Li was born into the West Li family of Tangmu Qiao, Pudong, where Catholicism continued to be propagated by faithful adherents and new Jesuit missionaries who returned to Jiangnan (south of the Yangtze River) after Emperor Yongzheng’s ban on Catholicism was lifted. Li was baptized as an infant and was taught the rudiments of Catholicism from childhood.
In 1852, Li was admitted to Sheng Yi Na Jue (St. Ignatius) public school in Xujiahui, Shanghai. In 1862, he joined the Xujiahui Society of Jesus and was among the first to enter the newly established junior college of the Shanghai Society of Jesus. Li was consecrated a priest in 1869 and set out to preach the Gospel in 1871, beginning with Songjiang, Nanhui, Qingpu, and then Anhui. Between 1875 and 1878, he taught at the monastery in Dongjiadu, Shanghai.
In 1879, when Yi Wen Lu, the first newspaper of the Shanghai Catholic Church, was launched, Li returned to Xujiahui to serve as editor in chief. He was also editor in chief of Sheng Xin Bao (Sacred Heart Newspaper), founded in 1887. The two newspapers carried many articles on Catholicism and Li’s personal comments on current events. Among the books Li wrote, edited, or translated are Li Ku (A Well of Truths), a defense of Catholicism; Mo Jing Ji (A Treasure of Writing), which comprises a collection of the writings of Wu Yushan, the first Chinese Jesuit priest in Jiangnan; and Xin Jing Yi Yi (An Interpretation on the New Testament). Li, who headed the literary work in the Chinese Catholic Church for 32 years, was highly esteemed by Chinese Catholic intellectuals.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.