Refuting Heresy


Pi xie lun (Refuting heresy) is by Yang Guangxian (1597–1669) from Shexian, Anhui Province, a fierce opponent of the early Christian missionaries to China. Beginning about 1659, Yang assumed the self-appointed role of campaigner against the missionaries. In 1644, German Jesuit Johann Adam Schall von Bell (circa 1592–1666) was asked to prepare for the new Qing dynasty a calendar based on Western mathematical calculations. Schall later was named director of the imperial Board of Astronomy. Yang submitted a document to the Board of Ceremonies, charging Schall with errors in astronomical calculations and accusing him and other missionaries of plotting against the state and of indoctrinating the people with false ideas. Schall, seven Chinese astronomers, and some other Chinese were imprisoned in 1665 and sentenced to death. The three other missionaries involved were Ferdinand Verbiest, Lodovico Buglio, and Gabriel de Magalhães, who were slated to be flogged and exiled. Schall and most of the Chinese were later freed, but five astronomers, all of them Christian converts, were executed. In the same year, Yang was appointed head of the Bureau of Astronomy, but he was removed in 1668 and replaced by the Jesuit Verbiest, who proved the miscalculations made by Yang. The case of Schall, who had since died, was reviewed and Yang was sentenced to banishment. Later released from exile due to his old age, he died on his way home. This manuscript copy, in one volume, is representative of Yang’s work against calendars based on Western mathematical calculations. It consists of three juan, each of which has a subtitle. At the end of the text are five appendices of Yang’s other works published between 1662 and 1678, including Hun tian shi er gong tu shuo (Illustrated twelve divisions of the celestial sphere). This is a very rare copy.

Last updated: January 3, 2018