Fan Shouyi

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Fan Shouyi[citation needed] or Luigi Fan (simplified Chinese: 樊守义; traditional Chinese: 樊守義; pinyin: Fán Shǒuyì; Wade–Giles: Fán Shǒu-ì) (June 13, 1682[1] – February 28, 1753[2]) was the first known Chinese person to travel to Europe, return, and write an account of his travels. However, he was preceded by Michael Shen Fu-Tsung, Arcadio Huang, and Rabban Bar Sauma, all of whom died abroad instead of returning to China.


Fan was born in Pingyao, Shanxi Province in 1682.[1] Little is known of his early life and family, but at some point he appears to have met the Piedmontese Jesuit missionary, Antonio Francesco Giuseppe Provana, who converted him to Roman Catholicism and baptised him as 'Luigi'. When the Kangxi Emperor decided to send Provana as part of his second embassy to Pope Clement XI in 1708, Fan went with them;[3] he and the ambassador party left Macau aboard the Bom Jesus in January, 1708 bound for Lisbon.[3] The journey allowed Fan to observe Batavia, Malacca, and even Bahia in Brasil (probably making him the first Chinese person to return to China and write about the Americas, as well as Europe).[4] He arrived in Lisbon in September 1708, and met King João V of Portugal soon afterwards.[5] During his eleven-year stay in Europe, he met the Pope, toured Italy, studied Latin and theology, and was able to make many first-hand observations of aspects of eighteenth century Europe, which very few Asians had had the opportunity to do before him.[6] In 1717, he was ordained as a priest.[6]

In 1718, Pope Clement XI decided to send Provana back to China, so on May 19, 1719, Provana and Fan boarded the Francisco Xavier in Lisbon and set sail once again.[7] Provana died during the voyage, and Fan returned to Macau alone. From Macau, he travelled north to Beijing for an audience with the Kangxi Emperor that was held on October 11, 1720.[7] No account of his meeting with the emperor has survived, but Fan wrote a short report of his experiences in Europe, the Shen Jian Lu (身見錄), which may have been created to complement the information he gave the emperor in person.[7]

For the rest of his life, Fan worked as a priest and missionary in China,[7] and apparently as an interpreter for the emperor; the Italian missionary Matteo Ripa mentions a ‘Louis Fan’ in the book he published on his experiences in China.[8] Fan died in Beijing on February 28, 1753.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rule, “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao”, 250.
  2. ^ a b Rule, “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao”, 257.
  3. ^ a b Brockey, Journey to the East, 191–192.
  4. ^ Rule, “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao”, 252.
  5. ^ Rule, “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao”, 252–253.
  6. ^ a b Rule, “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao”, 253.
  7. ^ a b c d Rule, “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao”, 254.
  8. ^ Ripa, Memoirs of Father Ripa, 102.


  • Brockey, Liam Matthew. Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Ripa, Matteo. Memoirs of Father Ripa during thirteen years’ residence at the Court of Peking in the service of the Emperor of China : with an account of the foundation of the college for the education of young Chinese at Naples. Edited and Translated by Fortunato Prandi. London: John Murray, 1887.
  • Rule, Paul A. “Louis Fan Shouyi and Macao.” In Review of Culture (Instituto Cultural de Macau) No. 21, 2nd. series (October/December 1994), 249–258.
  • Piastra, Stefano. "The Shenjianlu by Fan Shou-yi Reconsidered: New Geo-Historical Notes." In Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 5, 4, (2012), 41-53.