Treatise on Hawks


Jin cheng ying lun (Treatise on hawks) is by Li Leisi (Ludovico Buglio, 1606–82), an Italian Jesuit missionary to China, mathematician, and theologian, who first preached in Sichuan (where he was the first Christian missionary), and in Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. He was taken prisoner by Zhang Xianzhong, leader of a band of freebooters, and brought to Beijing in 1648 by Haoge, a member of the imperial family, after Zhang Xianzhong’s death. Set free and allowed to resume his ministry, Buglio built a church called Dongtang (Eastern Church). He collaborated with the Flemish Jesuit Nan Huairen (Ferdinand Verbiest, 1623–88) in reforming the Chinese calendar. Buglio translated into Chinese more than 80 volumes, chiefly works on theology, language, astronomy, and mathematics. Among his translations are two booklets that were the first writings to introduce Western biology to China: Shi zi shuo (On lions) and this work on hawks. When a Portuguese diplomat seeking improved trade relations with China presented Emperor Kangxi (1654–1722) with the gift of a lion, an animal not native to China, Buglio produced his booklet on lions, which was published in Beijing. The emperor was greatly pleased with the work. The Manchus liked to breed hawks for hunting, and the emperor was interested to know how hawks were bred in the West. By imperial order, Buglio compiled this booklet on hawks, describing in detail various kinds of hawks, both domestic and foreign, their shapes, dispositions, feeding, and methods of breeding and training. The end of the book contained a special section on sparrow hawks. The entire work is in 55 sections. It was included in volume 12 of Gu jin tu shu ji cheng (Compendium of ancient and present books) under its original title, in the section on hawks, in the category of natural sciences. This edition, from the Qianlong era (1736–1820), is incomplete, with only 33 leaves, consisting of leaves 1–29 on hawks and the first section on sparrow hawks, which deals with how to train sparrow hawks to catch birds. Buglio died in Beijing on October 7, 1682, and was given a state funeral. His booklets on lions and hawks were not his own writings; both were translations of works by the 16th-century Italian naturalist, Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605).

Last updated: November 9, 2011