Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Francisco Varo's Glossary of the Mandarin Language. Volume I: An English and Chinese Annotation of the Vocabulario De la Lengua Mandarina. Volume II: Pinyin and English Index of the Vocabulario De la Lengua Mandarina

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Francisco Varo's Glossary of the Mandarin Language. Volume I: An English and Chinese Annotation of the Vocabulario De la Lengua Mandarina. Volume II: Pinyin and English Index of the Vocabulario De la Lengua Mandarina

Article excerpt

Asian Francisco Varo's Glossary of the Mandarin Language. Volume I: An English and Chinese Annotation of the Vocabulario de la Lengua Mandarina Volume II: Pinyin and English Index of the Vocabulario de la Lengua Mandarina By W South Coblin. [Monumenta Serica Monograph Series, LIII/1 and LIII/2.] (Sankt Augustin, Germany: Monumenta Serica Institute. 2006.Pp. 1,033. euro115,00.)

The role of missionaries as compilers of grammars and dictionaries is well known in the history of North and South America during the seventeenth century and later, but much less known are similar efforts in Asia and Africa. Even today languages spoken in some of these areas of the world have not yet been transcribed in written form. Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607) and Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), the Jesuits who opened the first permanent presence of Christianity in China during the modern period, realized the need of a dictionary for effective discussions and preaching. Their Portuguese-Chinese work, probably compiled in 1583-1588, remained in manuscript form until its recent publication.1 Later in his writings Ricci significantly improved this initial step in acquiring Chinese by adding tone marks which are commonly used today.

When the Dominicans first arrived in the province of Fujian in 1632, they faced the need not only to know Mandarin but also the local Fujianese dialect that native Mandarin speakers from Nanjing or Beijing found quite difficult to understand. Francisco Varo, O.R (1627-87), a native of Seville, Spain, entered the Dominican Order in 1643, was sent to the Philippines three years later, and was ordained in Mexico in 1648. He returned to Manila, where he focused on studying Chinese, and then went to Fujian in 1649, the site of his missionary apostolate until his death there.

Although Varo's first known lexicographic work of Mandarin was a Portuguese-Chinese glossary in 1670, he produced the Spanish-Chinese Vocabulario a few years later as a means for his Spanish-speaking confreres to propagate the Gospel. Two extant manuscripts in Berlin and London form the core of this publication with the Berlin text as the base and the London text as an ancillary one. …

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