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Ricci. He was in high favour with the last of the Ming Emperors, who commissioned him to correct the imperial calendar. When the revolution destroyed this dynasty he was continued in office under the first ruler of the Manchu dynasty, with whom he became a great favourite. He was appointed president of the Board of Mathematics or Astronomy and, in spite of his will, was created a mandarin of high rank. His elevated position made the provincial authorities friendly to the scattered Missionaries, and the number of conversions increased rapidly. In 1617 the Christians were only 13,000; in 1650 they were 150,000, and in 1664, the period at which we have arrived, they numbered 255,000. Father Schall was even sanguine that the young Emperor would embrace Christianity, but his hopes were dashed by the death of the latter at the early age of twenty-four, in 1662. He left as his successor his son Khang-hi, a boy of only eight or ten years old.
We now come to a turning point in the life of the venerable Missionary. The four regents, who were charged with the government of the Empire during the minority of Khanghi, began to rule with a high hand. It became gradually known that they were hostile to Christianity and did not like the Missionaries, and it was everywhere felt that the storm would break at any moment. Two years before this time Father Verbiest had arrived in Peking. He had worked for some years in the provinces, but on his reputation for mathematics reaching the capital he was officially ordered to come to the court. His journey was one triumphal march, and he was appointed to assist Father Schall in rectifying the calendar.
The persecution was suddenly precipitated in 1664, by the action of a Mohammedan mandarin and astronomer named Yang-kwang-sien. Perceiving the evil disposition of the regents, he presented them with a memorial filled with blasphemies against Christianity and calumnies against the Missionaries, especially against Father Schall. He was emboldened to do this because he knew that the old Missionary was physically unable to defend himself. He had a sudden stroke of paralysis, brought on probably through anxiety for the Missions, which rendered him speechless and deprived him of the use of his hands, and his enemy thought it would be easy to obtain the condemnation of a man who could neither speak nor write in his own defence. On receiving this horrible description of Christianity the regents
affected to be filled with consternation, and they hastened to proscribe it, and to forbid the Chinese to embrace it, under the most severe penalties. Catholics were menaced and ordered to abandon their religion without delay. The viceroys of the eighteen provinces were commanded to capture the preachers of the Gospel and send them to Peking to be judged. The Mission-stations were ruined and all the Missionaries, amounting to about twenty Jesuits, two or three Dominicans and a Franciscan, were ignominiously carried as prisoners to Peking, and tried at various tribunals. After several months of annoyance they were condemned to be beaten with bamboos and to be sent as exiles into the depths of Tartary. Father Verbiest and Father Schall were bound with nine chains each and dragged by ten furious satellites before various tribunals. The former wrote from
his narrow cell to his Provincial as follows:
How much more agreeable to me is the rattle of the nine chains in which I have been dragged thirty times before the tribunals than the ovations with which I was honoured in my journey through more than thirty towns when I was called to the court. I write this because I know the courage of our members is inflamed at the sight of prisons and tortures, and that those provinces where such torments are to be expected are those that are most sought for by the sons of St. Ignatius. Would that it were given to me to appear with an entire palm, reddened by martyrdom, instead of having to show but a few leaves, a few flowers, that soon fade! Would that it were permitted to me to appear with a cross of Japan, or a sword plunged in my heart! May God preserve me, while thus expressing myself, from becoming a fruitless tree.
Father Schall was finally tried, with great parade and pomp, before the two supreme courts of justice, the Tribunal of Rites and the Criminal Tribunal-the former to determine the guilt and the latter to impose sentence. It was a touching spectacle to see this old priest, of seventy-five years of age, bound with nine chains, unable to answer a word to the terrible charges of his accusers and the violent interrogatories of the. presiding mandarins, who were filled with hatred and prejudice against him. But God had not left him without a defender. Father Verbiest arose, and above the rattle of his chains and the murmurs of his adversaries, made his voice ring out in a noble defence of the Christian religion, and of his old friend; and made a generous attempt to deflect the storm upon himself. He did all this in such a magnificent address that even his enemies' could scarce forbear to cheer.' But the hatred against Father Schall was too great and he was condemned to be strangled. This
sentence appeared to be too light to satisfy the bitterness of his enemies; so the two tribunals held a joint sitting and sentenced him to be cut into a thousand pieces. This is the most cruel and the most degrading punishment in China. The body of the condemned is cut into small pieces, beginning with the fingers and toes, and after each amputation the blood is staunched by means of quicklime and a red-hot iron.
The sentence was passed on the 15th of April, 1665, and on the next day was presented to the four regents for their confirmation. That day Peking was shaken by frequent and violent shocks of earthquake, which filled the people with the utmost consternation. According to the custom usual on such occasions a general amnesty was granted to all except to Father Schall. The prisons were thrown open and the Missionaries were relegated to Canton. Father Verbiest and three other Jesuits were kept prisoners in their house at Peking, in case their services should be needed by the Government.
Father Schall, as has been said, was the sole exception to the general amnesty. As the shocks were renewed and part of the palace took fire the general consternation continued, and they did not dare to execute the general sentence upon him. The chief regent, Sony, assembled his colleagues and said that the honours heaped on Tang-jo-wang (Chinese name of Father Schall) by the late Emperor, should be a motive for not acting precipitately. He said he feared that the young Emperor would some day bring them to an account for their treatment of a man whom his father had loved and protected. His advice was, then, to shelter themselves by obtaining a decision from the Empress-Mother (the Mother of the late Emperor), so that her signature would exculpate them in case of blame. Sony hoped in this way to save Father Schall. The others accepted his counsel, and the four went solemnly to the Empress-Mother and presented the sentence of the two supreme tribunals which condemned Tang-jo-wang to be cut into a thousand pieces. She was filled with indignation on reading this sentence. She threw it on the ground, stamped on it with her feet, and asked the regents if they had forgotten the esteem and consideration which her son had for a man whom they ought to respect instead of treating as a criminal. She imperiously ordered them to set him at once at liberty. The venerable Missionary did not long survive his sufferings for the Faith. He died on the 15th of the following August.
The next year, the year 1666, which was marked by the death of Sony, the eldest of the regents, was a memorable epoch in the annals of China. The young Emperor, Khanghi, was still a boy, but a boy of extraordinary precocity. From the death of his father he energetically practised military exercises to please the Manchus, and he applied himself most assiduously to science and letters, in study of which consist the greatest merit of the Chinese. He was extremely energetic, courageous, intelligent, and persevering; so that the greatest hopes were entertained of him. Many interesting and characteristic anecdotes are given in the annals of China of this extraordinary youth, whose history was in many respects like that of the Grand Monarch, Louis XIV, whose contemporary he was. He was fourteen years of age when the death of Sony was announced to him. He at once convoked a council of the regents, the presidents of the great tribunals, and the highest dignitaries of the Empire. He presented himself with a noble assurance in the midst of this imposing assembly and after a few moments of profound silence, he declared that the council of regency no longer existed, and that from that moment he would take up the reins of government himself. Chinese historians declare that though he was so young he governed with a wisdom and application which elicited the admiration of his subjects. He gained the love of his people and his proficiency in military tactics and learning placed him above the most qualified in either.
It was early in his reign that that man of sin, that son of perdition, who had caused such terrible sufferings to the Missionaries and their helpless flocks, was the unwilling instrument used by God for the freedom and glory of His religion. Yang-kwang-sien, that intriguing and ambitious Mohammedan mandarin, who attacked them with such virulence, and posed as a patriotic defender of the national honour and the doctrines of antiquity, had his own personal ends in view all the time. When he had ruined and discredited Father Schall he succeeded in getting himself appointed by the regents in his place as president of the Board of Mathematics, by posing as an accomplished astronomer. In this office it was his duty to draw up the imperial calendar, a matter that was always considered in China of the deepest public concern.
Under the Emperors the publication of the calendar was always an affair of the utmost importance. Nothing was
ever published with greater solemnity. The Emperor himself distributed the first copies at court. The princes of the blood, the ministers of state and the presidents of the superior tribunals received it on bended knees. It was sent every year in imperial yellow wrappers to tributary kings and to the Mongol princes. To refuse to receive it was to declare rebellion in the most audacious manner. During periods of revolution, when there were several competitors for the throne, each issued his calendar, and the people in accepting it from one or the other thereby declared on whose side they were. It was a kind of universal suffrage for the head of the State. From this will be understood the importance attached by the sovereigns of China to the publication of the calendar.
Since Yang-kwang-sien had been placed at the head of the Board of Mathematics, or Astronomy, the nation gradually lost confidence in the calendars he fabricated. The highest dignitaries, especially, openly manifested their misgivings and said they doubted whether Yang-kwang-sien knew how to contemplate the heavenly bodies and measure their movements with precision. By the time Khang-hi had reached his twenty-first year he had heard of the doubts expressed, not only by these great personages but also by the common people, and he wished to know what was best to be done. He consulted his principal ministers, and these said they were incompetent to advise on the subject. One of them more courageous than the rest told him that the European mathematicians had a great renown for astronomy all over the Empire; that they had been exiled during his minority, but that a few were still left at Peking and that the most prudent thing would be to consult them on the matter.
Khang-hi found this advice full of wisdom, and sent the four Kalaos, or chief ministers of state, to the Jesuits, to inquire if, perchance, some error had glided into the calendar for the current, and into that for the following year. Father Verbiest replied that the calendars of Yang-kwang-sien bristled with errors. He said, in particular, that the ignorant astronomer had given the following year thirteen lunar months instead of twelve. The Chinese year begins with the new moon and ordinarily consists of twelve lunar months. On account of the number of days and hours that the solar year exceeds twelve lunar months an extra lunar month has to be intercalated once every three, and sometimes once every two, years, in order to get both years to start