Monday, January 3, 2011

Xu Guangqi

Xu Guangqi (徐光启, 1562–1633), was a Chinese bureaucrat, agricultural scientist, astronomer, mathematician and first great Chinese Catholic apologist in the Ming Dynasty.

Xu was a colleague and collaborator of the Italian Jesuits Matteo Ricci and Sabatino de Ursis and they translated several classic Western texts into Chinese, including part of Euclid's Elements. He was also the author of the Nong Zheng Quan Shu, one of the first comprehensive treatises on the subject of agriculture.

He was one of the "Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism" together with Lǐ Zhīzǎo (李之藻, 1565 – November 1, 1630) and Yáng Tíngyún (杨廷筠, 1557–1627).

Every resident in Shanghai knows the district called “Xujiahui” 徐家匯, which literally means "Xu family gathering place". Most of what is present day Xujiahui was once the ancestral home of Xu Guangqi and his family. Xu Guangqi and his decendants donated large plots of land to the Catholic Church, including the site of the St. Ignatius Cathedral (Xujiahui Cathedral), built in 1847 and reconstructed in 1906.

With land donated by Xu Guangqi's family, the Jesuits built an entire one square mile complex that covers most of present-day Xujiahui. In addition to the Cathedral, they also built orphanages, monasteries, schools, libraries and an observatory.

Established by the Jesuits in 1850, the Xuhui College was the first educational institution in China to offer a fully western curriculum.

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