1566  — 1640

Alfonso Vagnoni


First Italian Jesuit missionary in Shanxi, China.

Vagnoni arrived in Macau in 1605 and moved on to Nanjing. In 1616 he was the first missionary to be imprisoned when the Chinese magistrate, Shen Que of Nanjing, filed charges against missionaries. In 1617 Vagnoni and Alvare de Semedo were deported to Macau. Semedo reentered China by changing his Chinese name. Vagnoni followed suit, changing his Chinese name from Wang Feng Xiao to Gao Yi Zhi. 

In 1625 Vagnoni was invited to Jiangzhou by Han Lin, a well-known scholar in Shanxi who was greatly influenced by Xu Guangqi. With the help of Han and another man of high standing who was converted in Beijing, Vagnoni was able to baptized 200 people in the first year, including 60 from the educated class. He baptized 500 in the second year. By 1630 Vagnoni had baptized 2,000 people. 

Vagnoni remained for a long time in Jiangzhou and preached in other places as well. When he died, the church numbered 8,000. 

Vagnoni wrote several Chinese books on the teaching of the Catholic Church and education, including A Brief Explanation of Church Doctrine, The Life of Holy Mother, and The life of Saints in the Catholic Church, which were all published in Jiangzhou.


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.


  • Latourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of Christian Missions in China (1929).
  • Vath, Alfons, Johann Adam Schall von Bell, S.J. (1592-1666), (1991).

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