Toonneel van China (China Illustrated). Athanasius Kircher. Engraving (print). 1668.
Toonneel van China depicts colleagues Xu Guangqi (徐光启) and Matteo Ricci during the Ming Dynasty. A learned scholar-bureaucrat, Xu collaborated with Italian Jesuit Ricci to translate well-known western texts into Chinese, including part of Euclid’s Elements, and various Chinese Confucian texts into Latin.
In addition to working as a scholar-bureaucrat, Xu Guangqi, who later adopted the baptismal name Paul Siu, was a scientist, mathematician, and astronomer. Even while serving in office, he was an outspoken critic of what he considered to be dwindling Chinese education, visible through declining interest in practical science and mathematics. Following some Legalist principles, Xu put forward the concept of "Rich country and strong army" (富國強兵) due to his concern about China’s defense capabilities. During his retirement in his hometown of Shanghai, Xu experimented with different western irrigation methods and crops. His love for agriculture culminated in his publication of the Nong Zheng Quan Shu (农政全书), among the first comprehensive agricultural treatises known.