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Jesuit Chreia in Late Ming China

Two Studies with an Annotated Translation of Alfonso Vagnone’s "Illustrations of the Grand Dao</I>


Sher-Shiueh Li and Thierry Meynard

Used by Classical and Medieval Western schools to teach rhetoric, a chreia is a brief moral story attributed to a famous historical figure. In Late Ming China, the Italian Jesuit Alfonso Vagnone, also named Gao Yizhi, and the Chinese scholar-official Han Yun collaborated on a project to write down 355 chreiai and sayings. These short commentaries are not mere translations of the Grecoroman text but the elaborate literary creations of two luminaries working at the junction between Chinese and Western wisdom literature. Along with the original Chinese and its English translation (the original source is included when available) the authors share their expert analysis of each chreia.
This study will interest scholars across disciplines: Chinese literature, Comparative literature, Sinology, Chinese thought, Christian studies, Western classics and Moral Philosophy.
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Vagnone and Han Yun collaborated together to “transwrite” the Illustrations of the Grand Dao in the final years of the Ming Dynasty. In 2007, almost four hundred years later, the two of us came together to collaborate in the same spirit of mutual enrichment to read, translate, and analyze their text.

We are grateful for many scholars and institutions whose assistance made this project possible. We would like to thank Edmund Ryden, S. J., and Greg Mathes, both of Catholic Fu Jen University, Taiwan, and Rob Voigt of Stanford University for their invaluable help proofreading the English translations of each chreia and their individual comments. Nicolas Standaert, S. J., KU Leuven, read Thierry Meynard’s draft of the study and gave precious comments and bibliographical references on Late-Ming China. Professor Zhang Xianyong, Sun Yat-sen University, China, also read and made useful comments on this study. Professors Anthony C. Yu and Michael Murrin, both of the University of Chicago, read part of Sher-shiueh Li’s work at its formative stages and made valuable comments on it, too. Dr. Kid Lam, Academia Sinica, and Prof. Jin Wenbing, Wenzhou University, provide some important sources of the chreiai and sayings at the critical moment when the present volume has almost taken its final shape. We, certainly, owe him to a great degree.

We would like to thank the Taipei Mission to Latvia, the University of Latvia, both in Riga (Latvia), the National Science Council, Academia Sinica, both of Taiwan, and...

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