Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yang T'ing-yün

YANG T'ing-yün 楊廷筠 (T. 仲堅, H. 淇園, 鄭圃居士, 泌園居士), 1557–1627, official and scholar, was a native of Jên-ho (Hangchow). His grandfather, Yang Chou 楊周, obtained the chin-shih degree in 1541. His father, Yang Chao-fang 楊兆坊 (T. 思說), who lived to be eighty-four sui, collected and published, under the title 楊氏塾訓 Yang-shih shu-hsün, 6 chüan, a selection of sayings from the classics and histories. That collection was given notice in the Ssŭ-k'u Catalogue (see under Chi Yün). Yang Ting-yün received the chin-shih degree in 1592, followed immediately by appointment as magistrate of An-fu, Kiangsi. In the ninth year of his service in this post he was summoned to Peking (1600) and was made a censor. During the eight or nine years in which he filled the post he was several times sent out to the provinces to supervise grain transport on the Grand Canal (1603), or the governmental administration of the Soochow area (1605). While serving in the Soochow region he was concurrently in charge of educational affairs. About the year 1609 he retired to his home in Hangchow where the governor of Chekiang engaged him to give lectures in a hall at a beautiful site on West Lake. There he organized a philosophical society known as the Chên-shih shê 真實社 (Truth Society). At this time he took a great interest in Buddhism, making large contributions to monasteries and associating with priests of the Ch'an (Zen) sect.

In 1611, when Li Chih-tsao [q. v.] returned to Hangchow to mourn the death of his father, Yang T'ing-yün met at Li's home the missionaries, Lazare Cattaneo (see under Li) and Nicolas Trigault (see under Wang Chêng). Under their influence he became a Christian. The motives and circumstances which induced him to accept Christianity are told in an essay entitled 楊淇園先生超性事蹟 Yang Ch'i-yüan hsien-shêng ch'ao-hsing shih-chi, put into Chinese by Ting Chih-lin T from dictation by Jules Aleni (see Ch'ü Shih-ssŭ). Although some years earlier Yang had met Matteo Ricci (see under Hsü Kuang-ch'i) in Peking, he then showed no interest in Christianity; now, however, he became an ardent and wholly-convinced convert and was baptized in 1612 under the name Michael (彌格). He persuaded his parents and many members of his family to be baptized, and together with his relatives and friends organized what he termed a Holy Water Society (Shêng-shui hui 聖水會), for mutual improvement in Christian doctrine. A book of questions and answers regarding the tenets of Christianity he published under the title Shêng-shui chi-yen (紀言), 1 chüan. It has a preface by Li Chih-tsao.

Impelled by an ardent desire to make known to his countrymen the contributions which the West had to make to China, he assembled in 1615 sixty-seven miscellaneous items relating to Western science, geography, philosophy and Christianity, which had appeared in Chinese in the preceding thirty years (including two prefaces by himself), under the collective title 絕徼同文紀 Chieh-chiao t'ung-wên chi, 2 chüan. In his preface to this work he made some pointed observations on the differences between an ideographic and an alphabetic language, and on the essential oneness of the human race despite minor differences attributable to historical and environmental factors.

Yang T'ing-yün wrote a number of articles to demonstrate, if possible, the superiority of Christianity to Buddhism. One such article, originally entitled 徵信編 Chêng-hsin pien, he published in 1621 under the title 代疑篇 Tai-i p'ien; a supplement, entitled Tai-i hsü (續) p'ien, being printed in 1635. Two other works, 天釋明辨 T'ien-shih ming-pien (A Clear Differentiation Between Christianity and Buddhism) and 鴞鸞不並鳴說 Hsiao-luan pu-ping-ming shuo (The Owl and the Pheasant Cannot Chime Together), also deal, as their titles indicate, with what Yang believed to be irreconcilable differences between the two religions. These three works were published later by a pupil of Yang, named Chang Kêng (see under Han Lin).

In 1601 Matteo Ricci had presented to the throne his World Atlas (K'un-yü wan-kuo ch'üan-t'u) and the Emperor ordered the Fathers Pantoja and de Ursis (for dates, etc. see Li Chih-tsao) to add explanations. Since these explanations had been preserved by Aleni, he and Yang expanded them to form descriptive notices of the then known countries of the world, publishing them in 5 chüan in 1623 under the title, Chih-fang wai-chi (see under Li Chih-tsao). This edition was copied into the Ssŭ-k'u Library (see under Chi Yün). Some years later, in the Ch'ung-chên period (1628–44), when more information on the Southern Hemisphere came to light, an expanded edition in 6 chüan was published in Fukien.

Yang T'ing-yün was so keenly interested in the new knowledge which had come from the West that he remarked in a preface to Aleni's 西學凡 Hsi-hsüeh fan (A General Survey of Western Knowledge), a preface written by him in 1623: "Some seven thousand titles of Western books have come to this country from overseas, all of which ought to be translated...If I had ten years to collaborate with a score or more persons of like ambitions we together could complete the task". (It may be of interest to add that in the preface which Li Chih-tsao wrote for the Chih-fang wai-chi in the same year, he too states that some seven thousand Western books had by that time reached China). Yang lived only four years more, and his ambition was not fulfilled. In addition to the works named above, Yang T'ing-yün is credited, in the history of Hangchow compiled in 1922 (chüan 86–95), with sixteen other items. Two of these, 玩易微言擇抄 Wan-I wei-yen tsê-ch'ao, 6 chüan, and 靈衛廟志 Ling-wei miao-chih, 1 chüan, are given notice in the Ssŭ-k'u Catalogue, though the second item is registered under the name of his collaborator, Hsia Pin 夏賓. Still another work by Yang, entitled 易顯 I-hsien, is mentioned in the Ching-i k'ao by Chu I-tsun [q. v.]. Yang published, early in the 1620's, a book of family instructions by a contemporary, Su Shih-ch'ien 蘇士潛, under the title, Su-shih chia-hua (氏家話). The son of Su Shih-ch'ien, named Su Mao-hsiang 蘇茂相 (1567–1630, chin-shih of 1592), was then governor of Chekiang province. It may well be that the copy of this book in the Library of Congress, and another copy in the Cabinet Library, Tokyo, are the only ones extant.

Yang Tsing-yün, Hsü Kuang-ch'i, and Li Chih-tsao are known as the "Three Pillars of the Early Catholic Church" (開教三大柱石) in China. They were devoted Christians and rendered enormous assistance to the missionaries. During the persecutions instigated by Shên Ch'üeh (see under Li) in 1616 and 1622, Yang took serious risks in giving shelter to several of the missionaries in his home or in his country villa near Hangchow. On January 12, 1619, he was recalled to Peking, but apparently did not go at this time. However, on July 25, 1622, he accepted appointment as intendant of the circuit of Ta-liang in Honan province, with nominal rank of a Vice Judicial Commissioner. In May of the following year he was promoted to sub-director of the Banqueting Court, and in 1624 to vice-governor of the Metropolitan area of Peking. When, in March 1625, several censors at Nanking charged him with incompetency in office, he was a month later allowed, at his own request, to retire on the ground of old age. In 1627 he undertook to build a church, with residential quarters attached, inside the Wu-lin Gate, Hangchow. Shortly after the building was completed, he died at the age of seventy-one (sui), leaving two sons, and a daughter known as Madame Agnès.


[Yang Ch'i-yüan hảiem-shêng ch'ao-hsing shih-chi, edition printed in Ch'ung-chên period preserved in Bibliothèque Nationale, Courant 1097; Ming Shên-tsung shih-lu (Chronicles of Wan-li period), ch. 383–431; Pfister, Notices, passim; Ming Hsi-tsung shih-lu (Chronicles of the T'ien-ch'i period).]

Wang Chung-min