1632  — 1718

Wu Yushan

Wu Li

First Chinese priest of the Society of Jesus in Jiangnan, China, and well-known landscape artist in the Qing dynasty.

Wu often went to the Xing Fu Buddhist convent in Suzhou during his middle-age years and was a close friend of monk Mo Yong, but from 1675 on he was inclined toward Catholicism through his contact with Jesuit missionaries Lu Rima (Franciscus de Rougemont), Bai Yingli (Phillippe Couplet), and others. He was converted and christened Ximan Sawulue (Simon Xaverius). In 1681 Couplet was recalled to Europe. Wu intended to go with him, but his plans did not materialize when they reached Macau. Wu remained in Macau for five months and returned to his hometown in the summer of 1682. He returned to Macau in the winter and joined the Society of Jesus.

He was over 50 years old when he began to study Latin and other required courses for the priesthood. He was consecrated a priest on 1 Aug 1688 in Nanjing by Chinese bishop Luo Wenzao. His first pastoral assignment was in Shanghai. In 1691 he was put in charge of the religious affairs of the Jiading Catholic Church.

Wu died at age 86 after serving 30 years as a priest. He composed many poems reflecting his own preaching career and religious feelings, which are collected in an anthology, San Yi Ji. His sermons from 15 Aug 1696 to 25 Dec 1697 and other religious activities were compiled by Zhao Lun, a convert in Jiading, in a book, Kou Duo (Record of Word and Deeds), the first collection of sermons by a Chinese priest.


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.


  • Chaves, Jonathan, Singing of the Source: Nature and God in the Poetry of the Chinese Painter Wu Li (1993). Chen Yuan, “Wu-Yu-shan: In Commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of His Ordination to the Priesthood in the Society of Jesus,” Monumenta Serica, Vol. 3 (1938). Chou Kang-hsieh, ed., Wu Yu-shan (Li) yen-chiu lun-chi (reprint of 11 articles on Wu Li plus three new articles) (1971). Lippe, A., “A Christian Chinese Painter: Wu Li (1632-1718),” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 11 (1952). Tchang, M., and P. de Prunele, Le Pere Siomon a Cunha, S.J. (Ou Li Yu-chan), L’homme et l’oevre artistique (1914).

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