1581  — 1632

Sun Yuan Hua


Well-known Chinese Christian during the late Ming period converted through the influence of Xu Guangqi.

Sun went to the city of Shun Tian to sit for the government examinations in 1606. Failing, he remained in the city and lived in the house of Xu, who was at that time translating The principle of Calculus with Matteo Ricci. Sun studied European mathematics with Xu and learned directly from the missionaries Ricci, Didace de Pantoja, and Sabbatino de Ursis.

Influence by them, he was baptized Ignatius in 1621 in Beijing. He went to the home of Yang Ting Jun in Hangzhou and invited the missionaries Lazarus Cattaneo and Semedo to start mission work in his hometown, Jiading, Zhejiang (Shanghai). He built a church and more than 10 houses for the missionaries. In 1628, Jesuit missionaries in China held a meeting in Jiading to discuss the use of the Latin word for God, Deus. The four Chinese Catholics who attended were Sun, Xu, Li Zhi Zao, and Yang Ting Jun. Sun wrote an introductory preface for Alphonsus Vagnoni’s book on church doctrine.

Sun was knowledgeable about the deployment of Western cannons and was the governor of Denglai in 1630. During a period of internal turmoil and border unrest, Sun was taken hostage when Dengzhou was captured by the enemy, and, when the government troops recaptured the place, Sun was imprisoned in Beijing and condemned to death. Johann Adam Schall von Bell (Tang Ruowang), a Jesuit missionary working in the calendrical bureau, disguised himself as a charcoal merchant and administered him the sacraments of penance.


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.


  • Ross, Andrew C., A Vision Betrayed (1994).

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