|Tianzhu shengjiao sizi jingwen 天主聖教四字經文 / Ai Rulüe艾儒略 (Giulio Aleni).|
In: Yesuhui Luoma dang'anguan Ming-Qing Tianzhujiao wenxian 耶穌會羅馬檔案館明清天主教文獻 / Edited by Nicolas Standaert [鐘鳴旦] [and] Adrian Dudink [杜鼎克]. Reproduction of original text in vol. 2 of this collection. See
for complete listing.
" ... Other catechisms were adapted to Chinese types of writing, like Aleni's Tianzhu shengjiao sizi jingwen 天主聖教四字經文 (1642), which imitated the Sizi jing 四字經 (Four Character Classic) used in children's education." Cf. Standaert, Handbook of Christianity in China, vol. 1, p. 611.
Jap-Sin I, 174.5
Tianzhu shengjiao sizi jingwen 天主聖教四字經文.
By Ai Rulüe 艾儒略 (Giulio Aleni, 1582–1649).
One juan. Bamboo paper in one volume. Printed in 1663 (Kangxi 2) by the Qinyitang 欽一堂 in Jiangxi province.
This volume contains two other texts:
1. Dumen jiantang beiji 都門建堂碑記 (A monument erected on the occasion of the building of the new church in the capital)
By Tang Ruowang 湯若望 (Johann Adam Schall von Bell). Three folios.
2. Tianxue jingyan 天主警言 (Catholic epigrams).
By an anonymous author. One folio.
The cover bears a Latin inscription: "Compendium doctrinae | christianae versu | explicatum | a p. Giulio Aleni | S.J."
On top of folio 1 recto there is an inscription: 萬有本末. The verso gives the title of the book in four large characters: Sizi jingwen 四字經文 on the right is the first part of the title in smaller characters: 天主聖教 on the left the titles of the two added texts are given together with the place of publication. On top of this folio there is an horizontal inscription: Tianli zhiyi 天理止一 (there is only one divine law).
The Sizi jingwen consists of thirty-five folios, followed by a postscript (three folios) by Li Shihuan 李奭浣, dated 1663 (Kangxi 2). There are five columns in each half folio with eight characters in each column. The title Sizi jingwen is given in the middle of each folio; the number of the folio is given below. Folios 3–4 are missing. They are supplied by handwritten copies.
According to the postscript of Li Shihuan, this book treats in a general way the omnipotence of God. This is fully explained and the expressions are clear and concise. The style, too, is polished and readable. For this reason he disagrees with the opinion of Philippe Couplet, who said that the book was written for the young.
There is a book known as the Sanzijing 三字經 (Three Character Classic, see Jap-Sin I, 167). It was used as a primer for schoolboys all through the empire. It is in rhymed doggerel, with three characters to the line as a means of helping the memories of schoolboys. Aleni probably had this book in mind when he produced the Sizi jingwen .
In 1869 Père Vasseur had Aleni’s book published with illustrations taken from great masters under the title Shengjiao shengxiang quantu 聖教聖像全圖, and it ran through to several editions (cf. Pfister, p. 134). Two new editions of Aleni’s book appeared in 1929: one in T’ou sè wè (Shanghai) and one in Nazareth (Hong Kong).
As for the Dumen jiantang beiji, the name Dumen refers to the Xuanwu Gate 宣武門, one of the gates of the Imperial City. It was situated in the south of the Forbidden City where the Calendar Bureau was. The building was formerly the Shoushan Academy 首善書院. Through the effort of Xu Guangqi it was transformed in 1629 (Chongzhen 2) into the Calendar Bureau or Liju 李局. The Jesuits had their residence there. In recognition of Adam Schall’s work on the new calendar (then known as the Shixian li 時憲曆), the Shunzhi emperor granted him a large piece of land beside the Calendar Bureau, where Schall built a magnificent church in Western style in 1650. We are told that donations came from the empress dowager, nobles, officials and the gentry.
The monument with an inscription written by Schall was erected in 1650 (Shunzhi 7). See Jap-Sin IV, 2. Cf. Pfister, p. 170, 182; Yang 1949, pp. 249–255; Huang Pailu 黃伯祿, Zhengjiao fengbao 正教奉褒 (Shanghai, 1903), folio 25.
The Tianxue jingyan consists of eight epigrams, the author of which is unknown to us. They deal with the four favors and with the last four things:
凡人造物之恩不可忘 (One must not forget the graces given to us by the Creator);
降生之恩不可忘 (One must not forget the favor of the Incarnation);
受難之恩不可忘 (One must not forget the favor of the [sacred] Passion);
赦罪之恩不可忘 (One must not forget the favor of one’s sins being remitted);
死後之來免不得 (One must remember that death will come);
審判之嚴免不得 (One must remember the severity of judgement);
地獄之苦受不得 (One must remember the excruciating pains of hell);
天堂之福比不得 (One must remember that there is nothing to compare with the blessings of heaven).
Cf. Pfister, p. 134, no. 17; Hsü 1949, p. 169; Courant 6888 I–IV; Couplet, p. 17.
Source: Albert Chan, S.J., Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, pp. 239-240.