Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Chih-tsao

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LI Chih-tsao 李之藻 (T. 振之, 我存, H. 涼庵, 存園寄叟), d. Dec. 4, 1630, official and scholar, was a native of Jên-ho (Hangchow). After receiving the chin-shih degree in 1598, he was appointed an assistant department director in the Board of Works at Nanking. According to his friend, Matteo Ricci (see under Hsü Kuang-ch'i), he took a keen interest in the study of geography and in his youth drew up a description of China with maps of the fifteen provinces, which he believed to be the map of the world. He made the acquaintance of Ricci soon after the latter's arrival at Peking in January 1601. To his astonishment he found in Ricci's home a map of the world which Ricci had drawn in Kwangtung soon after his arrival in China (1582), had revised at Nanking (1600) and later (1602) published under the title 坤輿萬國全圖 K'un-yü wan-kuo ch'üan-t'u. Conscious of the limited scope of his own map, Li immediately devoted himself to the study of geography in particular and to Western science in general. Being at the same time an official in the Board of Works, Li directed the workers in the Board to construct many instruments, among them several kinds of sun-dials and an astrolabe with sights. In 1603 he went to Fukien to supervise the provincial examination, but soon returned to Peking. In 1604 Hsü Kuang-ch'i [q. v.] arrived in Peking and together with Li received instruction from Ricci until the latter's death (May 11, 1610). During this period Li studied with much diligence and wrote a number of prefaces to the works of Ricci, namely to the 天主實義 T'ien-chu shih-i (Li's preface dated 1607); and the 畸人十篇 Chi-jên shih-p'ien (Li's preface dated 1608). Ricci dictated several works to Li who put them into acceptable Chinese, among them the 圜容較義 Yüan-jung chiao-i, 1 chüan, a short treatise on geometry, printed in 1614; and the 同文 算指 T'ung-wên suan-chih, in 11 (10) chüan, a work on arithmetic, printed in 1614. Both are included in the Hai-shan hsien-kuan ts'ung-shu (see under P'an Chên-ch'êng).

Although Li had known Ricci for almost ten years, it was only in 1610 that he was baptized by him under the name Leo (Leon). It is said that Ricci attended him in a serious illness, and that out of gratitude to his benefactor and admiration for the teachings of Christianity he requested baptism, and vowed to devote the rest of his life to the service of the Church. After Ricci's death he took charge of the funeral arrangements and petitioned the Emperor to grant a place of burial for the missionary and later for his companions, Didace de Pantoja 龐廸我 (T. 順陽, 1571–1618) and Sabbathin de Ursis 熊三拔 (T. 有綱, 1575–1620).

In 1611 Li Chih-tsao went back to his native city to observe the period of mourning for his father. He invited Nicolas Trigault (see under Wang Chêng), Lazare Cattaneo 郭居靜 (T. 仰鳳, 1560–1640) and Sebastian Fernandez 鍾鳴仁 (T. 念江, 1562–1622) to preach at Hangchow, and rented a house for a chapel and a residence for the missionaries. It was at this time that Yang T'ing-yün [q. v.], who had previously been a devout Buddhist, made the acquaintance of the missionaries and was baptized. Yang's conversion aroused the bitter animosity of Buddhists against the Church.

Meanwhile the Imperial Board of Astronomy had miscalculated an eclipse of the sun which occured on December 15, 1610, whereupon the astronomer, Chou Tzŭ-yü 周子愚, memorialized the throne that Pantoja and de Ursis, then residing at Peking, should be asked to translate the western calendar for the benefit of China. Hsü Kuang-chi and Li Chih-tsao were also recommended to assist them. These suggestions were approved and Li was recalled to Peking to assist in the work. But the project had not gone far when it was discontinued. About this time Li was appointed a sub-director of the Court of the Imperial Stud at Nanking. In 1613 Li presented his famous memorial in which he listed fourteen discoveries of Western science that had never been discussed in the writings of ancient Chinese worthies. At the same time he recommended that Pantoja, de Ursis, Longobardi (see under Chu Yu-lang), and Emmanuel Diaz 陽瑪諾 (T. 演西, 1574–1659) assist in carrying out the work that had been proposed three years previously. This recommendation, too, was ignored.

In 1616 the persecution of the Catholic Church in China began—the chief instigator being Shên Ch'üeh 沈㴶 (T. 銘縝, chin-shih of 1592), then vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies at Nanking. In this crisis Li Chih-tsao retired temporarily to Hangchow where he and Yang T'ing-yün provided among their relatives a refuge for the persecuted missionaries. In 1619 when Hsü Kuang-ch'i was ordered to drill newly appointed recruits at Tungchow, east of Peking, he asked Li Chih-tsao and Yang T'ing-yün who were still at Hangchow to contribute money in support of the troops who were defending China against the Manchus. In 1621 Shên-yang and Liao-yang fell to the Manchus and a new demand arose for more effective implements of warfare. In the meantime Li had been appointed sub-director of the Banqueting Court and concurrently head of the department of Waterways and Dikes in the Board of Works. In this capacity he memorialized, in the fifth moon of 1621, that a shipment of Western cannon which Hsü Kuang-ch'i had ordered through his subordinate, Chang Tao 張燾, from Macao, be quickly transmitted to the capital. Four cannon reached Peking, but two of them exploded, causing the death of a number of Chinese. Shên Ch'üeh seized upon this misfortune to renew (1622) his persecution of the Christians. Having been made Grand Secretary, Shên was able to press his case and force the missionaries again to seek refuge in Li's home at Hangchow.

Li once more went into retirement, living in his garden called Ts'un-yüan 存園 where he devoted himself to writing and translation. In 1623 he wrote a preface to the 職方外紀 Chih-fang wai-chi, 5 chüan, published in 1623, a geographical work begun by Pantoja and completed by Aleni (see under Ch'ü Shih-ssŭ) to accompany Ricci's map of the world. On May 21, 1625 Li wrote a short notice of the Nestorian Monument, 讀景教碑書後 Tu ching-chiao pei shu-hou, in which he identifies Nestorianism with the Christianity taught by Matteo Ricci. This article was included in a work by Emmanuel Diaz, entitled 唐景教碑頌正詮 T'ang ching-chiao pei-sung chêng ch'üan, printed in 1644. Li translated, in collaboration with Francis Furtado 傅汎濟 (T. 體齋, 1587–1653), a work on logic, 名理探 Ming li t'an, 10 chüan, printed in 1631; and Aristotle's De caelo et mundo, under the title 寰有詮 Huan yu ch'üan, 6 chüan, printed in 1628 at his own expense. The last mentioned work has a preface by Li dated 1628.

As the old method of astronomical calculation again proved mistaken with regard to an eclipse in 1629, Li was appointed to assist Hsü Kuang-ch'i, Longobardi, and Jean Terrenz 鄧玉函 (T. 涵璞, 1576–1630) to revise it in a calendrical bureau (曆局), located inside the gate called Hsüan-wu mên 宣武門 at Peking. As a result they compiled a work on the newly-introduced European astronomy under the title Ch'ung-chên li-shu (see under Li T'ien-ching). Two years before his death Li edited a collection of 19 works by missionaries under the title 天學初函 T'ien-hsüeh ch'u-han, 52 chüan. A work by Li, entitled 頖宮禮樂疏 P'an-kung li-yüeh shu, in 10 chüan, on the history of the sacrificial ceremonies to Confucius, with illustrations of the sacrificial instruments, was copied into the Ssŭ-k'u Library and was given high praise in the Imperial Catalogue (for both see under Chi Yün). Another, entitled 渾蓋通憲圖說 Hun-kai t'ung-hsien t'u-shuo, in 2 chüan, printed in 1607, a treatise on the stereographic projection of the celestial sphere, was likewise copied into the Ssŭ-k'u Library.

[M.1/31 曆志 11a–13b; Hangchow fu-chih (1922) 147/3a; Hsü Kuang-ch'i [q. v.] Tsêng-ting Hsü Wên-ting kung chi (1933); Ch'ên Yüan 陳垣, 浙西李之藻傳 Chê-hsi Li Chih-tsao chuan in 重刊辯學遺牘; Juan Yüan [q. v.], Ch'ou-jên chuan (1935) pp. 387–90; Pfister, Notices, passim; Hung, William, 考利瑪竇的世界地圖 in 禹貢 (Apr. 11, 1936) vol. V, nos. 3-4; Giles, L., "Translations from the Chinese World-Map of Father Ricci," Geographical Journal (Dec. 1918), pp. 367–85.]

Paul Yap Teh-lu
J. C. Yang