tsung-li yamen

Michael Shen Fu-Tsung

Michael Alphonsius Shen Fu-Tsung, also Michel Sin, Michel Chin-fo-tsoung, Shen Fo-tsung, Shen Fuzong (沈福宗, died 1691), was a Chinese man from Nanking and a Jesuit convert who was brought to Europe by the Belgian priest Father Philippe Couplet, Procurator of the China Jesuits in Rome. They left Macao in 1681 and visited together Holland, Italy, France and England.

Visit to Europe

Holland and Rome

Michael Shen Fu-Tsung arrived with Philippe Couplet by boat from Macao in October 1682. They visited the city and the family where Couplet was born, in Mechelen. They then left for Rome, where Couplet tried to obtain a Papal authorization to celebrate mass in Chinese.


Shen was presented to king Louis XIV on September 15 1684, and he demonstrated how to use chopsticks and how to write Chinese characters. He is described as participating in a royal dinner with Couplet, wearing green silk with deep blue brocade, decorated with Chinese dragons. They also visited the Maison royale de Saint-Louis, where they set up a display of Chinese silk portraits.


After his visit in France, Shen Fu-Tsung also went to Oxford where he met with Thomas Hyde in 1685, and he taught him some Chinese. Shen Fu-Tsung apparently communicated in Latin.

Shen Fu-Tsung also met with King James II. It is the first recorded instance of a Chinese man visiting Britain. The king was so delighted by this visit that he had his portrait made, and had it hung in his bedroom.

Shen Fu-Tsung was able to catalogue the Chinese books that were present in the Bodleian Library, and to describe their content, something which nobody had been able to do until then. He also showed the librarian the correct way to hold a Chinese book, starting with which way was up.

Shen Fu-Tsung left England in 1688 and went to Lisbon, where he entered the Society of Jesus. He died as he was returning to China, somewhere near Mozambique, in 1691.

See also



  • The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Feb., 1952)
  • Keevak, Michael (2004) The Pretended Asian: George Psalmanazar's Eighteenth-century Formosan Hoax Wayne State University Press ISBN 081433198X
  • Ballaster, Rosalind (2005) Fables of the East: Selected Tales 1662-1785 Oxford University Press ISBN 0199267340
  • Mungello, David E. (1989) Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0824812190

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