Brescia: Appresso Vincenzo Sabbio, 1592.
Octavo: 14.8 x 10 cm. 186 p. Collation: A-M8 (blanks 6-8 present)
ONE OF THREE 1592 EDITIONS. The collection was first printed at Rome in 1591 by Zannetti.
Bound in 18th c. stiff vellum (lightly soiled, covers slightly bowed), edges sprinkled red. A very good, clean copy, cut a bit sort at the head (affecting headline on lvs. H1, M1, and M2 and page number on leaf M8). Very slim worm-trail not affecting text to first three leaves.
A volume of important Jesuit letters from Japan and China. Those written from Japan describe the increasing persecution of Christians under the second great unifier of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536/7-1598), who was then consolidating his power. In his edict of 1587, Hideyoshi had ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits from Japan. However, despite the martyrdom of several Jesuits and Franciscans, the Order was largely allowed to function under the protection of feudal lords.
In the first and longest report, Jesuit Vice Provincial Gaspar Coelho, writing from Kazusa 加津佐, Feb. 24, 1589 (p. 1 ff.), reports 6,000-7,000 baptisms for 1588. This primary report by Coelho, which occupies the first 136 pages, brings together reports from numerous Jesuits stationed throughout Japan. It is replete with descriptions of Japanese culture, including religious practices.
The other letters from Japan are by Luís Fróis, dated July 22, 1589 (p. 137ff.), Gil de la Mata, dated July 25, 1590 (p. 156 ff.) and Francisco Perez, written from Arie-chō (p. 145) and Yamaguchi (p. 147). In his first letter, Perez describes two miraculous healings.
A Japanese woman driven to Suicide revived by Padre Perez:
The first miracle described by Francisco Perez involved a woman who, driven to despair by her cheating husband, succumbed to a demon who drove her to hang herself with her own belt. The belt broke, however, and she fell to the floor insensible and unresponsive. Padre Perez was called and revived the woman by waving a monstrance and sprinkling her with holy water. Another miracle involved a woman who had a fishbone lodged in her throat for several days. She could not eat or speak and breathed with difficulty. Padre Perez sprinkled her with holy water, and waved a monstrance with a bone of Saint Biagio (who had cured just this sort of malady.) Sure enough, she spit out the fishbone, made confession, and asked for something to eat.
The Letters from China:
The two primary letters from China, written by António de Almeida from the Jesuit Mission in Zhaoqing, dated 8 September 1588 (p. 162 ff.), and the Mission Superior Duarte de Sande, from Macao, dated 28 September 1589 (p. 174 ff.), provide important information on the precarious state of the China Mission in its first decade, during the middle reign of the Wanli emperor (reigned 1572-1620). We learn of the activities of the remarkable Matteo Ricci, the forced abandonment of the Jesuit mission station at Zhaoqing, and the Jesuits' journey to establish a new residence further inland. Along the way, Ricci and his companion, Almeida, would have notable experiences, among them a sojourn at a Buddhist temple.
Chinese Objections to the Permanent Settlement of Europeans in China:
Written in September 1588, Almeida’s letter contains a remarkable text: a complaint, lodged by the elders of Canton on behalf of the people of their province against the Jesuits, with a plea for the foreigners’ expulsion. The elders complain to the Chinese provincial viceroy that while in the past foreigners had been allowed to trade from their ships docked in Macao, they had now made permanent settlements there, like ants and bees. Moreover, the Jesuits had now established themselves in Chao-ch'ing (Zhaoqing) as a pretext for leading the Portuguese further inland. To allow the Portuguese to settle in Macao was an evil in and of itself, but to allow Europeans to settle in Chao-ch'ing posed far greater danger, for they were now deep in “the heart” of China.
Despite this hostility, Almeida reports that he was allowed to remain in the Jesuit residence in Zhaoqing, together with the mission’s founder, Matteo Ricci. Yet matters soon worsened with the arrival of the new Chinese governor.
The End of the Mission Station at Zhaoqing:
Writing one year later, in September 1589, Duarte de Sande announces the tragic dissolution of the Jesuit mission station in Zhaoqing. This station, which had been established with Chinese permission by Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci in 1583, marked the first permanent European settlement in mainland China and boasted the first Christian Church in that country. The church, “Xianhua si 仙花寺” (the Temple of Immortal Flower), constructed in European architectural style, and the Jesuit residence, were the heart of the Jesuit Mission, which had been officially sanctioned by the Chinese in 1584. Now, after only five years, Ricci and Almeida were forced to abandon it.
The new governor, Liu Jiezhai, had decided to confiscate the Jesuits’ residence and expel them from the city. Ricci was unable to persuade the governor to allow him and De Sande to stay but he was able, after some careful maneuvering and with some luck, to keep from being expelled from China altogether.
“Ricci and [Almeida] gathered their indispensable luggage, distributed all the rest among the converts, and entrusted a letter informing [the Jesuit Provincial], Valignano, of their decision to move to another locality to the pilot of the vessel on which they had traveled, which was returning to Canton. Seen off by the group of converts who had gathered for the last farewell, Ricci and Almeida set sail on August 15, 1589. They left the city that had been their home for six years with sorrow but with their heads held high, bound for another unknown region in the Chinese interior.”(Fontana, Matteo Ricci, p. 80)
De Sande, reading from an account sent to him by Ricci and Almeida, next describes the two men’s travels through the Chinese interior. The Jesuits traveled along the Xi Jiang river towards Shaozhou, stopping at the Buddhist monastery of Nanhua (where they refused to revere statues of the Buddha) near the borders of the Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces. They arrived at Shaozhou on August 26, 1589, and established a new residence there. This is where De Sande concludes his account.
Streit, Bibliotheca missionum, IV, 1738, p. 468-70; Cordier, Bibliotheca japonica, col. 115-116; Bibliotheca sinica, 796; Laures, Kirishitan Bunko, 207; Pfister, Notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les Jésuites de l’ancienne mission de Chine, I, 43; Sommervogel, I, 192 ; V, 726 ; VI, 517 ; VII, 546.