Treatise on Friendship


You lun (Treatise on friendship), also entitled Jiao you lun (Treatise on making friends), is by the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), who also added a Latin title, De Amicitia. Written for the general non-Christian Chinese reader, it elaborates on the concept of virtuous friendship and reflects Ricci’s efforts to bring Renaissance and humanist culture to China. According to Si ku quan shu ti yao (Annotated bibliography of the Imperial Library), the work was recommended by Qu Rukui (born 1549), a member of a noted family of officials and scholars in Changshu, Jiangsu, one of the first followers of Ricci, who was baptized in 1605 in Nanjing. The treatise grew out of Ricci’s discussions on friendship with Zhu Duojie (1573–1601), prince of Jian’an. It was Ricci’s first work in Chinese. The treatise includes translated or paraphrased texts and aphorisms by Western saints and sages, which are presented in a format easily recognizable to Chinese scholars. It contains 100 maxims in 3,500 words, 76 previously collected by Ricci and the rest added later. In his preface, Ricci describes the hospitality of Prince Jian’an who, at the end of a banquet, asked Ricci what Westerners thought of friendship. The maxims are not grouped in any particular way, and can be read separately without reference to each other. Among the authors Ricci quotes are Aristotle, Plutarch, Cicero, and Seneca, as well as such Christian thinkers as saints Ambrose of Milan and Augustine of Hippo. The book was well received by Chinese scholars, who read it out of curiosity and were impressed by Ricci’s ability to write. Some of the maxims were quoted in works of the late-Ming scholars, including the one which reads: “My friend is not another person. My friend is my half, another I. So I have to regard my friend as myself.” Ricci seems to have had a talent for friendship and made a great number of friends during his missionary years in China.

Subject Date

Publication Information

Shangbaizhai, Xiushui, Jiaxing, Zhejiang, China


Title in Original Language


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 juan


  • Only preface, table of contents and 1st page of juan 1 are included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: February 26, 2014