Zhalan Jesuit Cemetery (section 2 of In the footsteps of the CICM Misionaries)

Zhalan Jesuit Cemetery

The first place we went to visit was the Jesuit cemetery as did Verbist.

François Vranckx wrote in a letter:

“Nous avons visité également l’ancien cimetière des Jésuites, qui est dans un état parfait de conservation. Nous y avons reconnu avec bonheur les monuments élevés à la mémoire des PP. Verbiest, Schall, Ricci et autres Jésuites célèbres du XVIIème et des XVIIIème siècles, qui, grâce à leur zèle autant qu’à leurs talents, parvinrent à conquérir au catholicisme une place d’honneur dans la capitale même du Céleste-Empire.[4] ”

The history of the Jesuit Cemetery is s story by itself and for those interested I recommend to read “Departed, yet present Zhalan – the oldest Christian cemetery in Beijing”[5] .

The cemetery as it is today is only a small part of the Zhalan cemetery Verbist visited. After the suppression of the Jesuits in China in 1775 the Cemetery was managed by the Lazarists (Vincentians). [6]

IMG_3365 ricci txtIn 1900 Zhalan is partially destroyed by the boxers but soon thereafter restored by the Lazarists. In 1956 the Communist Party decided to establish the Beijing Municipal Party School at Zhalan. The new school needed space which resulted in the removal of some 800 graves to northwest of Beijing, called Xibeiwang.  Amongst these tombs some were of Scheutist Missionaries and also European Christian e.g. Paul Splingaerd was buried in Zhalan in 1906.splinggaerd

The Chinese government decided, however, to keep the tombstones of Matteo Ricci, Adam Schall and Ferdinand Verbiest in their original place because: “as these three Jesuits made a great contribution to cultural exchange between China and the West”. Another 60 tombstones mainly of Jesuits were re-installed close to those of Ricci, Schall and Verbiest.

The fact that the graveyard was partially preserved within the courtyard of the school is typical for the respect Chinese people have for graves of people they respect and love. Interesting is to read in this context what Vranckx has written when travelling around Shanghai in 1865:

« En parcourant la campagne chinoise on est étonné d’y voir une quantité innombrable de petites élévations. Nous apprîmes que c’étaient autant de tombeaux. C’est ici qu’on pourrait à juste titre susciter une question des cimetières.

Un Chinois vient-il à décéder, s’il n’a point de champ à lui pour se faire enterrer, sa famille achète quelques pieds de terre dans la première propriété venue, et ce coin sacré est respecté à perpétuité. Que le champ soit loué, vendu, hypothéqué, jamais on ne se permettra de toucher au tombeau. Les pauvres qui n’ont pas de quoi s’acheter un pied de terre, placent tout simplement leur cercueil le long des routes, des rivières, des canaux, et il reste à découvert jusqu’à ce qu’il tombe de vétusté. Nous en avons vu des centaines, et nous avons pu constater que tous étaient religieusement respectés.

A propos de cercueils, permettez-moi de vous citer une particularité singulière. La plus grande préoccupation d’un Chinois, c’est celle de son cercueil. II le fait construire longtemps à l’avance, aussi riche, aussi précieux que sa fortune le lui permet, il le fait rembourrer d’étoffes précieuses, et s’y couche de temps à autre pour essayer s’il y sera à l’aise. Le cadeau le plus agréable que vous puissiez faire à un Chinois, c’est de lui offrir son cercueil. »[7]

zhalanIn order to enhance the interest of our visit of “Zhalan” I was asked by Gaby to make a short introduction on the particularity of this cemetery in the context of the habits in Beijing in the early seventeenth century and life and work of Matteo Ricci and Verbiest.

Zhalan was indeed an exception in China; by the code of the Ming Dynasty, foreigners who died in China could not be buried in China but had to be buried in Macau. When Matteo Ricci died in 1610 a request was addressed to the Emperor for Ricci to be buried in Beijing. The Wanli Emperor granted this request and allowed Ricci to be buried in a yard belonging to a Buddhist temple. This exception was also granted for other Jesuits such as Ferdinand Verbiest and Johann Adam Schall von Bell. Over time the exception became de rule and many other Jesuits and Christians were buried in there and the place became known as the Zhalan cemetery.[8]

The presence of Jesuits in China started with the expedition into Asia headed by Francis Xavier[9] [10].

One of the goals of the expedition was to initiate evangelisation in China but Francis Xavier died in 1552 on Shangchuan Island even before reaching the mainland. [11]

Some twenty years later new efforts were undertaken in which Alessandro Valignano will play an essential role. [12]

RicciportraitWhen visiting Macau during 1578–1579 Valignano realised very soon that success would only be possible if the missionnairies would have a sound knowledge of the language and culture of the country where they would preach.

Valignano asked the Jesuits’ Superior in India to send to Macau someone who would be suited for the task. Soon thereafter Michele Ruggieri left India for China. [13]

Straightaway at his arrival in Macau Ruggieri started to study the Chinese language and culture. He soon realised that the task was immense and that he needed help and most probably also some moral support.  He asked Valignano for Matteo Ricci, who had arrived in Goa (India) in March 1578, to join him in Macau. [14]

It took another three years before Ricci travelled to Macau where he arrived in August 1582.

Ricci also began immediately to study the Chinese language and customs. Ruggieri and Ricci realised that Valignano’s vision about China was right. China was well managed in a very structured manner based on the Confucian Principles dating back some two thousand years. Chinese officials considered China as the centre of the world having the highest level of knowledge. They were a priori not open for new ideas or other cultures. Ruggieri and Ricci learned that astronomy and astrology played a major role in Chinese culture and luckily for them in astronomy Europe was more advanced than China. Ricci began to spread this around thereby drawing attention from the Chinese intellectuals and officials in European astronomy and mathematics.

Ricci was convinced that evangelisation in China would be possible if he could have access to the high officials of the country or even to the Emperor. His goal supported by Ruggieri was to move as soon as possible to Beijing.

But travelling to Beijing needed special authorisations from the Chinese authorities which they didn’t have. They developed a plan by which the Pope would send a request to Chinese Emperor allowing Jesuits to travel to Beijing and to be received by the emperor. In order to convince the Pope Ruggieri left China in 1588. Their plan failed; the Pope took no decision! During the time waiting for the Pope’s decision Ruggeri’s health problems became such that he could not return to China, he retired in Salerno, where he died in 1607. Ricci was left alone in his endeavour to enter Beijing. The road to Beijing was difficult and many times he was expelled from places where he settled down nonetheless he finally reached Beijing for the first time on 7 September 1598. But due to problems linked to the Korean – Japanese war he was obliged to leave Beijing some months later.

In 1601, Ricci was at last invited to Beijing thanks to his scientific knowledge and in particular his predictions of eclipses.  In China for over more than 2000 years the Emperor was considered as having a mandate of Heaven. Every year the Emperor published an official calendar; any mistake in it could be considered that Heaven is putting into question the mandate it had given to the Emperor. Some of Ricci’s predictions were better than those given by the Astronomical Office; his assistance to the Office was therefore requested by the emperor.

From then onwards Ricci settled freely in Beijing and had now and then access to the Forbidden City. Although the emperor was very interested in Ricci’s work and granted him a generous financial support he never accepted to meet Ricci in person. Due to his status Ricci could now meet high officials and scholars in particular Confucian Scholars with whom he had many discussions

Years before reaching Beijing Ricci had realised that Buddhism and Taoism were regarded as for the lower class whereas the higher class only studied and lived according to the learnings of Confucius. Ricci and Ruggieri had therefore taken the decision to dress as a Confucian erudite.  He had therefore analysed in detail the Chinese Classics and came to the conclusion that Confucianism, although no religion, was similar to the way of living as prescribed by Christianism.  Only God was missing in Confucianism.

With this in mind he explained to Chinese intellectuals that that the notion of a unique God is not new in China but existed at the time of the ancient dynasties and was known by Confucius but forgotten since. [15]

Although Matteo’s success was based on astronomy and mathematics he didn’t forget why he came to China: the development of Christianity in China.

Having written and translated in Chinese many books on astronomy and mathematics mainly with a view of having access to the Emperor he now had time to devote his work to convert people to Christianity. Books were in China a very important mean to convey views he therefore laid down his idea of the forgotten notion of God in a book “The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven”[16] .

In this book he uses existing Chinese concepts to explain Christianity he furthermore explains that Confucian rites are not incompatible with Catholic belief.

His approach was a success and when he passed away in 1610 he left a solid basis in Beijing for the evolution of Christianism in China.

P1030193When standing in front of the tombstones at the left is the one of Adam Schall and on the right the one of Ferdinand Verbiest.

On Matteo Ricci’s tombstone is written

“Father Matteo Ricci, from Macerata in Italy, was a professed member Society of Jesus in which he lived for 42 years, spending 28 of them in the sacred mission in China. When the Christian faith was brought to China for the third time, he was the first to establish communities for his Jesuit companions. At last famous for doctrine and virtue, he died in Peking on the 11th day of May, 1610, at the age of 59[17].”

800px-Adam_SchallJohann Adam Schall von Bell studied at the Collegium Germanicum in Rome and joined in 1611 the Society of Jesus and continued his education at the Gregorianum. [18]

Little is known about the subjects he studied at that time. At the age of 23 he expressed his desire to go to China a wish he had since a long time. This desire was certainly inspired by the letters Matteo Ricci and his successor Nicholas Longobardo were sending to Europe and by Nicholas Trigault who was travelling around Europe preaching for the mission in China.

In April 1618 Schall together with Trigault and some twenty-one other missionaries of which many will die during the trip sailed towards Asia. One of the other missionaries is Johan Terrenz Schreck (known as Terrenz) a brilliant mathematician; friend of Galileo and Kepler. During the long journey towards Asia Terrenz gave lessons to his fellow missionaries in mathematics and astronomy. It is certainly during that time that Schall acquired most of his knowledge is these fields.

When they arrived in Macao in July 1619 the situation in China had changed considerably.  Only seven years after the death of Matteo Ricci a strong anti-Jesuit action culminated in the publication of an edict signed by the Emperor on February 14, 1617 banishing the Jesuits from China. Only by the end of 1622 would the return of the Jesuits be tolerated by the Chinese authorities. Schall arrived together with Longobardo on January 25 1623 in Beijing.

When Adam Schall arrived in Beijing he immediately presented to Chinese officials the mathematical and astronomical works he had brought with him from Europe and demonstrated the use of new equipment and proposed to predict the exact time of an eclipse of the moon foreseen for October 8, 1623. The eclipse took place in accordance with Schall’s predictions which lead to a statement made by Chinese Minister of Finance “In this century China has been able to congratulate herself on the possession of two men remarkable for their science and their virtue: Father Ricci and Schall”[19].

But his superiors didn’t have the same opinion in a report they wrote: “he has ability and intelligence ;  he is progressing well in Chinese studies ;  his excellent nature , his joviality and friendliness are notable ,  but he lacks ballast and maturity ;  in short , he is not fitted , at least as yet , to be in a position of authority”. [20]

The decision was taken to send him to a very small mission located in Sianfu.

On September 27, 1629, the emperor decided the reform of the Calendar with support of the Jesuits. Terrenz back in Beijing from Hangzhou started immediately with the preparation of the reform but fate decided otherwise when on 11 may 1630 Terrenz passed away. Only one month later Adam Schall with the support of and Giacomo Rho were entrusted with the reform. [21]

If Terrenz would have stayed alive it would probably be him who would be buried next to Matteo Ricci instead of Adam Schall.

On the right of Matteo Ricci is the tombstone of Ferdinand Verbiest[22].
Verbiestt painting0001
Ferdinand Verbiest studied philosophy and mathematics at the Lelie College in Leuven He joined the Society of Jesus on 2 September 1641 and left for Seville to study there theology. He completed his studies in astronomy and theology in Rome. His dream was to be a missionary in Central America but the Spanish authorities did not grant access to these countries to foreign priest.

By default Verbiest became a missionary in China. End 1657 he sailed from Lisbon to Goa first halt to China.  On board of the ship were thirty seven other missionaries of which five died during the voyage before reaching Goa. He finally arrived in Macao on 17 July 1658 and travels in 1659 to the Shanxi province where he joined a mission post.

In the meanwhile Schall needed urgent help in Beijing and asked for Verbiest to join him after having stayed only ten months in Shanxi.

Verbiest worked closely with Schall in the preparation of a new calendar and other predictions. Their relation was from the beginning very good which shows that Verbiest was a diplomat and could get along with the very difficult character of Schall. Verbiest succeeded to have a very close relation with the Kangxi Emperor teaching him geometry. He also translated the first six books of Euclid into Manchu.  The Emperor invited him twice to join him in expeditions throughout the empire.

Mathematics in Europe made substantial progress in the late XVIIth century, trigonometry functions were more and more used and the “invention” of logarithms would make calculations in particular multiplications much more easier and faster. Thanks to these innovations in mathematics not known at that time by the Chinese European scientist had an advantage over them. Verbiest had access to many tables related to celestial bodies which he used for his calculations.

Scan_Pic0002Today Verbiest would be called more an engineer than a scientist; he undertook many projects including developing new canons for the army but also a small steam engine. He modernized the instruments in the Beijing Observatory for which he was responsible. In 1682, he was appointed “Assistant Minister of Public Works”(工部右侍郎) of the second rank.

Verbiest died in Beijing on 28 January 1688 shortly after falling from his horse. A little bit more than one year after his death, on 19 may 1689, Verbiest was granted the posthumous title “Qin Min[23]” (Diligent and intelligent). It was the only time this had happened in the history of missionaries in China, and marked a new departure in imperial ordinances on posthumous titles[24].

On the verso side of the stele is written in Chinese:

“[Imperial] inscription for the tombstone of Nan Huairen (Ferdinand Verbiest), posthumous name Qinmin, of the Directorate of Astronomy in charge of the calendar, who was granted the additional rank of Vice Minister of the Ministry of Works and later on granted two additional classes [of rank]: We saw that in the old days the office of Grand Astrologer was instituted, who according to fixed rules and formulas had to observe the movements of the heavens and to determine the order of the years.

Their authority and ability to properly establish the rules for astronomical computation created confidence in them and resulted in eulogies of them. If they through their skills in arts and technology contributed their services also to the army and the country, they were rewarded while alive, and at their death favored with praise and honorific titles in an abundant way.

You, Nan Huairen (Ferdinand Verbiest), faithful and candid, entirely versed in the sciences, you came from a distant country, beyond the oceans, in order to offer us your great heart. You proved to be zealous in your tasks for many years. Thanks to you the calculation of time is again precise and the calendar corrected. You observed the heavens, the clouds and the stars, and calculated in an accurate way the revolutions of the celestial bodies.

Not satisfied with this astronomical task, you benevolently offered your talents and skills in the service of our arsenal of weapons and supervised the construction of cannons, which were able to destroy strong fortifications and proved to be useful during military expeditions. Truly, you excelled in this work and showed an indefatigable zeal. When your death was announced, We were seized with deep sorrow. In remembrance of your merits We accord you posthumously the title of Qinmin. Oh, may in the other world an everlasting glory shine upon your name, may your great deeds remain famous in the most remote regions and may your merits, engraved on this stainless stone, without withering away, be transmitted to the future generations!”

IMG_3382 Giuseppe Castiglione     T 40Antoine Thomas another Belgian Jesuit succeeded him as the chief mathematician and astronomer in Beijing and is also buried here in the Jesuit Cemetery. [25]

The guide drew our attention to the tombstone of Giuseppe Castiglionewho studied painting in his early years and became a Jesuit in 1709. [26]

Besides astronomers and mathematicians the Jesuits Mission in China asked for a painter to be sent to China. Castiglione arrived at the Mission in Beijing in 1715. Although he was a missionary he was in reality more involved in painting than missionary work. Very soon after his arrival in Beijing he was introduced to the Qianlong Emperor who was the sixth emperor of the Qing dynasty. Castiglione painted portraits of the emperor and empress but also many types of scenery with horses. [27]

[1] The acronym CICM stands for Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (in English Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary). The Congregation was founded by Théophile Verbist in 1862 and started its activities in Scheut now part of Brussels very soon the CICM was unofficially called Scheut Mission.

[2] The name is also spelled Splingaert in particular in books on Scheut or, published by Scheut.

[3] Voyage de Bruxelles en Mongolie, Travaux des Missionnaires de la congrégation de Scheutveld lez-Bruxelles, Bruxelles Casimir Coomans, 1873

[4] Supra 2, pp 44

[5] Published by Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History 1995

[6] By the brief Dominus ac Redemptor Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus on 21 July 1773 but in some countries the order was ignored; in 1775 the Jesuits were also suppressed in China.

[7] Supra 2 pp 30

[8]  (栅栏墓地 Zhàlán Mùdì).

[9] Society of Jesus (Jesuits) founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540; one of the purposes of the Society was to evangelize those peoples who had never heard about the Gospel.

[10] Francis Xavier, (Spain 1506 – Shangchuan 1552), co-founder of the Society of Jesus.

[11]上川岛 Shàngchuāndǎo

[12] Alessandro Valignano, ( 范禮安 Fàn Lǐ’ān) was an Italian Jesuit missionary born in Chieti in 1539 and died during a visit to Macau in 1606

[13] Michele Ruggieri born in 1543 in Spinazzola Italy, died in 1607, Salerno, Italy; (羅明堅  Luó Míngjiān) he was the first Jesuit sinologist.

[14] Matteo Ricci (利玛窦 Lì Mǎdòu), Italian Jesuit born in Macerata in 1552 died in Beijing in 1610

[15] Xia dynasty c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC; Shang dynasty c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC;  Zhou dynasty c. 1046 – 771 BC (western Zhou)

[16] Recently a French translation has been published: Le sens réel de « Seigneur du Ciel » Introduit, traduit du chinois et annoté par Thierry Meynard Langues chinois, français, Éditeur Les Belles Lettres.

[17] Translation from Latin

[18] (Germany Cologne May 1, 1592 – China Beijing August 15, 1666) Chinese name 汤若望 Tāng Ruòwàng

[19] Adam Schall: A Jesuit at the Court of China; Rachel Attwater; Adapted from the French of Joseph Duhr S.J.; Page 44

[20] Rachel Attwater, Page 45

[21] Italy Milan  1593 in Milan; China Beijing 27 April 1638

[22]Belgium Pitten 9 October 1623 –  China Beijing 28 January 1688

[23] Qin Min 勤敏

[24] Christianity Edited by: Zhuo Xinping Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Translated by: Chi Zhen and Caroline Mason Brill Leiden Boston 2013, p 347

[25] Antoine Thomas Belgium Namur 25 january 1644 – China Beijing 29 june 1709 ; chinese name 安多平施ānduō píngshī (NganTo P’Ing-Che)

[26] Giuseppe Castiglione,  郎世寧; Lángshìníng;  Italy, Milan July 19, 1688 –  China Beijing July 17, 1766

[27] Qianlong, 乾隆 ; 25 September 1711 – 7 February 1799