Discussing Renaissance Pedagogy with late Ming Literati: the Role of Alfonso Vagnone's Treatises on Moral Philosophy

Speaker: Dr Giulia Faluto, University of Oxford

This seminar will discuss the contribution of Alfonso Vagnone S.J.’s (1568-1640), ethical treatises, particularly Tongyou Jiaoyu 童幼教育 (On the Education of Children, c. 1632) and Qijia Xixue齊家西學 (On Governing the Family in the West, c. 1635), to the introduction of Renaissance pedagogy into late-Ming China. These were only two of over twenty publications he produced on theology and moral philosophy that circulated within the Jiangzhou (Shanxi) community compact at the fall of the Ming dynasty. Such texts are considered the earliest proof of a Sino-Western exchange in the field of education and are part of a broader series of publications that integrated elements of the European classical philosophy with Confucian tradition. By examining how the key precepts of Renaissance pedagogy are selected, presented and adapted for the late-Ming readers, Dr Falato will highlight the shared ethical perspectives that, in Vagnone’s view, were not culturally contingent but universally valid, and how these served the Jesuit’s evangelisation strategy. This study will also look at the rhetorical strategies, in particular, the use of moral anecdotes and significant translation choices that were deployed by the Italian missionary to confer authority to his teachings in order to present Christianity as a 'supplement to Confucianism' and Europe as a worthy interlocutor in the cross-cultural dialogue with China. 

Giulia Falato is a Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Oxford. In April 2017, she completed her doctoral degree in Asian and African civilisations (East Asia Curriculum) at Sapienza University of Rome. Her research speciality resides in the history of Sino-western cultural relations during Ming-Qing China, with a particular focus on exchanges in the fields of pedagogy, moral philosophy and lexical innovations.