A native of Jingyang, Shanxi, Wang passed the highest government examinations in 1622 when he was more than 50 years old. Closely associated with missionaries, Wang brought Western physics, mechanical engineering, and other fields into China. He was baptized in Beijing and took on the name Philip. In his Biographies of Chinese Catholics, well-known Chinese Catholic historian Fang Hao claimed that Wang was probably baptized around the time he met Dedace de Pantoja in Beijing in the winter of 1621 or 1622. Wang knew Nicolas Trigault and Johann (Joannes) Terrenz. In 1624, because of his mother’s death, he resigned from his position and returned to his village. In 1625 he invited Trigault to his hometown, which marked the beginning of Christianity in Shanxi.
Wang learned Latin from Trigault, helped him complete his book Xi Ru Er Mu Zi (Materials for Western Scholars), intended to help missionaries learn Chinese by using Latin for the Chinese pronunciation, and wrote a long preface for the book. Wang returned to Beijing in the winter of 1626 and, in 1627, together with Terrenz, translated Yuan Xi Qi Qi Tu Shuo Lu Zui (Western Instruments Pictorial Illustrated), a book introducing Western physics and mechanical engineering which had great influence in Chinese academic circles. In 1944, on the 300th anniversary of his death, the Truth Magazine of Chongqing published a commemorative issue with articles honoring Wang as one of five distinguished scholars.
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.