1565  — 1623

João da Rocha

Jesuit missionary in China.

Da Rocha was born in Santiago de Priscos, Braga, Portugal. In 1583 he entered the Society of Jesus in Coimbra, and shortly after his novitiate he left for Goa, India, where he completed three years of philosophical studies. He then went to Macao for his theological training and ordination. In 1598 he was in Shao-chou (Shaoguan) and later in Nanking (Nanjing) with his confrere, Lazzaro Cattaneo.

While in Nanking, da Rocha had extensive discussions about Christianity with Hsu Kuang-ch’i that led to the baptism of Hsu. During the persecution of 1616 da Rocha was in Chien-ch’ang (Jianchang; today part of Nanchang), Kiangsi (Jiangxi) Province, where several Christians kept him in hiding. Afterward, he was able to expand that mission station because of the conversion of several scholars who assisted him in translating a Portuguese catechism into Chinese. He built the first church in Chia-ting (Jiading; today part of metropolitan Shanghai).

When another persecution arose shortly thereafter, he took refuge in Hangchow (Hangzhou). There with Hsu, he wrote a memorial defending the missionaries. By the time it was to be presented to the emperor in Peking (Beijing), the officials responsible for the persecution had been relieved of office. Named vice-provincial of the mission in 1622, da Rocha died the following year in Hangchow and was buried in the Jesuit cemetery outside that city.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Pasquale M. d’Elia, ed., Fonti Ricciane, 3 vols. (1942-1949), 1:383-384; Williard J. Peterson, “Why Did They Become Christians? Yang T’ing-yun, Li Chih-tsao, and Hsu Kuang-ch’i,” in C. Ronan and B. Oh, eds., East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773 (1988), pp. 129-152.

About the Author

John W. Witek

Associate Professor of East Asian History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA