|Appears in vol. 2 of Tianxue chuhan 天學初函.|
Textual history see:
Ad Dudink & Nicolas Standaert, Chinese Christian Texts Database (CCT-Database)
N.B. citation applies to the ARSI copy of this text.
Jap-Sin I, 50
Bianxue yidu 辯學遺牘
By Li Madou 利瑪竇 (Matteo Ricci) and others.
One juan in one volume. Chinese bamboo paper. Second edition by the Xishizhai 習是齋續梓本. No date or place of publication.
The cover has a label with the title in Chinese with a Latin inscription: “Dialogus inter patrem Riccium, et doctorem sinam de falsis sectis, metempsychosi, etc.”
The first folio bears the title in Chinese, followed by the publisher’s name. The upper middle of each folio bears the number of the folio. There are ten columns in each half folio with twenty-two characters in each column; the characters are in regular writing type with punctuation. The text consists of twenty-six folios.
This book starts with a letter on Buddhism from Yu Chunxi 虞淳熙 to Ricci and the reply of the latter. The second part of the book is a refutation by Ricci of the statements the Buddhist monk Zhuhong 袾宏 made in his four Tianshuo (On Heaven) essays 天說四端.
Yu Chunxi (d. 1621, zi 長孺, hao 德園, posthumous name 澹然) was a native of Zhejiang. He passed his jinshi examination in 1583 and later became a minister in the Civil Ministry. He left behind a collection of writings in 60 juan under the title of Deyuan ji 德園集. As a devoted Buddhist he was not pleased with the Tianzhu shiyi 天主實義 of Ricci (Jap-Sin I, 44–47). He therefore wrote a letter advising Ricci to give more time to the study of Buddhist scriptures instead of going against Buddhism, which “might lead to the ruin of Christianity [literally: the Holy City].” His letter was polite and elegant. Accordingly, Ricci replied in the same tone, though he showed his firm determination throughout the letter:
I am confronted with a difficulty. Undoubtedly Buddhist scriptures are numerous and those who study them are also many. But our sacred writings and books on history and philosophy of the true religion are perhaps double the number of Buddhist writings. They have not been translated [into Chinese] and, being alone without disciples, I am not in the position to do it. Under these circumstances, as your letter puts it, one might face complete destruction, if one tries alone to go against one thousand. [But I must confess] that this destruction would be due to a failure of physical strength and not because of lack of reasoning. What I now suggest is, let us put aside the idea of who is going to win or to lose, and let some of your countrymen help [me] to translate [our] books. The translations need not to be as copious as those of the Buddhists; perhaps one or two percent. With these translations in hand one could then start to debate. If after the debate I am found in error, I should be ready to admit that Christianity is a failure. Now, as you would say, one must not launch an attack on Buddhism, if one is not familiar with Buddhist scriptures, I would reply, in the same spirit, that one who does not understand Catholic writings should not criticize Christianity [literally: how can you ruin our Holy City?]. I will make an attempt to study Buddhist writings in order to compare [it with our religion]. But is it not up to you to make an investigation of Catholic teaching so as to find out what it is all about? It is of great importance for us and for the generations to come to distinguish the truth itself from the unorthodox doctrines and I beg you to pay heed to my words.
The monk Lianchi 蓮池和尚 (1535–1615) was a native of Renhe 仁和 (Hangzhou, Zhejiang). His family name was Shen 沈. He was a Confucian scholar before he became a monk. His religious name was Fohui 佛慧, but he was better known as Zhuhong 袾宏. For thirty-two years he was abbot of the monastery of Yunqi 雲棲 and he was considered one of the most distinguished Buddhist monks of the late Ming dynasty. He and Yu Chunxi were looked upon as leaders of Buddhism in southeast China. Among his writings are the Yunqi fahui 雲棲法彙 and the Zhuchuang suibi 竹窗隨筆and its sequels Erbi 二筆 and Sanbi 三筆. The last-mentioned book contains the four Tianshuo essays天說四端, in which he criticizes Ricci, saying:
Though he worships the Lord of Heaven, in reality he has no conception of Heaven. . . . According to him the Lord of Heaven is a being without form, without color or sound. One can then only conclude that Heaven is nothing more than [pure] reason. But how can [pure reason] rule its subjects, or promulgate laws, or reward and punish? He [Ricci] may be an intelligent person, but he has never learned the scriptures of Buddhists; what could be expected but that his doctrine would be wrong.
The main point of Ricci’s refutation of the criticism of Zhuhong lies in the argument that the Buddhists regard Buddha as the supreme lord. Therefore he is above the Lord of Heaven, which is simply absurd. This is an unforgivable error. For this reason he wrote:
Hence I am most willing to carry out a debate . . . , otherwise what is evident will remain obscure. . . . But there should be order in a debate, the debaters must be governed by reason. No one should bring up wrong traditions in his arguments; that would be to believe in hearsay rather than to follow reason, and that seems childish and would be to no point.
It is clear that Ricci was aiming at the unfounded doctrine of Zhuhong about Heaven. In the remaining chapters Ricci tried to refute the errors of Buddhism on reincarnation, on sacrifice and on the prohibition of killing animals. His arguments are based on reason and combined with great eloquence. There is a postscript at the end of the book by Liang’an jushi 涼庵居士:
Lienchi (Zhuhong) changed from a Confucianist to a Buddhist, and Deyuan (Yu Chunxi) was a profound scholar on the writings of Buddhism. Both were leaders of Buddhist followers in southeast China. Their belief was very different from the teachings of Mr. Li (Ricci). Reading now these letters in which they carried out their discussions, it gives the impression that they respected one another highly. Each tries to expound his learning with sincerity in the hope that the truth may appear. Unfortunately they never came to a conclusion. How regrettable that within a short period they all passed away. Had they had the opportunity to come together to discuss their knowledge freely and to propose their difficulties as open-minded philosophers, they would certainly have exhausted the subject without reservation of their talent. This might have brought to light hidden points and subtle ideas which undoubtedly would be of great enlightment to the ignorant. How lamentable that this never came to pass.
This Liang'an jushi is Li Zhizao 李之藻 himself, the man so tenderly referred to in the writings of the early missioners as "Doctor Leo." The postscript mentions that the three authors of this book had all passed away. Now, Ricci died in 1610 (Wanli 38), Zhuhong in 1615 (Wanli 43) and Yu Chunxi in 1621 (Tianqi 1). Hence the title of this book speaks of yidu 遺牘 (memorial letters).
I received this manuscript accidentally from a friend of mine, and once more my old sentiments revived. I therefore decided to have the manuscript published in the hope that the memories of these venerable persons will not diminish throughout the years. However, I must confess that I am not the person to decide upon the quality and the orthodoxy of their learning.
(Signed by Liang’an jushi)
This book is included in the Tianxue chuhan 天學初函 which was published by Li Zhizao in 1629 (Chongzhen 2). There is a reprint made from wooden blocks by the Lazarists in Peking (Catal. 1924, no. 88). The text has also been reprinted in mobile characters in 1915 by the Dagong Bao 大公報 periodical (Tianjin). Four years later, in 1919, Ying Lianzhi 英斂之 had it published in Peking with prefaces by Chen Yuan 陳垣 and Ma Liang 馬良 (Ma Xiangbai 馬相伯). According to the preface of Chen Yuan, the letters in this book were not written by Ricci himself, but by his followers after his death. Li Zhizao’s postscript, however, makes us think that Ricci was the author. Perhaps the drafts were done by one of Ricci’s friends; or the ideas may have come from Ricci and been put into writing by a Chinese scholar.
Cf. Pfister, p. 36; Hsü 1949, pp. 119–120; SKTY 3:2628; FR 2:306 n. 1; DMB 1:322–324 (Chu-hung).
Cf. Albert Chan, Chinese books and documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, pp.79-82.
JapSin I, 160
Bianxue yidu 辯學遺牘.
By Matteo Ricci and others.
One juan in one volume. Chinese bamboo paper. Second edition of the Xishizhai 習是齊續梓本. No date or place of publication.
The cover bears a Latin inscription: “Dissertationes | contra falsa Dogmata Bonziorum | Liber sinicus editus a Patribus Soctis Jesu.”This is a duplicate of Jap-Sin I, 50 (cf. I, 51).
Source: Albert Chan, S.J., Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, p. 210.
JapSin II, 24.1
Bianxue yidu 辯學遺牘.
By Li Madou 利瑪竇 (Matteo Ricci) and others.
One juan. Bamboo paper, bound together with Jap-Sin II, 24.2 in one volume, European style.
The cover bears a label with the Latin inscription: “1o Doctoris Pauli | Apologia pro Lege Christianorum” (attributing the book to Xu Guangqi 徐光啟, who was known to the missioners by his Christian name: Dr. Paolo). The inside cover bears the same Latin inscription, with the addition: contra quendam Bonzum.This edition is exactly the same as Jap-Sin I, 50.
Source: Albert Chan, S.J., Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, pp. 304-305.