|"Rocha is known for two works, one a translation of a catechism in the form of a dialogue written in 1561 by Marco Jorge, the title of which Rocha rendered as Tianzhu shengjiao qimeng (1619)....the second known as the method of the Rosary, Nien-chu kuei-ch'eng (i.e. Nianzhu guicheng, ca. 1620)....illustrated with fifteen woodblock prints. Tung Ch'i-ch'ang (Dong Qichang) or someone of his school is said to have been responsible for adapting the pictures, made originally by Girolamo Nadal in 1595, for Rocha's book. The latter is extremely rare but a copy, probably an original, is preserved in the Vatican Library. Pasquale M. d'Elia in 1939 reproduced all fifteen illustrations, together with Nadal's on facing pages."--Cf. Dictionary of Ming Biography, p. 1145.
Citation source: Albert Chan, S.J., Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, pp. 70-71.
Jap-Sin I, 43a
Tianzhu shengjiao qimeng 天主聖教啟蒙
By Luo Ruwang 羅儒望 (João da Rocha, 1565–1623).
Sixty-nine folios (Arabic numbers: 3–71). Chinese bamboo paper, one volume. No date or place of publication.
A cutting in Latin on the cover reads: “Hic catechismus non cum Imaginibus Passionis Dominicae fuit impressus jam ante annum 1600.”
The title page is missing. Folio 1r bears the title in Chinese and below it the author is given: 泰西耶穌會士羅儒望譯著 (translated and composed by João da Rocha, S.J. of the Great West). On the upper middle of each folio the title Shengjiao qimeng 聖教啟蒙 is given; below is the number of the folio and the Arabic number of the page (added later). Each half folio contains nine columns with nineteen characters in each column. There are romanizations and annotations in Portuguese throughout the pages.
João da Rocha (zi Huaizhong 懷中) was Portuguese. He arrived in China in 1598 (Wanli 26). He was a missioner in Guangdong, Jiangxi, Nan Zhili, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. The first Chinese converts Qu Taisu 瞿太素 and Xu Guanqi 徐光啟 (1562–1633) were baptized by him. Cf. Pfister, pp. 67–69; Répertoire, no. 694; Hsü 1949, p. 355; JWC 1:176–178.
The translation is based on the famous Cartilha of the Portuguese Jesuit Marco Jorge (1524–1571), which booklet was written in 1561 for the instruction of the young rural people and published in 1566. It was widely used throughout Portugal and the Portuguese colonies and won the title of "the golden book."
The translation was adapted for use of the Chinese especially for beginners; hence the name qimeng 啟蒙 (instruction of the young). The booklet is in the form of a dialogue, in colloquial style and clearly explained. The Chinese text was probably revised by Yang Tingyun 楊廷筠.
During the early years of the Catholic Church in China there was hardly any catechism for the instruction of the catechumens and to compose one was by no means an easy task. Above all, it was necessary to tackle the problem of the terminology used in a catechism. Da Rocha used transliteration for many of the new terms. Seemingly he was aware that a free translation might lead to misunderstanding on part of the catechumens. The transliteration was based on Portuguese, e.g., cristão 基利斯當, padre 罷德肋 (now 神父), filho 費略 (now 聖子), Spiritu Santo 斯彼利多三多 (now 聖神). On folio 64 the word alma is translated as 亞尼瑪 (the Latin anima) with a note calling it "linghun 靈魂" (as nowadays), the only time this term was used throughout the book. The word graça is translated as 額辣濟亞 (sometimes also translated "shengchong 聖寵," a term we use today). In the section on the four precepts of the church (folio 33v et seq.) we read:
The Pope orders us to put [these precepts] into practice gradually, that they may lead us to holiness and to the practice of virtue. As the Gospel is not widely spread and as the neophytes are still not solid in their faith, it is not necessary to oblige them [to observe these precepts] with severity. And so, if they find them difficult to keep, they are not held to have committed sins. If they are able to keep them, they will obtain great merit, but if they cannot keep them, they are not to be blamed. However, they are probably to know that such are the precepts. (folio 47)
This explanation is not found in the Cartilha of Marco Jorge, but da Rocha incorporated it within his translation after considering the situation in China. This book is now very rare. It was not reprinted, perhaps because the terms are too difficult to pronounce and not easy to memorize. Yet since this is the first catechism in Chinese in the form of a dialogue, it is valuable for those who want to study the history of Catechisms.
Since the title page is missing, we know neither the date nor the place of this edition (1619, according to Margiotti). Courant (no. 6861, I et II) mentions this book together with the Song nianzhu guicheng (Jap-Sin I, 43b), which has many similarities with it; he says that it was published "avec l’autorisation du P. Diaz." Da Rocha died in 1623 (Tianqi 3), the year in which Manuel Dias Jr. became Vice-Provincial of the China mission. According to this information the book was published after the death of da Rocha. D’Elia, however, after having compared editions preserved in the Vatican Library (Borgia Cinese, 336, 5) and in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris (Courant 6861), thought that the copy in the Jesuit Archive was earlier than the two editions just mentioned.
Cf. Ribadeneira et Philippus Alegambe, Bibliotheca Scriptorum Societatis Jesu (Roma, 1676) p. 498; Bartoli, p. 780; Sommervogel 6:1931; Colombel 1:264; Margiotti, pp. 277–278; Couplet, p. 8; D’Elia, Le origini dell’arte cristiana cinese (1583–1640) (Roma, 1939), pp. 67–77; BR, p. XXVIII; TV 1:207; FR 1:384; DMB 2:1145.