Brief biography of Emmanuel de Sequeira, the first Chinese student to study abroad


As China opens up and people’s incomes rise, studying in Europe and the United States is nothing new. When it comes to studying in the West, you will surely think of the pioneer Yung Wing. But little is known that before him there was a Chinese who went to the West to study, and became “the outstanding student of China”.

This man is Zheng Ma’nuo or Emmanuel de Sequeira. He was born in Macau, China, in 1633 (some say 1635). Macao was a residence of Portugal (Macau really became a colony during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty), and it was an important stronghold for communication between China and the West.

Growing up in the context of “spreading western culture to the east,” Zheng had a vision that many Chinese did not have back then. A Belgian Jesuit, whose Chinese name was Read From, known as “Annan’s apostle”, became his mentor and friend, from whom Zheng acquired Western scientific and cultural knowledge and broadened his horizons.

Martino Martini, Italian missionary and Sinologist, initiated the Study Abroad movement, hoping that there would be Chinese willing to study in Europe, in order to propel the cause of Catholicism in China and promote cultural exchanges between China and the United States. West. In such a context, Zheng went to Europe on the recommendation of Lu De and became one of the first Chinese to study in the West.

In 1645, Read From set sail for Europe with only 12-year-old Zheng from Macau.

They were held by the Dutch in what is now Indonesia for three months and were almost imprisoned in the Ottoman Empire after being mistaken for Tatars. By the time Zheng arrived in Rome, it was 1650.

Zheng enrolled at Jesuit College in St. Andrew’s, where he spent 22 months completing a study program that would last four years for European students. Westerners were surprised and admired this very successful Chinese student.

In 1653 he joined the Society of Jesus and was transferred to the Roman public school, where he studied rhetoric, logic, physical chemistry, music and Greek. At that time, the education of Britain and the United States had not yet increased, and Italy was an important educational base in Europe. What Zheng was exposed to at that time could be considered the best teaching in the world.

After graduating with honors, Zheng was left to teach in Rome, where he was responsible for Latin, Greek grammar and literature. It was the first time that a Chinese taught Greek literature at a prestigious Western institution.

In 1660 Zheng became a priest. He returned to China in 1666. In 1668 he arrived in Macao and worked at St. Paul’s College. Before long, Emperor Kangxi eradicated the Aobai group and Jesuits like Ferdinand Verbiest were again placed in prominent positions. After the dispute between the Chinese and Western calendars, Emperor Kangxi became interested in Western science and technology. When he heard about Zheng Ma’nuo, a Chinese from Macao who practiced both Chinese and Western education, he felt very happy and hoped to meet him and even give him an important position.

But just as Zheng was about to start a new life, he fell seriously ill and died in Beijing on May 26, 1673. His untimely death was a great loss in the history of cultural exchanges between China and the West. .

(The article was originally published by Gospel Times.)

– Translated by Sophia Chen

郑 玛诺 小 传 —— 这位 中国 最早 的 留学生 , 还 成为 了 欧洲人 的 教授

Brief biography of Emmanuel de Sequeira, the first Chinese student to study abroad

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