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July 17 China, Matteo Ricci and the Oldest Newspaper


Ying Lianzhi, a Catholic Manchu aristocrat, founded a newspaper, today, in 1902 in order to, "help China become a modern and democratic nation". Now, state-owned, it is the oldest active Chinese language newspaper in China. Ying would also become a co-founder of Fu Jen University at the behest of Pope Benedict XV.






The newspaper was called, Ta Kung Pao and became state-owned after Chairman Mao came to power and is controlled by the Liaison Office of the Central Government It has a current circulation of 400,000 print copies (in print), of which 160,000 copies are distributed in Hong Kong, 210,000 in Mainland China, and approximately 30,000 for the rest of the world. The paper was the earliest Chinese-language newspaper to establish a website "TaKungPao.com" in 1995. Its online version gets a daily hit rate of 150,000 and five years ago it merged with Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po. In its early years, as China was coming to terms with the interference of varying colonial powers, the collapse of a dynasty and the feudal order that this brought with it, the paper put forward the slogan Four-No-ism pledging to be an independent voice and say "No" to all political parties, governments, commercial companies, and persons. At the time it was seen to stand up to repression and openly criticising the Empress Dowager and reactionary leaders, promoting democratic reforms and pioneering the use of written vernacular Chinese. After and initial surge it slowly went of business until it was re-established in Tianjin, a major port city in north-eastern China. With "no party affiliation, no political endorsement, no self-promotion, no ignorance" as its motto, the newspaper's popularity quickly rose again because of its sharp political commentary, especially of the Japanese as the Second Sino-Japanese War began. In 1948, the Hong Kong edition was re-established. A major newspaper during the Republican years, influential as one of few newspapers that survived foreign invasion and civil war. Recently it has attacked judges perceived as siding with pro-democracy protesters, and the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) published a letter, accusing Ta Kung Pao of publishing false material.


The founder Ying Lianzhi was from a prominent Manchu family and was a Bannerman. The Qing dynasty of China dominated by Manchu households had Eight Banners that functioned as armies. Created in the early 17th century by Nurhaci, the banner armies played an instrumental role in his unification of the fragmented Manchu people and became key to the Qing dynasty's conquest of the Ming dynasty. The banner armies were considered the elite forces of the Qing military, unlike the vast Green Standard Army. Membership in the banners became hereditary, and bannermen were granted land and income. The original Eight Manchu banners were augmented by Eight Mongol Banners and Eight Han Banners. Ying Lianzhi was born into this powerful family and after his fiancé was nursed to health by the Sisters of Charity at a Catholic hospital in Beijing, Ying became interested in the writings of the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci and converted to Christianity.


Matteo Ricci was one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions and had phenomenal success becoming the first European to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing. He had been invited by the Wanli Emperor, who sought his services in matters such as court astronomy and calendrical science. He acted as a bridge between the West and the East, translating Euclid's Elements into Chinese as well as the Confucian classics into Latin. He was even responsible for the very name "Confucius" which was is a Latinization of the Mandarin Chinese title Kǒng Fūzǐ meaning "Master Kong. One of Ricci’s greatest works was The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, which argues that Confucianism and Christianity are not opposed and in fact are remarkably similar in key respects. Written in the form of a dialogue, originally in Chinese it became influential in converting the Chinese literati, men who were educated in Confucianism and the Chinese classics. It was picked up as well by later Protestant missionaries to China, and would prove to be a decisive influence in the conversion of the cultured Ying Lianzhi. Ricci’s writings convinced Ying that Confucianism and Christianity, Chinese culture and Western culture, were essentially complementary with each other.

When his fiancé, Shuzhong who was a prominent member of the Qing dynasty royal family, recovered at the hands of the Sisters of Charity they married. After he was received into the church he became a prominent Catholic layman who agitated for church reform. He edited the paper, that he had founded today, for the next decade, and his extensive writings were influential both for their support of liberal politics and their use of the vernacular language. he turned his attention to Catholic education, founding the Fu-jen School for girls. Ying had become increasingly frustrated and resentful over the control of the Chinese Catholic Church exercised by the French government and French priests, who constituted 70% of the clergy in China. They called for the Church in China to be controlled by Chinese priests appointed by the Vatican rather than French ones, who blocked the reform efforts of the Pope. An essay was sent to Rome explaining that the chauvinism and disdain for Chinese among the French clergy in China was extremely demoralizing for Chinese priests. This lead Pope Benedict XV to direct the founding of a Catholic university, Fujen University, in Beijing. Ying took responsibility for much of the organization and start-up of the university, which opened in 1925. He died of cancer on 2 March 1926 in Beijing