xu said that these things were the result of putting into practice the divine commandment of love, 2 and a means of promoting the prosperity and peace of the country. 3 It had worked. The Emperor had rejected Shen Que s petition, and sent the words acknowledged to Xu. Upon receiving the news that autumn day, Xu wrote a second petition, but he knew he could not stop the persecution. He offered the missionaries a hiding place in his home, and along with two other 1 Luxian, Bishop Aloysius Jin, S.J. "In Praise of Xu Guangqi." Letter to Parishioners of the Parishes of Shanghai. 22 July N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Web. 8 Mar <http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/features.php?searchterm=023_guangqi.inc&issue=023>. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 2

2 Chinese Catholics, wrote a letter explaining the faith which was sent around China. Because of Xu s efforts, nine of the fourteen missionaries who had come to China were saved. Right up until Shen Que died, Xu worked tirelessly to defend the faith he loved. Xu was a devout Catholic who won many hearts over to God, including those of his friends and family, by his good example, and, as Shi Xijuan wrote in Xu Guangqi and the Spread of Catholicism in Shanghai: he cast a profound influence on the spread of Catholicism 4 Every day he prayed the Rosary and made an examination of conscience. He supported the missionaries materially by building chapels and providing them with a place to stay. When there was a priest nearby, he served Mass and received Holy Communion, always showing great reverence by dressing in courtly attire when in the presence of his Lord and Saviour. His actions inspired many others, including those in high-ranking positions, to convert and be baptized into the Catholic faith. Xu s love for God and the faith inspired him to further serve God by serving his neighbours. He loved the Chinese people, and worked hard to help the poor in their struggle to earn a living and obtain the food and clothing they needed. Along with his role in loving and caring for his parents, wife, and children, he poured his heart and soul into learning about farming and agriculture. He studied and experimented with farming techniques, made surveys and kept records. The knowledge he gained was added to his journal, by which he hoped to solve some of the problems the people faced daily. Growing paddy rice in Northern China was one of the problems he managed to solve. It had been deemed impossible to grow this rice in the north, and the people had to have it sent from the south at great expense. Xu purchased some wasteland at Tianjin, and there, after years of patient experimentation, yielded a bountiful crop. Overjoyed, he wrote Farming in the North which explained how to grow rice, and other crops, successfully. Another of his accomplishments was to find a reliable source of food to grow in areas of China frequently suffering from floods. Xu, after much experimentation, introduced the sweet potato to the 4 Xijuan, Shi. Xu Guangqi and the Spread of Catholicism in Shanghai. N.p.: Canadian Center of Science and Education, 13 Nov PDF. 3

3 region. The crop he grew was successful and of good quality with a pleasing taste. The people s fear of hunger was alleviated when he wrote Growing Sweet Potato, which described how to grow the plant successfully, even in areas prone to flooding. Xu also researched how to use water more effectively and construct a system that conserved it, recording his findings in his book Water Control, for he considered effective water conservation to be at the heart of agriculture. After many years of such experimentation, Xu compiled his research in the Complete Treatise on Agriculture China s first agricultural encyclopaedia and in the many other books he wrote. Though his best accomplishments are among those in the field of agriculture, Xu made wonderful contributions elsewhere, such as in the area of science and mathematics. The Grand Encyclopaedia of China says that: Xu Guangqi considered that mathematical knowledge could make the nation prosperous, could be used to strengthen the people, and could be put to civil use for the benefit of society. 5 In order for his country and its people to gain more of this mathematical knowledge, Xu, along with Fr. Matteo Ricci, translated the first six volumes of Euclid s Elements of Geometry, The Principles of Measurement, Simple Theory Regarding Surveying, and many more. These were the first translations of western mathematical works into Chinese, and many scholars credit Xu with having started China s enlightenment. Xu was given the role of reforming the Datong Calendar, which was inaccurate and contained numerous mistakes. The Head of Rites Bureau invited the Jesuit missionaries to help, and together they not only reformed the calendar, but also translated many documents, which included topics on western astronomical theories, different types of instruments, methods of calculation and surveying, theories about the astronomical chronometer, and the use of calculus. They also introduced the telescope and a celestial map, from which they could calculate lunar and solar eclipses. 5 Luxian, Bishop Aloysius Jin, S.J. "In Praise of Xu Guangqi." Trans. Jeremy Clarke. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Grand Encyclopaedia of China. 19 Oct Web. 8 Mar <http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/features.php?searchtearm=023_guangqi.inc&issue=023>. 4

4 In order to further help his neighbour, Xu desired to help his country. Even from childhood, Xu had a great love for China. However, the dynasty at the time was corrupt, and the people were living in constant fear and hardship. The coastal zones suffered raids by Japanese pirates, who laid waste to the cities, burnt the houses, and looted the property. Xu s own family was victim to these, so he understood what the people suffered. He knew there was a nation in the north preparing to attack and take over. Yet the emperor and his officials, leading dissipated lives, were oblivious to the plight of their people. Xu had read works on martial matters, made studies of weapons, and learnt the art of training troops. An expert in military affairs, he took upon himself the personal mission of the welfare of the nation. He decided the best way to be of service to his country was to become an official, who could offer advice to the throne. To do this, he had to pass a series of exams. In this, he showed great determination and perseverance, and upon his sixth attempt, was admitted to the Imperial Hanlin Academy in From there, Xu petitioned the throne, offering his services to train the Imperial Army and supervise the manufacture of new and better weapons. Once the mission of protecting his country s people was fulfilled, however, Xu, unseduced by his position of wealth, status, and power, resigned. Paul Xu Guangqi was a brilliant and talented man, who used his talents for the glory of God, improving the lives of thousands and bringing many souls to Him. His contributions to agricultural technique saved many people from dying of starvation. His translations of mathematical books have assisted in the areas of scientific technology, and, as the Grand Encyclopaedia of China states, in the fields of legislation, irrigation, musical notation, national defence, construction, public finance, mechanics, cartography, medical studies, statistics, and so on. 6 His military influence allowed China to defend itself from attack and keep its citizens safe. But most importantly, his devotion to the Catholic faith in China assisted its endurance, even through persecution. Without this Pillar of 6 Luxian, Bishop Aloysius Jin, S.J. "In Praise of Xu Guangqi." Trans. Jeremy Clarke. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Grand Encyclopaedia of China. 19 Oct Web. 8 Mar <http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/features.php?searchtearm=023_guangqi.inc&issue=023>. 5

5 Chinese Catholicism, as he is called, the Church in China would certainly not be what it is today, and, in 2010, Paul Xu Guangqi was declared a Servant of God. His actions, inspired by love of God, neighbour, and country, have shaped China and the Catholic Church that grew there; and his prayerful intercession has surely helped the many faithful there and throughout the world over the past fourhundred years. 6

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