de Ursis, Sabatino
Born Lecce, (Apulia, Italy), 1575
Died Macao, (China), 3 May 1620
De Ursis was a Jesuit missionary in China at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He wrote on the Chinese calendar and on European astronomical instruments, in Chinese.
Descended from a noble family of Naples, de Ursis entered the order of Jesuits in 1597 and began his studies in the Jesuit College of Naples. He probably studied also 1 year, 1600–1601, in the Collegio Romano in Rome, where he requested permission to go to the Mission in Japan. In 1602 he departed from Lisbon and, via Goa, arrived in Macao in 1603. Here de Ursis stayed 3 years, completing his studies in philosophy, mathematics, and theology. At the request of Matteo Ricci , he was sent to China for his knowledge of mathematics and hydraulics. De Ursis studied Chinese with Ricci and went with him to Beijing in 1607. Here he collaborated with Ricci and, at Ricci’s death, became superior of the mission. After the erroneous prediction of a solar eclipse on 15 December 1610 by the Chinese astronomers, de Ursis was proposed to become involved in the revision of the Chinese calendar together with Diego de Pantoia, S.J. However, in 1617 he was expelled from Beijing due to the prosecution against the Christians and reestablished first in Canton and later in Macao, where he died.
During his period in Beijing, de Ursis wrote two treatises in Chinese: Jianping yishuo(treatise on a planisphere, 1611) and Biao du shuo(on gnomonics, 1614). The latter was included together with a work on hydraulics in two collections of ancient texts: Tianxue Chuhan(First Collectanea of Heavenly Studies, 1626) and Sikou quanshu(Imperial catalogue of selected works, 1783). A report prepared by him on the Chinese calendar was printed in Europe (in Italian) as “Trattato sul calendario cinese e suoi errori” in Nicolas Trigault’s Due lettere annue della Cina del 1610 e del 1611 scritte al M.R.P. Claudio Acquaviva generale della Compagnia di Gesu. Dal padre Nicolò Trigaut della medesima Compagnia di Giesuand (in Latin) in Trigault’s Litterae Societatis Jesu e regno Sinarum ad R. P. Claudium Aquavivam qjusdem Societatis Praepositum Generalem annorum 1610 et 1611. Augsburg: 1615, 162–177. (See D’Elia 1947.)
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