Yang was one of the officials in Beijing who had contact with Matteo Ricci after the latter’s arrival in 1601, but he did not convert to Catholicism until after Ricci’s death. In 1611 Yang returned to Hangzhou to offer condolences to his good friend, Li Zhizao, whose father had died. There he met two missionaries, Lazarus Cattaneo and Nicolas Trigault, guests of Li. Yang invited them to stay at his house, desiring to learn about Catholic doctrine and baptism. Yang, however, had concubines and therefore could not be received into the Roman Catholic Church. Though at first resistant, Yang, admonished by Li, eventually gave up his concubines and was baptized “Michel” by Cattaneo.
Yang persuaded his parents, wife, and children to become converts and established the first Catholic Church in Hangzhou. In 1616 and 1622, when missionaries met with opposition and their lives were endangered, Yang sheltered them in his home.
Yang authored Dai Yi Bian (An Answer to Doubtful Questions), and exposition of Catholic doctrines and a defense of Catholicism. Yang was one of the “three pillars” of the early Chinese Catholic Church, the other two being Xu Guangqi and Li Zhizao.
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.