A native of Dan Yang, Jiangsu Province, Ma left his home in 1852 for Shanghai and enrolled at Xu Hui High School. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1862 and was ordained a priest in 1870. He devoted himself to the mission work in places like Ningkuo and Xuzhou, and others. From 1872 to 1874, he was in charge of Xu Hui High School. In Dec 1876, Ma voluntarily left the SocietyOfJesus, and, for the next 20 years, he was active in politics, holding several responsible positions. In 1901, he withdrew and lived quietly in Xu Jia Hui. In 1903, he founded Zhendan University, and in 1905, with other prominent people, founded Fudan University, serving as its first president.
In 1911, Ma resumed his involvement in politics but again withdrew to Xu Jia Hui from 1920 to 1936. When Japan occupied the northeastern part of China, Ma published several articles urging the people to rise up against the Japanese. His great influence upon the public established him as an “old patriot.” He went to Nanjing in the winter of 1936 and was appointed a member of the Chinese government of the following year. He moved to Guilin when the Japanese launched a massive invasion of China, and in 1938, when Guilin became dangerous, he attempted to move on to Kunming. Physically weakened, he died in Vietnam in 1939 while en route to Kunming. He wanted news about the war in China even on his deathbed. The People’s Liberation Army took back his body from Vietnam and buried it in Shanghai. His tomb was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution; but in 1984, on the forty-fifth anniversary of his death, the city council of Shanghai rebuilt his grave and moved it to the Garden of Song Qing Ling. Several of his religious articles are available in Fan Hao’s collection of his writings.
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.