|Words for images and images for words: an iconological and scriptural study of the Christian
prints in the Chengshi moyuan 程氏墨苑 / Rui Oliveira Lopes.
Extract from: Word & Image, 33:1, 87-107, DOI: 10.1080/02666286.2016.1263137
See Word & Image to access article.
See note in record for Chengshi moyuan 程氏墨苑.
Local access dig.pdf. [Lopes-Chengshi moyan.pdf]
Abstract: The early seventeenth century is noted for the fruitful cultural, religious, and
artistic exchange between Europe and the Chinese imperial court. The missionaries of the
Society of Jesus (Societas Iesu) became a prominent bridge connecting the two distinct cultures,
where the main differences were, at the same time, the reason for their mutual allure. At that
time, Jesuit priests, such as Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), João da Rocha (1587–1639), and Giulio
Aleni (1582–1649), contributed significantly not only to the dissemination of Christianity in
Beijing, Nanjing, and other important cities beyond the Portuguese administration of
Macau, but also to the transmission of Western knowledge and technology. Along with
the flow of goods and rare commodities brought from Europe which overwhelmed the
Chinese emperors of the late Ming and High Qing courts, Western art was introduced into
China as a synthesis of visual science, artistic sophistication, and eloquence, explaining why it
became so valuable, particularly during the time of the three Qing emperors, Kangxi (1654–
1722), Yongzheng (1678–1735), and Qianlong (1711–99). The modus operandi in the apostolic
ministry of the Society of Jesus around the world is well known for the use of images as a
visual explanation of Christian doctrine, particularly in China, India, and Japan. The
Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Exercitia Spiritualia), composed between 1522 and 1524,
suggests that the images should be referred to as a reflection on the word, demonstrating the
complementary function between text and images in the explanation of Christian teachings.
This article discusses the agency of one of the earliest sets of European prints used in the
context of the Jesuit mission in China as a visual explanation of biblical teachings. By means
of iconographic examination and iconological approach, it examines how Christian prints
included in the Chengshi moyuan 程氏墨苑 (The Ink Garden of Mr. Cheng) were used as a visual
reasoning of the scriptures, demonstrating that the three biblical prints were linked to each
other and purposely put together as a result of a doctrinal program.
Keywords: European prints in China, artistic exchange, Jesuits in China, Matteo
Ricci, Chengshi moyuan, Ming dynasty, spiritual exercises