Nicolas Trigault

Nicolas Trigault (1577–1628) was a Walloon Jesuit, and a missionary in China. He was also known by his latinised name Nicolaus Trigautius or Trigaultius, and his Chinese name Jin Nige (simplified Chinese: 金尼阁; traditional Chinese: 金尼閣; pinyin: Jīn Nígé).

Nicolas Trigault in Chinese costume, by Peter Paul Rubens.
De Christiana Expeditione apud Sinas Ausburg 1615
De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, by Nicolas Trigault and Matteo Ricci, Augsburg, 1615.

Life and work

Born in Douai (then part of the Spanish Netherlands, now part of France), he became a Jesuit in 1594. Trigault left Europe to do missionary work in Asia around 1610, eventually arriving at Nanjing, China in 1611. He was later brought by the Chinese Catholic Li Zhizao to his hometown of Hangzhou where he worked as one of the first missionaries ever to reach that city and was eventually to die there in 1628.

In late 1612 Trigault was appointed by the China Mission's Superior, Niccolo Longobardi as the China Mission's procurator (recruitment and PR representative) in Europe. He sailed from Macau on February 9, 1613, and arrived in Rome on October 11, 1614, by way of India, the Persian Gulf and Egypt.[1] His tasks involved reporting on the mission's progress to Pope Paul V,[2] successfully negotiating with the Jesuit Order's General Claudio Acquaviva the independence of the China Mission from the Japan Mission, and traveling around Europe to raise money and publicize the work of the Jesuit missions.[1] Peter Paul Rubens did a portrait of Trigault on 17 January 1617, when Trigault was either in Antwerp or Brussels (at right).[3][4]

It was during this trip to Europe that Trigault edited and translated (from Italian to Latin) Matteo Ricci's "China Journal", or De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas. (He, in fact, started the work aboard the ship when sailing from Macau to India). The work was published in 1615 in Augsburg; it was later translated into many European languages and widely read.[1] The French translation, which appeared in 1616, was translated from Latin by Trigault's own nephew, David-Floris de Riquebourg-Trigault.[5]

In April 1618, Trigault sailed from Lisbon with over 20 newly recruited Jesuit missionaries, and arrived in Macau in April 1619.[1] [6]

Trigault produced one of the first systems of Chinese Romanisation (based mostly on Ricci's earlier work) in 1626, in his work Xiru Ermu Zi (simplified Chinese: 西儒耳目资; traditional Chinese: 西儒耳目資; pinyin: Xīrú ěrmù zī; literally: 'Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati').[7][8][9] Trigault wrote his book in Shanxi province.[10]

Aided by a converted Chinese, he also produced the first Chinese version of Aesop's Fables (況義 "Analogy"), published in 1625.

In the 1620s Trigault became involved in a dispute over the correct Chinese terminology for the Christian God and defended the use of the term Shangdi that had been prohibited in 1625 by the Jesuit Superior General Muzio Vitelleschi. André Palmeiro, the Society of Jesus inspector assigned the task of investigating and reporting on the circumstances of Trigault's death in 1628, on information from Trigault's confessor Lazzaro Cattaneo, stated that a mentally unstable Trigault had become deeply depressed after failing to successfully defend the use of the term, and had committed suicide.[11][4]

Portrait of Nicolas Trigault by Peter Paul Rubens
High-Definition version of the portrait, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Portrait Painting of Nicolas Trigault
Portrait painting of Nicolas Trigault by Rubens workshop. Currently kept in Musée de la Chartreuse de Douai of France



Part 1 of 西儒耳目資, "Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati" by Nicolas Trigault


Part 2 of 西儒耳目資, "Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati" by Nicolas Trigault


Part 3 of 西儒耳目資, "Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati" by Nicolas Trigault

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Mungello, David E. (1989). Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 46–48. ISBN 0-8248-1219-0..
  2. ^ Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628 A.D.)
  3. ^ Peter Paul Rubens: Portrait of Nicolas Trigault in Chinese Costume | Work of Art | Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. ^ a b Logan, Anne-Marie; Brockey, Liam M (2003). "Nicolas Trigault SJ: A Portrait by Peter Paul Rubens" (PDF). Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  5. ^ Histoire de l'expédition chrestienne au royaume de la Chine entreprise par les PP. de la Compagnie de Jésus: comprise en cinq livres esquels est traicté fort exactement et fidelelement des moeurs, loix et coustumes du pays, et des commencemens très-difficiles de l'Eglise naissante en ce royaume (1616) - French translation of De Christiana expeditione by D.F. de Riquebourg-Trigault. Full text available on Google Books. The translator mentions his relation to N. Trigault on p. 4 of the Dedication ("Epistre Dedicatoire")
  6. ^ Biography in Chinese Archived 2007-07-27 at the Wayback Machine at the National Digital Library of China
  7. ^ "Xiru ermu zi" (西儒耳目資) bibliographic information and links Archived 2006-09-08 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Dicionário Português-Chinês : 葡汉辞典 (Pu-Han cidian): Portuguese-Chinese dictionary", by Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci; edited by John W. Witek. Published 2001, Biblioteca Nacional. ISBN 972-565-298-3. Partial preview available on Google Books. Page 184.
  9. ^ Heming Yong; Jing Peng (14 August 2008). Chinese Lexicography : A History from 1046 BC to AD 1911: A History from 1046 BC to AD 1911. OUP Oxford. pp. 385–. ISBN 978-0-19-156167-2.
  10. ^ 何大安 (2002). 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組. 南北是非 : 漢語方言的差異與變化 (in Chinese). Volume 7 of 第三屆國際漢學會議論文集: 語言組 Zhong yang yan jiu yuan di san jie guo ji han xue hui yi lun wen ji. Yu yan zu. 中央硏究院語言學硏究所. p. 23. ISBN 957-671-936-4. Retrieved 23 September 2011. the national capital during the period and the Ricci essays had been written in that city. Later, Lu Zhìwei 陸志韋 (1947) countered with the theory that Trigault's system must represent a Shanxi dialect, because his book had been completed in that province. In response to these claims, Lu asserted that, if Guanhua was indeed a Nankingese-based koine, then the
  11. ^ Brockey, p. 87.

Further reading

  • Liam M. Brockey, Journey to the East: The Jesuit mission to China, 1579-1724, Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • C. Dehaisnes, Vie du Père Nicolas Trigault, Tournai, 1861.
  • P.M. D’Elia, "Daniele Bartoli e Nicola Trigault", Rivista Storica Italiana, ser. V, III, 1938, pp. 77–92.
  • G.H. Dunne, Generation of Giants, Notre Dame (Indiana), 1962, pp. 162–182.
  • L. Fezzi, "Osservazioni sul De Christiana Expeditione apud Sinas Suscepta ab Societate Iesu di Nicolas Trigault", Rivista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa 1999, pp. 541–566.
  • T.N. Foss, "Nicholas Trigault, S.J. – Amanuensis or Propagandist? The Rôle of the Editor of Della entrata della Compagnia di Giesù e Christianità nella Cina", in Lo Kuang (ed.), International Symposium on Chinese-Western Cultural Interchange in Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the Arrival of Matteo Ricci, S.J. in China. Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China. September 11–16, 1983, II, Taipei, 1983, pp. 1–94.
  • J. Gernet, "Della Entrata della Compagnia di Giesù e Cristianità nella Cina de Matteo Ricci (1609) et les remaniements de sa traduction latine (1615)", Académie des Inscriptions & Belles Lettres. Comptes Rendus 2003, pp. 61–84.
  • E. Lamalle, "La propagande du P. Nicolas Trigault en faveur des missions de Chine (1616)", Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu IX, 1940, pp. 49–120.
  • Liam M. Brockey, “The Death and Disappearance of Nicolas Trigault, S.J.,” The Journal of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 38 (2003): pp. 161–167.

External links

China–France relations

China–France relations, also known as Sino-French relations or Franco-Chinese relations, refers to the interstate relations between China and France (Kingdom or later).

Note that the meaning of both "China" and "France" as entities has changed throughout history; this article will discuss what was commonly considered 'France' and 'China' at the time of the relationships in question. There have been many political, cultural and economic relationships between the two countries.

De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas

De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu ... (Latin for "On the Christian Mission among the Chinese by the Society of Jesus ...") is a book based on an Italian manuscript written by the most important founding figure of the Jesuit China mission, Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), expanded and translated into Latin by his colleague Nicolas Trigault (1577–1628). The book was first published in 1615 in Augsburg.The book's full title is De Christiana expeditione apud sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu. Ex P. Matthaei Riccii eiusdem Societatis commentariis Libri V: Ad S.D.N. Paulum V. In Quibus Sinensis Regni mores, leges, atque instituta, & novae illius Ecclesiae difficillima primordia accurate & summa fide describuntur

("The Christian Expedition among the Chinese undertaken by the Society of Jesus from the commentaries of Fr. Matteo Ricci of the same Society... in which the customs, laws, and principles of the Chinese kingdom and the most difficult first beginnings of the new Church there are accurately and with great fidelity described / authored by Fr. Nicolas Trigault, Flemish, of the same Society," dedicated to Pope Paul V). As it indicates, the work contained an overview of the late Ming China's geography, politics, and culture, its philosophy and religions, and described the history of Christianity's inroads into China (primarily, the work of Ricci himself and his fellow Jesuits). The book articulated Ricci's approach for planting Christianity on the Chinese soil: an "accommodationist" policy, as later scholars called it, based on the premise of the essential compatibility between Christianity and Confucianism. With some evolutionary changes, this policy continued to guide Jesuit missionaries in China for the next century.The first major book published in Europe by an author who was not only fluent in Chinese and conversant in Chinese culture but also had traveled over much of the country, Ricci-Trigault's work was highly popular, and went through at least 16 editions in a number of European languages in the several decades after its first publication.

Diego de Pantoja

Diego de Pantoja or Diego Pantoja (Chinese: 龐迪我, Pang Diwo; April 1571, Valdemoro, Spain – January 1618, Portuguese Macau, China) was a Spanish Jesuit and missionary to China who is best known for having accompanied Matteo Ricci in Beijing. His name also appears in some sources as Didaco Pantoia.He arrived in Portuguese Macau on 20 July, 1597, where he received his final instructions for his work in China at St. Paul's College. He was then sent to the Ming dynasty's southern capital, Nanjing, where he stayed from March 1600. He worked with Matteo Ricci, who later completed his work on the Zhifang waiji, China's first global atlas. Together, they left Nanjing on 19 May, 1600, and arrived at the Ming dynasty's Northern and overall capital, Beijing, on 24 January, 1601.

He worked in Beijing for many years, including as a musician, astronomer (with calendar corrections) and as a geographer (working with latitude).

On 18 March, 1617 he was tried as an enemy of the Chinese astronomers and was expelled from China, along with his colleague Sabatino de Ursis, and settled in Macao, where he lived for the short time remaining before his death.


Hami is a prefecture-level city in eastern Xinjiang, China. It is well known as the home of sweet Hami melons. In early 2016, the former Hami county-level city was merged with Hami Prefecture to form Hami prefecture-level city now known as Yizhou District.


An imprimatur (sometimes abbreviated as impr., from Latin, "let it be printed") is a declaration authorizing publication of a book. The term is also applied loosely to any mark of approval or endorsement.

Imprimi potest

Imprimi potest or imprimi permittitur (Latin for "it can be printed") is a declaration by a major superior of a Roman Catholic religious institute that writings on questions of religion or morals by a member of the institute may be printed. Superiors make such declarations only after censors charged with examining the writings have granted the nihil obstat, a declaration of no objection. Final approval can then be given through the imprimatur ("let it be printed") of the author's bishop or of the bishop of the place of publication.

Johann Schreck

Johann(es) Schreck, also Terrenz or Terrentius Constantiensis, Deng Yuhan Hanpo 鄧玉函, Deng Zhen Lohan, (1576, Bingen, Baden-Württemberg or Constance – 11 May 1630, Beijing) was a German Jesuit, missionary to China and polymath. He is credited with the development of scientific-technical terminology in Chinese.

Juan González de Mendoza

Juan González de Mendoza, O.S.A. (1545 – 14 February 1618) was the author of one of the earliest Western histories of China. Published by him in 1586, Historia de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres del gran reyno de la China (The History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof) is an account of observations several Spanish travelers in China. An English translation by Robert Parke appeared in 1588 and was reprinted by the Hakluyt Society in two volumes, edited by Sir George T. Staunton, Bart. (London, 1853–54).

González de Mendoza's Historia was mostly superseded in 1615 by the work of much more informed Jesuit missionaries who actually lived in China, Matteo Ricci and Nicolas Trigault, De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas. Much of González de Mendoza's work was plagiarised from Escalante's Discurso de la navegacion

Lazzaro Cattaneo

Lazzaro Cattaneo (Sarzana, Italy, 1560 - Hangzhou, China, 19 January 1640), (Chinese: 郭居静; pinyin: Guō Jūjìng; Sidney Lau: Gwok3 Gui1 Jing6), was an Italian Jesuit missionary who invented the first tone markings for Chinese transcription.

Matteo Ricci

Matteo Ricci, S.J. (Italian pronunciation: [matˈtɛːo ˈrittʃi]; Latin: Mattheus Riccius Maceratensis; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Jesuit priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions. His 1602 map of the world in Chinese characters introduced the findings of European exploration to East Asia. He is considered a Servant of God by the Roman Catholic Church.

Ricci arrived at the Portuguese settlement of Macau in 1582 where he began his missionary work in China. He became the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing in 1601 when invited by the Wanli Emperor, who sought his services in matters such as court astronomy and calendrical science. He converted several prominent Chinese officials to Catholicism, such as Xu Guangqi, who aided in translating Euclid's Elements into Chinese as well as the Confucian classics into Latin for the first time.

Michele Ruggieri

Michele or Michael Ruggieri (1543 – 11 May 1607), born Pompilio Ruggieri and known in China as Luo Mingjian, was an Italian Jesuit priest and missionary. A founding father of the Jesuit China missions, co-author of the first European–Chinese dictionary, and first European translator of the Four Books of Confucianism, he has been described as the first European sinologist.

Nanhua Temple

Nanhua Temple (simplified Chinese: 南华寺; traditional Chinese: 南華寺; pinyin: Nánhuá Sì; Jyutping: Naam4wa4zi6) is a Buddhist monastery of the Chan Buddhism, one of Five Great Schools of Buddhism where Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, once lived and taught. It is located 25-square-kilometre (9.7 sq mi) southeast of Shaoguan, China in the town of Caoxi (漕溪), within Qujiang District. The location is in the northern part of Guangdong Province, within a few kilometers from Bei River, formerly an important trade route from Central China to Guangzhou.

Nihil obstat

Nihil obstat (Latin for "nothing hinders" or "nothing stands in the way") is a declaration of no objection to an initiative or an appointment.

Su Song

Su Song (simplified Chinese: 苏颂; traditional Chinese: 蘇頌; pinyin: Sū Sòng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: So͘ Siōng; courtesy name: Zirong 子容) (1020–1101 AD) was a renowned Hokkien polymath who was described as a scientist, mathematician, statesman, astronomer, cartographer, horologist, medical doctor, pharmacologist, mineralogist, zoologist, botanist, mechanical and architectural engineer, poet, antiquarian, and ambassador of the Song Dynasty (960–1279).

Su Song was the engineer of a hydro-mechanical astronomical clock tower in medieval Kaifeng, which employed the use of an early escapement mechanism. The escapement mechanism of Su's clock tower had been invented by Buddhist monk Yi Xing and government official Liang Lingzan in 725 AD to operate a water-powered armillary sphere, although Su's armillary sphere was the first to be provided with a mechanical clock drive. Su's clock tower also featured the oldest known endless power-transmitting chain drive, called the tian ti (天梯), or "celestial ladder", as depicted in his horological treatise. The clock tower had 133 different clock jacks to indicate and sound the hours. Su Song's treatise about the clock tower, Xinyi Xiangfayao (新儀象法要), has survived since its written form in 1092 and official printed publication in 1094. The book has been analyzed by many historians, such as Joseph Needham. The clock itself, however, was dismantled by the invading Jurchen army in 1127 AD, and although attempts were made to reassemble it, the tower was never successfully reinstated.

The Xinyi Xiangfayao was Su's best-known treatise, but the polymath compiled other works as well. He completed a large celestial atlas of several star maps, several terrestrial maps, as well as a treatise on pharmacology. The latter discussed related subjects on mineralogy, zoology, botany, and metallurgy.

European Jesuit visitors to China like Matteo Ricci and Nicolas Trigault briefly wrote about Chinese clocks with wheel drives, but others mistakenly believed that the Chinese had never advanced beyond the stage of the clepsydra, incense clock, and sundial. They thought that advanced mechanical clockworks were new to China and that these mechanisms were something valuable that Europeans could offer to the Chinese. Although not as prominent as in the Song period, contemporary Chinese texts of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) described a relatively unbroken history of mechanical clocks in China, from the 13th century to the 16th. However, Su Song's clock tower still relied on the use of a waterwheel to power it, and was thus not fully mechanical like late medieval European clocks.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The Boy Who Cried Wolf is one of Aesop's Fables, numbered 210 in the Perry Index. From it is derived the English idiom "to cry wolf", defined as "to give a false alarm" in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and glossed by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning to make false claims, with the result that subsequent true claims are disbelieved.

Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism

Xú Guāngqǐ (Wade–Giles: Hsü Kuang-ch'i; 徐光啟, 1562–1633) of Shanghai, and Lǐ Zhīzǎo (Wade–Giles: Li Chih-tsao; 李之藻, 1565 – November 1, 1630) and Yáng Tíngyún (Wade–Giles: Yang T'ing-yün; 楊廷筠, 1557–1627) both of Hangzhou, are known as the Three Great Pillars of Chinese Catholicism (聖教三柱石, literally the "Holy Religion's Three Pillar-Stones"). It is due to their combined efforts that Hangzhou and Shanghai became the centre of missionary activity in late Ming China. The three men shared an interest in Western science and mathematics, and it is probable that this was what first attracted them to the Jesuits responsible for their conversion.

University of Douai

The University of Douai (French: Université de Douai) is a former university in Douai, France. With a medieval heritage of scholarly activities in Douai, the university was established in 1559 and lectures started in 1562. It closed from 1795 to 1808. In 1887, it was transferred as University of Lille 27 km away from Douai.

From the mid-16th century onwards, the university of Douai had Europe-wide influence as a prominent centre of neo-Latin literature, contributing also to the dissemination of printed knowledge. With 1,500 to 2,000 registered students and several hundred professors, it was the second largest university of France during the late-17th and 18th centuries. Studies in mathematics and physics at the Douai Faculty of Arts enabled broad development in artillery practice. The Douai Faculty of Theology was an important center for Catholic scholarship. It played a role in religious doctrines and political controversies in Europe; its scholars participated in the development of new approaches to the humanities.

Wenceslas Pantaleon Kirwitzer

Wenceslas Pantaleon Kirwitzer (1588, Kadaň; 1626, Macau) was an astronomer and a Jesuit missionary. His name in China was Qi Weicai (祁維材).

Xiangshan County, Guangdong

Xiangshan County, also spelt Hsiang-shan, Siang-shan, and Heungshan, was a county in southern China. Since 1912, it was a county in Kwangtung Province (modern spelling: Guangdong), in the Republic of China. It was renamed Zhongshan County (then usually romanized "Chung-shan") in April 1925, in memory of the founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat Sen, a Xiangshan native.

The county covered the modern-day Zhuhai City ,Zhongshan City and a part of Nansha District of Guangzhou City in the Guangdong Province of the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, formerly known as Portuguese Macau until 1999.


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