Giulio Alenio

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Giulio Alenio (often spelled Giulio Aleni; Chinese: 艾儒略; 1582 - June 10, 1649) was an Italian Jesuit missionary and scholar.

He was born at Brescia, in Italy, and died at Yanping, China. He became a member of the Society of Jesus in 1600, and was distinguished for his knowledge of mathematics and theology.

He entered the Society of Jesus and was sent to the East. He landed at Macau in 1610, and while waiting a favourable opportunity to penetrate into China busied himself for three years in teaching mathematics.

His thirty years' residence in China was marked by unceasing zeal and considerable success. He adopted the dress and manners of the country, was the first Christian missionary in Kiangsi, and built several churches in Fujian. He wrote in Chinese a life of Jesus (Pekin, 1635–1637, 8 vols.; often reprinted, e.g. in 1887 in 3 vols., and used even by Protestant missionaries) and a cosmography (Iche fang wai ki Hang-chow, 1623, 6 vols.), which was translated into Manchu under the title The True Origin of 10,000 Things, a copy of which was sent from Beijing to Paris in 1789. Alenio died at Fuzhou in 1649.

He was called "Confucius from the West". He was known to the Chinese people as 艾儒略.

He was sent as a missionary to China in 1610 and while waiting at Macau for a favorable opportunity to enter the country he published his "Résultat de l'observation sue l'éclipse de lune du 8 Novembre, 1612, faite a Macao" (Mémoires de l'Acad. des Sciences, VII, 706.) After his arrival in China, he preached in the provinces of Xan-si and Fi-Kien.

He published many works in Chinese on a variety of topics. Among the most important are a controversial treatise on the Catholic Faith, in which are refuted what he saw as the principal errors of the Chinese; The True Origin of All Things; and The Life of God, the Saviour, from the Four Gospels. There is a complete list of Alenio's works in Carlos Sommervogel.

Return of public interest in Alenio

The life and works of Giulio Alenio are the subject of several conventions which have taken place in 1994 and 2010. Two of his books, Life of Matteo Ricci, Xitai of the West and Holy images of the Heavenly Lord have been presented to the public by Fondazione Civiltà Bresciana in two separate occasions, on 13 and 25 October 2010.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Sommervogel, Carlos, Bibliothèque de la Campagnie de Jesus, I, 157 sq.
  • Pfister, S.J., Bibliogr. des Jesuites Chinois miss.
  • Cordier, Essai d'une bibliogr. des ouvr. publ. en Chine par les Europeéns (Paris 1883).
  • ALENI, Giulio, Geografia dei paesi stranieri alla Cina. Zhifang waiji, with translation (Italian), Introduction and commentary by Paolo De Troia, Brescia, Fondazione Civiltà Bresciana/Centro Giulio Aleni, 2009, with a full Map of ten thousand countries (Wangguo quantu)
  • This article incorporates text from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article "Giulio Alenio" by Joseph M. Woods, a publication now in the public domain.

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