Evangelization, politics, and technology transfer in 17th-century CochinChina: The case of João da Cruz

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Source: archive.org





(citation: Volkov, Alexei. (2012). Evangelization, politics, and technology transfer in 17th-century CochinChina: The case of João da cruz. 31-70. 10.1142/9789814390446_0002.)

Center for General Education and Institute of History, National Tsing Hua University, 101, Sect. 2, Kuang-fu Road, Hsinchu 300, Taiwan

The paper is devoted to the life and activities of Joao da Cruz (16107-1682), a half-Portuguese expert in foundry and cannon-making who worked for the Court of Cochin-china (Central Vietnam) since 1650s. The author argues that the activities of Joao da Cruz entailed appointments of Jesuit missionaries to the positions of Royal Astronomers and Royal Physicians for the period from the late M’*’ century to the second half of the 18 th century. The author suggests that Joao’s activities and political agenda could be properly understood only if one takes into account the hypothesis of his knighthood in the Military Order of Christ, which until now was not paid due attention by historians.

1. Introduction

In (Volkov 2008) the author briefly depicted the activities of Christoforo Borri (1583-1632) and Francisco de Pina (15857-1625), two members of the Jesuit Mission in Cochinchina (Central Vietnam) who used their astronomical expertise for evangelization purposes. More specifically, they used predictions of eclipses to gain support of the authorities, in particular, of the prospective heir of the throne. Prince Nguyen Phuc Ky PjEfm’/Jf (7-1631). 1 The departure of Borri from Cochinchina in 1622 and the death of de Pina followed by the death of the Prince Ky effectively aborted the project of enthronization of a monarch favorable to the Catholic faith. It is unknown whether the missionaries intentionally stopped using scientific and technological expertise in their evangelization work due to the growing domination of the “grass-roots evangelization” style champi-ned by Alexander de Rhodes (1591-1660) or whether the Mission was simply unable to conduct this activity due to the lack of appropriately trained personnel and/or of necessary contacts with the Vietnamese authorities. 2 However, some time later the situation changed again, and the Cochinchinese Mission did succeed


1 The Prince, referred to as the “elder son of the King” by A. de Rhodes in his memories, revoked the deportation of the Mission from Cochinchina in 1625 (de Rhodes 1854, p.93).

2 Volkov 2008, pp. 184— 185.




in converting the highest authorities of the state. The Jesuit Father Johann Siebert (1708-1745), in his letter of 1741 especially stressed that a large number of the converts belonged to the “high nobility”, including two princes with their families, a royal advisor, a viceroy, and a number of high-rank officers of the army. 3 The fact that Siebert placed the members of the high nobility at the very beginning of his list of converts suggests that at that time the Mission again paid special attention to the conversion of this particular group; moreover, in the same letter Siebert mentioned that he exchanged letters with the Jesuit astronomers at the Imperial Court of Beijing, which means that the use of scientific expertise and evangelization strategies may have been the subject of discussions between the Jesuit astronomers operating in these two countries. 4

It thus appears reasonable to investigate how exactly the interaction of the
Jesuit Mission with the high-ranking authorities of Cochinchina was resumed
after the departure of Borri and deaths of de Pina and Prince Ky. It is especially
interesting for the history of science since European astronomical and medical
expertise played an important part in this interaction. The available sources
mention a number of Jesuit Fathers who served as Royal Physicians in Hue;
among them were Bartolomeu da Costa (or d’Acosta) (16297-1695?), 5
Giambattista Sanna (1682-1726), 6 7 Sebastien (or Etienne?) Pires (dates
unknown; active in 1720s),’ Johann Siebert (1708-1745), 8 Karl Slamenski


3 De Montezon and Esteve 1858, pp. 266-267. On Siebert, see Dehergne 1973, p.247, n.766 and

4 While Siebert worked as Royal Astronomer in Hue, the position of President of Astronomical Bureau in Beijing (since 1717) was occupied by his compatriot, Ignace (Ignatius) Kogler (Chinese name IKilllJ, 1680-1746); see Dehergne 1973, pp. 136-137, n.434 (Udias 1994, p.473 gives a different date for the beginning of Kogler’s official career in Beijing).

Despite his Portuguese name, da Costa was a Macao-bom Japanese. The exact time of his service is not known; it started no later than 1 67 1 and was interrupted when he was ordered to return to Macao in 1686; Dehergne 1973, pp. 63-64, n.208, suggests that da Costa altogether spent 23 years in Cochinchina. See also de Montezon and Esteve 1858, p.254; Gaide 1921, pp. 189-190.

6 A Sardinian, served as Royal Physician from 1714 to 1726 or, according to Dehergne 1973,
pp.239-240, n.743, from 1717 to 1722, and then from 1724 to 1726. See de Montezon and Esteve
1858, pp.259, 267; Lettres 1943, p.326. On the tomb of Sanna, see Sallet 1919, p.517; esp. see
Plate 3 1 .

7 According to de Montezon and Esteve 1858, pp.259, 267, a Portuguese named Sebastien Pires served as Royal Physician from 1722. Pires is not mentioned in Dehergne 1973; E. Lopez in July 1726 mentioned one Etienne Pires and expressed his hope that this Pires would become Royal Physician, see Lettres 1943, p.327. Teixeira 1964, pp.38-39, mentions only one Pires, Jose, active in Cochinchina at that time.

8 A Bohemian, served as Royal Physician from 1738 to 1745 (according to Dehergne, in 1739
Siebert still was in Tonkin and moved to Cochinchina later); see de Montezon and Esteve 1858, p.267; Gaide 1921, p. 193; Dehergne 1973, p.247, n.766. Siebert also occupied the position of
Royal Mathematician, see below.



(17087-1746), 9 Johann Koffler (171 1-1785), 10 and Joao de Loureiro (1710-
1791). 11 Some missionaries from the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris
(Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, hereafter MEP) also practiced medicine in
Hue during the same period of time, for instance, the (secular) Fathers Pierre
Langlois (1640-1700) 12 and Benigne Vachet (1642-1720). 13 One missionary
from the MEP, Claude Guiart (or Guyard) (1636-1673) upon his arrival in 1671
pretended to be a medical doctor in order to obtain permission to stay in
Cochinchma. 14 There was also one layman, Maurillon (the first name and dates
of life unknown), an apothecary, who accompanied Vachet. 15 Yet not even one
Missionary of the MEP served as Royal Physician. 16

Among the Jesuit Fathers who served as Royal Astronomers were Juan
Antonio Arnedo (1660-1715), 17 Francisco de Lima (1688 -after 1726), 18 the
above-mentioned Johann Siebert, and Josef Neiigebauer (1706-1759). 19 It is
known that the above-mentioned Joao de Loureiro also conducted astronomical
observations. 20 Similarly, Francisco Xavier de Monteiro (7-1776), and Bento
Ferreira (active in 1750) were known as experts in astronomy, but the former


9 A Bohemian, served as Royal Physician only from March to June, 1746. Gaide 1921, p.193,
quotes biographical data on Slamenski and Koffler from an article of Ch. Maybon published in Revue Indochinoise (Juin 1912) which remains inaccessible to me. See also Dehergne, pp.254—255, n.792. De Montezon and Esteve 1858 (p.389) mention him as “a Hungarian”. The name of this Jesuit is spelled “Slamenski” in numerous sources; however, Teixeira 1964, pp.2, 55 systematically spells his name “Shamenski”.

10 A Bohemian, arrived in Cochinchina in 1742 and served as Royal Physician from 1747 to 1755, see Gaide 1921, pp. 193-195; Dehergne 1973, pp. 137— 138, n.436. Maybon suggests 1780 for the date of death.

11 Some sources suggest 1717-1791. Joao de Loureiro, a Portuguese, later especially known for his botanical work, arrived in Cochinchina in or after 1742 and left no later than 1781; the period of service at the Court is unknown. See Gaide 1921, pp.195-196; Teixeira 1964, pp.50-54.

12 Vachet 1865, p. 190; Gaide 1921, 190.

13 Relation… 1680b; Gaide 1921, 190-191.

14 See Gaide 1921, 191. For a biography see MEP 201 lg; see also Relation… 1680a, pp. 17-22;
Vachet 1865, pp. 151, 191-193.

15 Relation… 1680a, pp. 17-22; Vachet 1865, pp. 151, 191-193, Gaide 1921, 191.

16 However, there are mentions of special favors offered to Vachet and Langlois for their medical expertise by the second son of the King, by the Prime Minister, and by a viceroy, see Launay 1923, vol. 1, pp. 241-242.

17 A Spaniard, served from 1690s till 1712 (?); see Dehargne 1973, notice 48, p. 16.

18 A Portuguese, who arrived in Cochinchina in 1720 and planned to work as Royal Astronomer, according to Etienne Lopez. According to Lettres 1943, p.327 he started working after July 10, 1726. He is mentioned as “astronomer” by Dehergne 1973, p. 152, n.472.

19 Dehergne 1973, p. 184, n.579.

20 Gaide 1921, p.196. Dutton (2006, p.222) mentions him as “mathematician and physicist”, the
“physicist” probably being a typo for “physician”.




most likely never occupied the position of Royal Astronomer, 1 while the latter,
even if appointed, served at the Court only for very short time. ” The role of
these Jesuits in a number of cases proved to be crucial for the destiny of the
Mission and the converts. 2 ‘

The lists provided above suggest that solid relationships between the Jesuit
Fathers and the Court in the form of appointments of the Jesuits to positions of
state functionaries, beginning with the appointment of da Costa, started to be
built after the long period (beginning in 1625 and ending in the early 1670s)
during which there was virtually no interaction between the Jesuits and the
Vietnamese functionaries related to science, technology, or medicine, at least as
far as the received documents suggest. 24 One can also observe that these
appointments became rather systematic throughout the mid- 18 th century, while
the missionaries of the MEP never succeeded in placing their representatives in
those or equally high positions. Paradoxically, this radical breakthrough in the
relationships between the Jesuit mission and the Cochinchinese authorities
coincided with the arrival of the missionaries from the MEP and a series of
persecutions of the Catholics. One can therefore conjecture that there must have
been some particular events or circumstances that radically changed the nature
of the relationships between the Jesuit Mission and the authorities of Hue in the
late 1660s -early 1670s.

In the present paper I will argue that the change was triggered by the activi-
ties of just one individual, Joao da Cruz (16107-1682), somewhat underrepre-
sented in the reports of Catholic missionaries of the both Missions and, conse-


21 Dutton 2006a, p.223 mentions Xavier de Monteiro who, he claims, was a Royal Mathematician “like I.oureiro”. In (2006b, p. 179) Dutton does not specify de Monteiro’s professional affiliation, while Li Tana transcribes his name as “de Moteiro” and reports that he was a “geometrician” (Li 1998, pp.72-73). Dutton’s source is the original edition (1940) of Teixeira 1977; this book remains unavailable to me. However, in Teixeira 1964 de Monteiro is only mentioned as “geometrician and physicist” and, interestingly enough, as designer of a bomb of a particular kind (pp. 49-50). There is no mention of de Monteiro in Dehergne 1973 while de Montezon and Esteve (1858, p.389) mention only the date of his arrival in Cochinchina (1741).

22 Dehergne 1973, p.90, n.299. Ferreira is not found on the list of missionaries in de Montezon and Estfeve 1858, pp. 386-389 and is only briefly mentioned in Boxer 1949 and Teixeira 1964; the latter states, without providing any references, that Ferreira was “a Court mathematician in 1750 and was expelled to Macao in 1750 together with other missionaries” (p.56). Dehergne only mentions that Ferreira was “a mathematician in Tonkin” in 1751.

23 Dutton (2006a, p.222) claimed that “[The Jesuit Mission] made its most successful inroads to the Vietnamese centres of power only in the middle of the eighteenth century. […] The first Jesuit to gain access to the Nguyen court was Johannes Koffler […].” For an unspecified reason Dutton thus does not take into account the Jesuit precursors of Koffler at the Court.

24 During this period the Jesuits maintained sporadic contacts with the members of high nobility, see for example, Cadiere (1939).



quently, in the publications of modem historians. I will also offer new evidence in
support of an often neglected theory concerning his particular institutional back-
ground which may at least partly explain his activities at the Court of Cochinchina.

2. Joao da Cruz: The Conventional Biographies

The life and deeds of Joao da Cruz, a half-Portuguese cannon-founder active in
Cochinchina in the late 17 th century, were mentioned in a number of documents
authored by the missionaries, discussed in papers written during the colonial
period mainly based on those documents, and, subsequently, mentioned, although
rather briefly, in recent publications.’ 1 The conventional scholarship on Joao can
be summarized as follows.

An unpublished document referred to by L. Cadiere as Memoire qui contient
certaines reflexions sur les actes de Mgr. de Coryce written in the mid- 18 th
century by A.-F. Lefebvre ( Lefebvre’s Memoire hereafter) provides the following
description: 26

“One cannon-founder, a Portuguese or Spanish mestizo , came to offer his
service to the King; he was accepted and settled in Thg-Buc 27 where all the
founders usually lived. 28 This Catholic mestizo convinced the King that he
needed a priest of his religion whose prayers would help him in his work.

The King made one Jesuit come, who stayed for some time in a house of one
Christian woman, then died and was buried in the garden of the founder .” 29


25. See, for example, Cadiere (1919; 1924; 1930); for more recent publications mentioning Joao see, for example, Manguin (1972), Andaya (1992), Li (1998), Dutton (2006a, b).

26. Lefebvre, Armand-Franfois (1709-1760), was appointed as Vicar apostolic of Cochinchina in 1741 while in Siam and stayed in Cochinchina in 1743—1748 (MEP 2011a). In determining the author of the quoted text Cadiere, apparently, faced certain difficulties: in his earlier publication he tentatively credited the text to the authorship of J.-H. de Verthamon (1700-1753) (Cadiere 1919, P-529); on de Verthamon see, for example, MEP 2011b. When quoting the Memoire, Cadiere (1924) refers to I-aunay 1923, vol. 1, p.243; however, on this page Launay quotes only two paragraphs of the Reflexions sur la visite de I’eveque de Colicee [sic — A.V.] par Mgr Levefbre of 1741 and refers to Archives of the MEP , vol. 742, p.671. I was unable to get access to this volume. In his 1919 publication Cadiere quoted the Memoire from a copy made by J.-N. Renauld (see below). The eveque de Coricee mentioned here was Hilaire de Jesus Costa, a Dominican, the Visitor to Cochinchina in 1744; see Cadiere 1919, p.529, n.5; MEP 201 la; MEP 201 lb.

27. The location of Joao’s residence is shown in Cadiere 1925, pp. 152-153, plate 75, esp. see
locations 20 and 22 marked on the map. This area, located to the South-West from the Citadel of Hue, across the River of Perfume, is nowadays known as Phucmg Due, “Village of Founders” (personal communication of Mai Bui Dieu Linh, April 2009).

28. On the founders mentioned here, see below.

29 . “Un metische portugais ou espagnol, fondeur de canons, vint proposer ses services au Roy, fut agree et installe a Thg-Duc ou tous les fondeurs ont coutume de demeurer. Ce metische catholique persuada au Roy qu’il avoit besoin d’un pretre de sa religion, dont les prieres l’aideroient au succes de ses travaux. Le Roy fit venir un Jesuite qui demeura quelque temps dans la maison d’une chretienne, mourut, et fut enterre dans le jardin du fondeur” (Cadiere 1919, p.530; 1924, p.308).




In this quotation from the Memoire the name of the founder was not
mentioned, and neither was the name of the Jesuit who came to stay in Hue.
To restore the name of the former, Cadiere relies upon a note by J.-N. Renauld
(1839-1898) who was sent to Vietnam in 1867 and since 1885 served as aumonier
militaire (military chaplain) for the French expeditionary corpus. 30 Renauld
suggests that, according to “some other documents” (he did not specify what those
were), the name of the founder was, in French transcription, “Jean de la Croix”,
and that the cannons he made had inscriptions in Portuguese dated of the 17 th
century. 31 The same name of the founder is mentioned in the “Relation of the first 32 travel to Cochinchina” by Louis Chevreuil who visited Cochinchina in 1664-1665:’ “[…] one Christian named Jean de la Croix who was favored by the king for the service which he offered to the latter in his trade of founder […].” 33

In his 1919 paper Cadiere quotes the inscriptions made in Portuguese on the
two cannons put on display near the Ministry of War (now Ministry of Defence)
in Bangkok copied by G. Ccedes (1886-1969), and translates them. His transla-
tion, as J.Bumay (1936) later argued, was partly erroneous; the correct tran-
scription, if translated, should read “For King and Great Lord of Cochinchina,
of Champa, and of Cambodia, Ioao da Crus made it [i.e. the cannon] in 1667
[‘in 1670’, respectively]”. 34 Cadiere also claims that he saw elsewhere Jean’s
signature written as “JOAO DA t”, yet he is not sure whether he saw this
signature on a cannon or in a document.35

The dates on the cannons suggest that the founder, Jean de la Croix, or, if
one uses his Portuguese name, Joao da Cruz worked for the Nguyen Lord Hien
Vuorig RT. (personal name Nguyen Phuc Tan r. 1648-1687), the King who conducted successful military operations against the Trinh government based in Tonkin (Northern Vietnam) as well as against Champa and Cambodia. 36 Cadiere depicts the King as a person extremely interested in weaponry, and concludes that Joao da Cruz, capable of producing cannons of good quality,


30 On J.-N. Renauld and his activities in Cochinchina, see MEP 2011c.

31 Literally, “[…] avec les dates de 1600 et quelques annees” (Cadiere 1919, p.530). The cannons
seen by Renauld were destroyed in 1888-1890 ( ibid .); see also Appendix A.

32 De Montezon and Esteve 1858, p.250; see also Launay 1923, vol. 1, p. 13.

33 “[…] un chretien nomine Jean de la Croix qui etait favorise du roi pour le service qu’il lui rendait
par son metier de fondeur […]” (l^aunay 1923, vol. 1, p. 15).

34 For pictures of the cannons and a discussion of the inscriptions see Appendix A.

35 Cadiere 1919, p.530.

36 A brief description of the battles won by Hien Vuomg is found in (Cadiere 1924, p.312). Manguin (1972, p.204) specifies that during Joao’s stay in Hul the military operations between Cochinchina and Tonkin took place in 1655—1661 and 1672—1673; Joao’s cannons thus may have played a decisive role in both campaigns, especially in the latter one which effectively stopped the attempts of the Trinh Lords to conquer Cochinchina.



must have been an influential figure of that time. 37 Cadiere does not specify
where Joao may have learned cannon-making. 38

Cadiere discusses the ethnic origin of Joao and reports that three documents
available to him state that the latter (1) was a Portuguese of mixed blood, (2) was
partly Indian, and (3) was bom in India. 39 Moreover, Cadiere suggests that both
the wife of Joao, Sebastienne de Souza, and his daughter-in-law, Lucie de Reis, 40
were mestizos, presumably, also half-Indian (Cadiere 1924, p.310). Even if one
assumes that Joao arrived in Southeast Asia from Goa with his wife, it would be
difficult to explain how his son, Clemente, was able to find a wife bom in Goa
while in Cochinchina, unless one presumes the existence of a colony of mestizos
from Goa settled in this area by the mid- 17 th century.


37. Laneau reports that during his visit in 1683 a minister of Hien Vuang informed him that the King had a collection of cannons made in various countries and that he highly praised especially the cannons made in India; Cadiere conjectures that by “Indian cannons” the minister meant the cannons made by Joao, who was, supposedly, of Indian descent (Cadiere 1924, p.313). This conjecture, however, is dubious: as it will become clear below, Joao explicitly positioned himself as a representative of Portugal in his conversations with the Nguyen Lord.

38 There existed several places where Joao, theoretically, might have learned the casting techniques, they included Goa, Macao, as well as Moluccas. On of the cannon-making industries in East and Southeast countries see Li 1998, pp. 43—45 and Sun 2003.

39 The three sources referred to by Cadiere are: (1) the Lefebvre’s Memoire (mentioning Joao as “a Portuguese or Spanish mestizo”)’, (2) a so-called Boiret’ s Memoire (“a Portuguese from India”), and (3) a letter of Mgr. Francois Pallu (1626 1684) to Propaganda Fide dated of 28 November 1682 (here Joao is referred to as “un Portugais canarin”). The Boiret’ s Memoire is the text titled Memoire presente a M. le Cardinal de Bernis, le 29 Juillet 1773, authored by Boiret, a missionary in Cochinchina in 1760s-1770s, as biographical notes (MEP 201 Id, MEP 201 le) suggest. Boiret therefore did not meet Jean or his children personally, but based his description on unidentified secondary sources. As for the letter of Pallu, partly quoted in Launay 1923, vol. 1 , pp. 241-242, its author did mention “un Portugais canarin, qui est seul fondeur de canon du roi […]” [a Portuguese from Canara who is the only cannon founder of the King] (p.242) but failed to specify the name of the founder. Given that Pallu’s travel to Vietnam in 1674 was diverted by a storm, it can be argued that Pallu never met the founder in person, and based his description on the reports of the missionaries who went to Hu£, most likely Louis Chevreuil (1627-1693), Pierre Langlois (c. 164a 1700), or Pierre Lambert de la Motte (1624-1679). The published part of Chevreuil ’s report of his meetings with Joao does not mention the latter’s particular ethnic background (Launay 1923, vol. 1, p. 16). Langlois entered Cochinchina in 1680 (Lettres 1943, p.289, n.l), yet no information about his meetings with Joao is available. Lambert de la Motte’s visit in Cochinchina was marked by an incident caused by his refusal to meet Joao (see below); he, therefore, could not have first-hand information about the appearance of Joao (Launay 1923, vol. 1, p.178). To conclude, even though the particular tone of Joao’s skin was certainly well noticed by a number of authors, it remains unknown whether the theory of Joao as a “half-Portuguese from India” was but a mere guess.

40 The personal names mentioned in documents are usually written in the forms adopted in the language used in the documents, for example, Cadiere gives the French reading of the names of the wife and daughter-in-law of Joao written in Latin in the document he relies upon as Sebastiana de Souza, and Lucia a Regibus, respectively.




There is another theory concerning Joao’s origin: Fires (1990, p. 11),
without disclosing his sources though, suggests that Joao arrived from Macao.
Indeed, one letter of Macao Senate sent to the Lord of Cochinchina in 1751 and
quoted by Manguin mentions Joao as follows:

“We also sent, on another occasion, a person who knew perfectly well the art of
founding of cannons; when doing his work, he filled the Kingdom with
excellent guns, which constituted the [offensive] weapons and the strongest
defence against any enemy.” 41

Manguin dismisses the claim of the authors of the letter concerning the
Macanese origin of Joao mainly on the grounds of his own theory concerning
the origin of Joao and his itinerary (see below). Yet the two versions of Joao’s
ethnic origin, at least theoretically, can be reconciled, if one takes into account
the large number of interracial marriages in Macao started being concluded from
the very beginning of the Colony; Joao thus may well have been a half-Indian
raised in Macao. 42

Besides the problems related to Joao’s origin, the conventional accounts of
his life and activities contain other controversies. Chronologically, the first of
them was related to the improbable date of Joao’s arrival in Cochinchina in the
early 17 th century suggested by L. Cadiere (1906, p.125, n.2) and repeated by a
number of scholars; this error was corrected by Cadiere himself in his 1924
paper where he specified that Joao arrived in Hue between 1655 and 1661. 43
Cadiere’s conjecture concerning the date of the arrival of Joao in Hue as
antedating 1661 was based on the fact that the church built by Joao (or rather
built on his request) was already fully operational in early 1661. 44


41 This is my rendering of the French translation provided by Manguin 1972, p.225: “Nous avons aussi envoye, a une autre occasion, une personne qui connaissait a la perfection l’art de fondre 1’artillerie; dans ses fonctions, elle a rempli le Royaume d’excellentes pieces, qui constituent les armes et la defense la plus forte contre n’importe quel ennemi”; the original text (Arquivos de Macau, 3 rd series, XV1/I, pp.46-47) remains unavailable to me.

42 For more details, see Amaro 1994; esp. see pp. 15-36.

43 See a discussion of Cadiere’s mistake in Manguin 1972, pp.204—205, Li 1998, p.45 (Li did not mention that Cadiere corrected his mistake himself). Manguin 1972, p.205 claims that Cadiere suggested 1615 as the date of Joao’s arrival in Cochinchina; actually, Cadiere suggests that Joao arrived “in the first years of the 17 th century, before the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries (1614)” (Cadiere 1906, p.125, n.2). Cadiere’s mistake is difficult to explain, especially given that he mentions Hue as the location of Joao’s foundry, while at that time Hue was not yet the residence of Nguyen Lords.

44 Domenico Fuciti, the first Jesuit invited by Joao to stay in his church, departed from Goa to Macao in 1656 (Dehergne 1973, p.103), and by suggesting the dates “1655-1661” of Joao’s arrival Cadiere may have implicitly implied that Joao came from Goa almost simultaneously (or even together) with Fuciti.



Manguin conjectures that Joao originally worked for the King of Cambodia
(Manguin does not specify when and how did Joao start working for that King)
and then was “discovered… and transferred” to Hue in 1658 by the Cochinchinese
after their victorious attack against Udong, the capital of Cambodia. 45 Manguin
based this conjecture on the evidence provided by Giovanni Filippo de Marini
(published in 1663) and Manuel Fereira (published in 1700). Furthermore,
he provides a mention of Joao by Domingo Fernandez Navarrete (16107-1689?);
this mention, he believes, would have corroborated the date 1658, yet below
I will demonstrate that Navarrete ’s story most likely cannot be interpreted as
referring to this date. A similar legend is mentioned by Fires who specifies that
for his service to the King of Cambodia Joao was promoted to the position of
Ocunha (governor of a province). 46 The legend of Joao’s work in Cambodia can
be corroborated by a piece of evidence which I shall discuss below.

The Memoires of Pierre Poivre (1719-1786) offer a different version:
according to Poivre, Joao survived a shipwreck at the shores of Cochinchina and
established himself as a cannon founder after his rescue. 47 Yet this account does
not appear credible since Poivre claims that the poet Luis Vaz de Camoes
(1524/1525-1580), who was long dead by then, traveled together with Joao. 48

The exact name of Joao is not certain either: Poivre mentions cannons cast
in Cochinchina in 1661 by the Portuguese founder “Joan d’Acruz d’Acunha” or
simply “Joan d’Acunha”, thus suggesting an interpretation of the word “Ocunha”
as a part of Joao’s family name. 49 In turn, the letter sent to Joao in 1670 by Luiz
da Gamma (or, in modern transcription, Luis da Gama, 1610-1672) (see below),
is addressed to “Senhor Ocunha Joao da Cruz”, thus suggesting that the word
“Ocunha” was perceived as a title rather than a part of Joao’s name. 50

Joao passed away in 1682; this date is established on the basis of the report
of the Bishop Louis Laneau (1637-1696) who expressed in this year his
sympathy to Clemente da Cruz, the son of the cannon-maker, on the occasion of
the death of his father. 51 The birth date of Joao remains unknown, but given that
his daughter-in-law gave birth prior to 1661, one can assume that Joao’s son was
bom in c. 1635, and therefore Joao most likely was bom in c. 1610.


45 Manguin 1972, p.205. Udong was the capital of Cambodia from 1618 to 1866.

46 Pires 1990, pp. 11-12.

47 Poivre 1885, p.479, note 1.

48 This inconsistency was promptly noticed by Cadiere (1925, p. 149).

49 Poivre 1885. p.479.

50 Modem paleographers read the “Ocunha” in the letter as “O. Cunha”; Luis Saraiva suggests that“O.” may stand for “Ouvidor (Magistrate)” (private communication, September 2009).

51 Launay 1923, vol. 1, p.289; Cadiere 1924, p.311. Interestingly enough, Laneau and Clemente
never met in person since the latter, as Cadiere observed, carefully avoided the former (Cadiere 1924, p.311).




3. Joao and the Two Missions

Cadiere (1924) pictures Joao as a person who remained hostile to the French
missionaries throughout the bitter opposition between the Jesuits and the
missionaries of the MEP; he explains Joao’s attitude by his Portuguese origin
entailing his loyalty to the Portuguese Crown. Yet the attitude of Joao deserves
to be discussed in greater detail.

Joao’s request for a Catholic priest was rather specific: Joao asked for a
Jesuit Father and, it appears, a specific Jesuit Father (who was not Portuguese).
The name of the Jesuit is not mentioned in Lefebvre s Memoir e, but from
Chevreuil’s report it follows 52 that this Father was the Italian Jesuit Domenico
Fuciti (1625-1696). 53 Later on, two more Jesuit Fathers, the aforementioned
Bartholomeu da Costa (a Macao-born Japanese) and Juan Antonio Amedo
(a Spaniard), operated in Hue; as mentioned above, both of them obtained official
positions at the Court, and the former most likely obtained it with the help of Joao.

On July 26, 1664 the first missionary of the MEP set foot in Cochinchina.
It was Louis Chevreuil (1627-1693) who represented his superior, the Bishop
Pierre Lambert de La Motte (1624-1679), then residing in Siam.54 The Jesuits
working in Hoi An and Hue 55 soon entered into a confrontation with the envoy
of the MEP. 56 When in Hue, Chevreuil stayed together with the Father Fuciti in
the church built by Joao. In Chevreuil’s description, his first encounter with Joao
went awry: the latter did not invite the missionary to enter his premises claiming
that a visit of the King Hi6n was scheduled exactly at the time of Chevreuil’s
unexpected visit; one can only guess whether the latter’s sudden appearance at


52 Launay 1923, vol.l, p. 16.

53 Dehergne 1973, p. 103, n.341

54 The mission of Chevreuil in Cochinchina began in July 1664 and ended in March 1665, according to de Montezon and Esteve 1858, p.250.

55 The Jesuits working in Cochinchina at that time included only three Fathers: the aformentioned Domenico Fuciti residing in Hue, Pierre Marques (“a Japanese”) and one Baudet (a Frenchman) both residing in Faifo (Hoi An), see Cadiere 1924, p.317. De Montezon and Esteve (1858) do not mention Marques and Baudet; instead, in addition to Fuciti they list one F. Rivas, a Portuguese Jesuit, who stayed in Cochinchina in 1655-1664 (p.387).

56 For a discussion of the confrontation between the Jesuits and the missionaries of the MEP in Cochinchina, see Cooke 2008; Cooke focuses on the events that unfolded in the 1690s, but the general pattern of the interaction between the two Missions she depicts can be seen in the earliest encounters of their representatives. For a detailed description of the activities of the missionaries of the MEP in Siam (Thailand) providing important insights into the rationale of their operations in Cochinchia, see Forest 1998, vol.l, passim. A highly partisan and emotional account of the confrontation between the MEP and Jesuits in Cochinchina in the time of Joao da Cruz is found in Fauconnet-Buzelin 2006; Joao is mentioned in her book on several occasions as the most powerful (and utterly vicious) ally of the Jesuits (see, for example, pp. 139, 168-169, 193 -195, 246, 254—255).



Joao’s residence at the time of the Royal visit was indeed a mere coincidence,
or Chevreuil’s intention was to meet the King in person. According to
Chevreuil’s account, some time later Fuciti and da Cruz invited him to perform
the service on the day of Assumption of 1664 in the church built by Joao; taking
this opportunity, Chevreuil, unexpectedly for his hosts, revealed his true identity
as a special envoy of the Bishop Lambert de la Motte and declared the latter’s
authority over the parish as officially granted by the Pope. It remains unclear to
what extent Chevreuil was understood by the local flock gathered in the church
at this moment, yet his declaration provoked, according to his report, a strong
reaction of Joao who immediately dispatched his son, Clemente, to request an
unidentified “minister of the Kingdom” to remove Chevreuil from the church,
yet the removal order was not granted, to the delight of the visitor. 57

In other instances (unmentioned by Cadiere) Joao reacted even more
violently. During the visit of Lambert de la Motte to Cochinchina in 1675-1676,
Joao requested a meeting with the Bishop, yet the appointment was not granted.
According to a Relation authored by Jean de Maguelonne de Courtaulin, 58 the
wording of the refusal provoked a violent reaction of Joao against B. Vachet and
one “Ou Tho Mat” (that is, Ong Tho Mat m “Mr. Secretary”, according to
L. Cadiere’s interpretation); the tension was so strong that the three men were
about to start an actual fight. 59

One more case when Joao’s family was involved in the interaction between
the Jesuits and the missionaries of the MEP is depicted in a Memoire authored
by B. Vachet; the son of Joao, Clemente da Cruz presented to the Lord of
Cochinchina a report in which the missionaries of the MEP were accused of a
number of wrongdoings. 60 The report, in particular, claimed that the missionaries
helped two spies from Tonkin enter Cochinchina, that the Seminary of Siam
hosted Cochinchinese and Tonkinese students together (which, given the state of
war between the South and the North, would have been rather alarming), and
that the missionaries of the MEP working in Cochinchina corresponded with


57 Launay 1923, vol.l, p. 16; Cadiere 1924, pp.317-318.

58 Jean de Maguelonne de Courtaulin (b. 1635/1638-?), departed for Siam and Cochinchina in 1670, arrived in Siam in 1672 and in Cochinchina in 1674, Provicar of Cochinchina in 1675, left the MEP in 1685 (according to other sources, in 1682) and returned to France; see Brebion 1910, p.222; Launay 1916, p. 158; d’Amat, 1961, col. 1006; MEP 201 If. See also a biography authored by B. Vachet (Launay 1923, vol.l, p. 133).

59 Jean de la Croix […] s’emporta contre M. Vachet et Ou Tho Mat, jusque-la qu’ils furent sur le point d’en venir aux mains”, Launay 1923, vol. 1, p. 178; see also Cadiere 1924, pp. 325-326.

60 The Memoire does not specify the year of the incident; however, the fact that the events were also reported by de Courtaulin to his superiors in two letters of 1675 (launay 1923, vol. 1, p. 142, n. 1), one can safely assume that the events took place in 1675.




their counterparts in Tonkin (and, therefore, may have been exchanging
classified information ). 61 Vachet does not state explicitly that the authors of the
report were Jesuits, yet makes it rather clear when writing: “a report was
presented to the King which, in its malignity, contained several truths, but
combined with so many lies, impostures, and slander, that it could not be more
terrible if a demon had dictated it .62 Eventually, the missionaries of the MEP
managed to escape from punishment, notably, thanks to the help of two local
officials appointed by the King to investigate the case and who miraculously
turned out to be ancient converts who had kept the fact of their conversion secret
for a number of years . 63

4. Problems with the Conventional Biography

The origin and the exact name of Joao as well as the exact date and
circumstances of his arrival in Hue still remain unclear, yet the main problem is
elsewhere: the more one deals with the conventional biographies of Joao the less
consistent they appear. According to them, a foreign founder of an obscure
origin who was captured during a military operation in Cambodia, or came on
his own, or was rescued after a shipwreck, appeared in Hue and very fast
became close to the King and his leading officers , 64 requested permission to
build a church, and, when the permission was granted, quickly built a relatively
large church assisted only by presumably inexperienced local workers.
Moreover, in the cases of interaction between Joao and the two Missions
described above the degree and especially the style of involvement of Joao
would be difficult to explain if Joao were a mere technical expert: when
interacting with the missionaries of the MEP, he acted as if he had a particular
political agenda (explained by later authors as related to his Portuguese origin),
and had a certain authority as shown by the fact that when requesting an
audience with a bishop he became furious when the audience was not granted.
The extant sources thus indicate that Joao behaved as an active and often the key
participant of the complex political game involving both Missions and the
Vietnamese authorities rather than a mere technical expert who incidentally
happened to stay in Hue.


61 Launay 1923, vol. 1, pp. 134—135.

62 “[…] on presenta au Roi une requete qui dans sa malignite contenait quelques verites, mais avec tant de mensonges, d’impostures et de calomnies. que quand le demon Faurait dictee, elle ne pouvait etre plus effroyable.” (Launay 1923, vol.l, p. 134).

63 Launay 1923, vol.l, PP- 136-142.

64 On the possible connections between Joao and Tran Dinh-An (1624—1705), the military advisor to the King, see Appendix B.



As far as the professional activities of Joao are concerned, the first
impression given by the aforementioned accounts is that he alone produced a
surprisingly large number of cannons of high quality. This impression, however,
most likely is wrong: Joao certainly was assisted by qualified local founders,
since foundries already existed in Hue as early as 1631; the Vietnamese history
Dai Nam thirc luc tien bien (Initial Chapters of the Veritable Records of the Great Southern [State], 1854) describes them as follows:

“[In] the year [corresponding to the cyclical signs] Tan-Muy (1631) […]

[the authorities] established the Internal [that is, located within the Palace]
Office of cannon-founders, and two teams, Left and Right, of cannon-founders.
People from [villages] Phan-Xa and Hoang-Giang…

Both villages belonged to the county Phong-Loc, [their inhabitants were] good
at casting cannons.

… [were used] to fully staff them [= the office and the teams].

The head 65 of the Internal Office of cannon-founders: 1 person; Office staff: 1
person; founders: 38 persons. Both Left and Right teams of founders
[comprised] 12 staff members, and 48 founders.” 66

The total number of officials and founders employed in these three facilities thus
amounted to 25 (1 + 12+12) and 134 (38+48+48), respectively. 67 An interesting
remark of the historiographers (which was not given due attention by later
researchers) is that of the skillfulness of the workers recruited in the two
villages; the quoted excerpt thus suggests that by 1631 a number of private
foundries had already existed in the area for some time. Another due remark is
that in 1631 the newly established structure was organized as a governmental
office; it appears plausible to suggest that Joao was appointed the head of this
office by 1650s. 68


63 On the title thu-hop “section head” see Riviere (1915, p.288), Cadiere (1925, p. 147).

66 Dai Nam thirc luc tien bien, chapter (^) 2, pp. 19a, 22a.

67 Or, if the document is understood as specifying the total amount of personnel in both Left and Right teams, 13 (1 + 12) and 86 (38+48) individuals, respectively. Li Tana mentions “eighty workmen” (Li 1998, p.45) without explaining as to how this number of workmen was calculated. See also Cadiere’s translation (1925, p. 147).

68 It would be difficult to evaluate the total number of workmen employed in the weaponry production, given that the figures above most likely are related only to the founders dealing directly with the production of cannons. The number of those involved in the production of powder, cannon carts and stands, as well as other bronze objects (in particular, gongs, vessels, and bells) remain unknown (for the vessels, see Cadiere 1924, p.314 and Plates 95-96; for bells, see p. 316). On the chemical analysis of the bronzes cast in Hue see Chochod 1909..




It is difficult to evaluate the output of the newly established structure, yet
according to some European travelers, by 1642 the number of cannons at the
disposal of Hue Lords already amounted to 200. 69 This means that by 1650s,
when Joao presumably arrived in Hue, he certainly was not the only person who
had knowledge of cannon-making; instead, he dealt with a large and already
fully functional structure producing weapons and directed by local governmental
officers. To be mentioned as “the King’s Founder”, Joao, therefore, must have
had some particularly appreciated expertise and strong social connections which
would allow him to climb to the very top of the administrative ladder.

5. Joao’s Background: An Alternative Version

The biographies of Joao discussed so far portray him as a person without
connections with any organizations or networks, and his support of the Jesuit
Mission is usually depicted as unrelated to any particular political agenda and
based solely upon his Portuguese origin. However, there exists a piece of
evidence which associates Joao with one particular social structure; this
connection, if it did indeed exist, could, at least partly, explain the actions of
Joao in a number of episodes which otherwise could be hardly explained.
The social structure to which Joao may have belonged is no less than the
Military Order of Christ, the successor of the Portuguese chapter of the Order of
the Temple since 1319, the most prestigious of the three Portuguese military
orders of the 17 th century (two others being the Order of Avis and the Order of
Santiago). The crucial piece of evidence is found in the report of Domingo
Fernandez Navarrete (16107-1689) who wrote:

“There is at present in Cochinchina, a half-Black of Portuguese Breed, who in
my time was made Knight of the Order of Christ; he is an able Officer,
an excellent Founder, and very curious at making Chain-Bullets, and other
warlike instruments .” 70

This short description contains several elements worth discussing. The phrase
“was made Knight of the Order of Christ” in the original reads “embiaron Abito
de Christo”, that is, “whom the Habit of Christ was bestowed upon”; however,


69 Li 1998, p.45.

70 Navarrete 1704, p.345. The Spanish text found in the original edition Navarrete 1676 reads “Oy ay en Cochinchina vn [=un] medio negro con langre [=langue?] Portuguesa, a quien en mi tiempo embiaron Abito de Christo, es grande oficial, muy insigne fundidor, y muy curioso en hazer balas enramadas, y otros instrumentos belicos” (p.422). Manguin 1972, p.205, n.5 mentions a more recent English translation (Navarrete 1962, p. 381) which remains unavailable to me.



the English translation is correct, since a secular individual (but not a monk)
was presented with the habit of the Order simultaneously with being knighted. 71
A second important detail is that the above-mentioned founder was, as the
Spanish original specifies, a grande oficial, that is, a high-rank state officer, and
the state mentioned here, apparently, could have been only that of Cochinchina.
This statement thus suggests that Joao was not an ordinary founder but occupied
a high position in Cochinchinese government, most likely, that of the head of the
Office of cannon-founders. Navarrte does not specify whether the particular tone
of Joao’s skin (whom he calls un medio negro, a half-black) was due to his
African, Indian, Malay, or other origin. 72

Manguin dismisses Navarrete’s claim of Joao’s knighthood; his main
argument is that “it would be difficult to imagine that he [= Joao] was made a
member of the Order of Christ in 1658. [At that time] he was just brought to
Cochinchina, and he would have needed some time to offer service to the
Portuguese of Macao in order to be rewarded in this way.” 73 Manguin thus
bases his conclusion (1) on the legend of Joao’s captivity in Cambodia in 1658,
(2) on the assumption that in Cambodia Joao did not offer service to the Order,
and (3) on the assumption that Navarrete’s words “who in my time” ( a quien en
mi tiempo ) refer to 1658. Manguin probably assumes (without stating it
explicitly though) that Navarrete landed in Cochinchina and stayed there for
some time in that very year, hence the phrase “in my time” has to be understood
as “when I was in Cochinchina”. However, Navarrete’s book does not corroborate
Manguin’s assumption; it does not contain any evidence that he actually landed in Cochinchina in 1658 nor, in particular, that he met Joao there. 74 The “time”
mentioned by Navarrete therefore must have referred to the period when he was


71 See Dutra 1989, p.97, n.2.

72 The requirements for the Knights of the Order included the purity of birth; however, as Dutra (1970, p.12) confirmed, “as for aspirants to the habit of the Order of Christ who had parents orgrandparents who were natives of India, dispensations were usually readily available”. The same is known about the Knights of African descent {ibid.). The mixed blood of Joao, therefore, could not have been a serious obstacle for his knighthood

73 “Mais nous voyons mal qu’il ait ete fait membre de l’ordre du Christ en 1658. II venait d’etre amene en Cochinchine, et il eut fallu qu’il ait eu le temps d’y rendre service aux Portugais de Macao pour que ceux-ci le recompensent ainsi.” (Manguin 1972, pp. 205-206).

74 Navarrete departed from Manila on the 14 th of February 1657 (Navarrete 1704, p.257), arrived in Zamboanga on the 6 th of March {ibid.), departed from there on the 7 th of March {ibid.), arrived in Macassar (Indonesia) in October (p.258), departed from Macassar on St Anthony’s day (June 13 th ) of 1658 (p.263), passed by Tacarabaca (Taka Bakang) and shores of Champa and Cochinchina (no landing is mentioned) (p.264) and arrived in Macao on July 13 th . This timetable and the lack of any explicit mention of landing on his way from Macassar to Macao suggest that he most likely did not land in Cochinchina in 1658.




traveling in Asia in contradistinction to the time when he was writing his book
after his return in Europe in the early 1670s, and thus may correspond to a rather
long period of time. Navarrete may have obtained the information of the
knighted founder from other members of the Order he encountered in Asia, in
particular, from Emanuel Leal de Fonseca, a Knight of the Order of Christ, with 76 whom Navarrete had conversations in Macao in 1659.

6. Joao’s Knighthood: An Evidence?

The conjecture that Joao indeed was a Knight of the Order of Christ may be
corroborated by an otherwise rather obscure statement found in Chevreuil’s
report of the persecutions of 1664:

“Some time later I found quite precise information concerning the motives that
pushed the King to this extremity which has never been practiced before by any
tyrant or enemy of our Saint Faith, since this King, moreover, venerated
strongly the Lord of Heaven; I was told by some well informed individuals that
some Christians with bad intentions told [the King] that the Crucifix was the
image of the King of Portugal. This can be, since he [= the King of Cochin-
china] was informed by Joao da Cruz about the King of Portugal, about his
power in the Indies, and how many vessels he had in Goa and Macao, and
whether those who converted in the Indies into his religion were obliged to take
the same habit as the Portuguese .” 77

Chevreuil goes on in describing how the identification of Jesus Christ with the
King of Portugal made the King of Cochinchina initiate the persecution during
which the Cochinchinese Catholics were forced to step upon the crucifix,
supposedly representing the King of Portugal, in order to prove their loyalty to
the King of Cochinchina. The “Christians with bad intentions”, as it follows
from this very wording, could not be other than members of the Jesuit Mission
or their allies, and maybe even Joao himself, yet several lines below Chevreuil


75 There existed age limits for the persons wishing to be knighted (the candidates had to be under fifty years of age) (Dutra 1970, p.7), and Joao should have been approaching 50 in 1658. However, as Dutra himself demonstrates, the age limit was not strictly respected and in a number of cases was the matter of dispensation; see Dutra 1970, pp.7-8.

76 Navarrete 1704, p.293.

71 “Je m’informai par apres assez exactement des motifs qui avaient porte le roi a en venir a cette extremite qui n’a jamais ete pratiquee par aucun tyrant ni ennemi de notre sainte foi, car d’ailleurs ce roi honore fort le Dieu du ciel; il me fut repondu par des personnes bien entendues, que quelques chretiens mal intentionnes avaient dit que le Crucifix etait l’image du roi de Portugal. Cela peut-etre, car de mon temps il s’informa pres de Jean de la Croix du roi de Portugal, de son pouvoir dans les Indes, et combien il avait de vaisseaux a Goa et a Macao, et si ceux qui se convertissent dans les Indes a sa religion, on les obligeait a prendre le meme habit que les Portugais.” (Launay 1923, vol. 1, p.25).



suggests that the connection between the Crucifix and the King of Portugal may
also have come from the “Jews who were in a very large number in this
nation” 78 and were naturally jealous of the progress that the Holy Faith might
have made in the country with the arrival of the French bishops. The “Jews”
mentioned by Chevreuil were most likely the Buddhists, and thus the
persecution, according to him, was no other than a large scale conspiracy of the
Jesuits (or the Buddhists, or both) designed in order to stop the triumph of the
French missionaries in the country.

Even though it remains unclear who and for what reason informed the
Nguyen Lord about the crucifix, the identification of the image of Jesus Christ
with the King of Portugal, presented by Chevreuil as a vicious lie needed to
infuriate the King, may have had a very different meaning; in particular, it
would have reflected an actual fact if Joao indeed was a Knight of the Order of
Christ. The Rule of the Order stated: “By the vow of obedience, one renounces
his own will and entrusts it to the Master of the Order, who is the King, Our
Lord, who takes the place of Christ, our Redeemer [italics mine. — A.V.]”. 79
The Master of the Order was the King of Portugal since the reign of Manuel I
(1495-1 521), 80 and this vow taken by all the Knights of the Order may have
been misunderstood by a person ignorant of subtleties of the tradition of the
Order — for example, by the King of Cochinchina — as if the man on the cross
of the Crucifix actually was the King of Portugal. The identification of Jesus
Christ with the Portuguese King mentioned by Chevreuil thus may suggest that
the King of Cochinchina was aware of this particular vow of the Knights, which
would be difficult to explain if there were no Knights of Order around. The next
phrase in Chevreuil’s report (“This can be, since he [= the King of Cochinchina]
was informed by Joao da Cruz about the King of Portugal…”) means that the
Nguyen Lord himself asked Joao questions about the Portuguese King.
It probably will remain unknown whether Joao did reveal to the Nguyen Lord
this particular detail concerning the vow of the Order or the latter had some
other informants who knew about this element of the vows of the Order and
whose intentions were to compromise Joao and his group. If the latter conjecture
is correct, the intention of those informants was most likely the removal of Joao
from office, yet instead they triggered the persecutions mainly focusing on the
local Catholics of low level.

78 “Je crois que le rapport qu’on fit du crucifix est une tres grande calomnie des Juifs, qui sont en tres grand nombre en cette nation […]” (Launay 1923, vol. 1, p.26).

79 Dutra 1970, pp. 13-14.

80 Dutra 1989, p.89, n.6; see also Dutra 1970, p. 14, n.55




Another piece of evidence corroborating, to a certain extent, the conjecture
of Joao’ s knighthood, is his request to build a church. According to the regulations
of the Order of Christ, each Knight had to go to confession and communion at
least four times a year, 81 and to obtain affidavits confirming that he did so which
would be checked by Visitors of the Order. 8 ‘ Joao, if he indeed was a Knight,
would have needed the church for this particular purpose.

The last and probably the most spectacular piece of evidence corroborating
the knighthood of Joao. even though based on an assumption that he had worked
in Cambodia prior to his arrival in Cochinchina. is found in Bangkok National
Museum (Thailand). The Museum preserves two identical cannons (see Fig. 1).

The two cannons bear the identical stamps shown in Figure 2. The inscription reads
“Camboia [= Cambodia] 1651”; interestingly enough, the spelling of the word
“Camboia” and the ligature of letters “M” and “B” in it are identical with those
found on the cannons made by Joao in Cochinchina (see Appendix A. Figs.7 and 9).


81 Dutra 1970, p. 14.

82 Dutra 1970, p. 17.



Even more interesting is that both stamps, unmistakably, feature the Cross of the
Order of Christ (the so-called “Templar Cross”). The presence of the cross may
suggest that the founder who made the cannons belonged to the Order. If Joao
indeed worked in Cambodia in the early 1650s (and, probably, in late 1940s),
these two cannons well may have been made by him. and the stamps on the
cannons thus would strongly suggest that he indeed was a member of the Order
no later than 1651. 83


82 In turn, if Joao never worked in Cambodia and te cannons were not made by him, the stamps on the cannons still suggest that some unidentified members of the Order excelling in weaponry were active in Cambodia in early 1650s.




7. The Letter of da Gama

The aforementioned letter of da Gama addressed to Joao represents another
indirect evidence of a particular position of Joao. Luis da Gama (or, in old 84 transcription, Luiz da Gamma), 1610-1672, Jesuit Visitor in China and Japan, 85 sent a long (21 manuscript pages) letter to Joao (Fig. 3) dated of February 6, 1670. As it follows from the letter of da Gama, he was answering questions earlier
posed to him by Joao. 86

The style and the contents of the letter would be rather unusual if Joao were
a simple technical expert occupying a low position at the court of the King of
Cochinchina. In the first lines of his letter da Gama addresses Joao as “Vossa
Alteza” (Your Highness) and “Vossa Merce” (Your Grace), the forms which
would be appropriate only if Joao were a member of Portuguese nobility.


84 See Dehergne 1973, p. 105, n.349; see also Brockey 2007, p.133.

85 Biblioteca da Ajuda, Jesuitas na Asia, 49-IV-62, fols.675r-685r.

86 The transcription of the letter were kindly provided on my request by Professor Ana Cristina da Costa Gomes (Centro Cientffico e Cultural de Macau) and Miss Mafalda Mendes (University of Lisbon); in this paper, I rely upon the ample explanations concerning the contents of the letter and its partial translation kindly offered by Luis Saraiva. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all three scholars.



The letter contains a long and detailed report of the activities of the Jesuits in
Cochinchina starting from their arrival in 1615 and ending at the time when it
was written. The arguments and facts provided by da Gama are so numerous and
complex that it would be impossible to discuss them in this paper, yet the style
and the contents of the letter suggests that da Gama reports to Joao on the
activities of Jesuits and the MEP almost as if the latter were in the position to
make important decisions concerning the fate of the Catholic missions in

8. Conclusions

The available documents depict an image of Joao da Cruz rather different from
that produced by the missionaries of the MEP and by later historians relying on
their accounts. 87 Numerous elements of his biography remain uncertain, but my
short investigation shows that one can safely conjecture that he was a half-
Portuguese mestizo probably bom and most likely trained and married in Macao
who became a Knight of the Order of Christ no later than 1651 and was
dispatched by the superiors of the Order to serve in Cambodia and, later, in

It appears that one can interpret Joao’s activities in Cochinchina adequately
only if taking into account three different agendas, that of the Jesuits, of the
Nguyen Lords, and of Joao himself (or of the Order of Christ, if the hypothesis
of Joao’s knighthood is correct). The attempts of the Jesuits to reach the highest
levels of political hierarchy in Cochinchina modeled upon the example of those
working in China became successful only after Joao, using his technological
expertise, obtained a particularly high official position at the Court of Hue.
In turn, one of the most pressing needs of the Nguyen Lords was to obtain the
state-of-the-art military technology; however, as it can be seen through their
interest to the Western astronomy, mathematics, and medicine expressed in the
subsequent appointments of Jesuit experts in these fields, their actual
modernization agenda was much broader than a mere domination in military
sphere. The agenda of Joao was clearly aiming at the support of Jesuits, which
would be rather logical if he indeed was a Knight of the Portuguese Military
Order of Christ. One can observe that in this particular case the three agendas
were mutually reinforcing each other.

To fully understand Joao’s agenda one has to investigate the history of
activities of the Order of Christ in South-East Asia; as far as the history of


87 Nola Cooke (2008) argued that the accounts on the missionary activities of all the involved parties were often distorted intentionally.




science is concerned, it appears relevant to investigate how exactly the bulk
of scientific, medical, and technological knowledge provided by the Jesuits
was transmitted, understood and dealt with in Cochinchina in the late 17 th –
early 18 th century when a series of appointments of Jesuit experts to high
positions at the Court of Hue was triggered by Joao’s activities. Any attempts to
address these two research questions would go far beyond the scope of the
present paper; I hope to deal with them in future publications.


1 would like to thank Luis Saraiva and Catherine Jami for their professional and
personal support kindly offered at all stages of my work on this paper.
I gratefully acknowledge the travel grant of the Centro Cientffico e Cultural de
Macau, and the financial assistance obtained in the framework of the project
“Multiculturalism in Monsoon Asia” of the National

Tsing-Hua University (Hsinchu, Taiwan) at the final stage of the work on the

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APPENDIX A — The cannons made by Joao currently exhibited at the
Ministry of Defence in Bangkok

The earliest report on the cannons at the Court of Cochinchina (of which at least
some, presumably, were made by Joao) is found in the letter of Thomas Bowyear
of 1696:

“Puis, Ung Coy Back 89 fut charge de me montrer les canons places a l’entour du
Palais, pour savoir si Son Honneur pourrait envoyer au Roi des canons semblables.

II y en avait quatre qui pouvaient lancer un projectile de 6 pouces de diametre.

Tout autour du Palais etaient disposes des canons places a une distance de dix
pieds les uns des autres, les plus petits pouvant lancer un projectile d’environ
8 a 12 livres. Le Palais semble etre un carre parfait d’environ 500 pas de cote.” 90

The distances between the cannons and the dimensions of the Palace
mentioned by Bowyear, apparently approximate, allow us to evaluate the number
of the cannons: if the distance between every two cannons was about 3 meters
(“10 pieds”), and one side of the perimeter of the Palace was approximately 450 m
long (“500 pas”), the total amount of cannons should have been around 600.

The next mention of the cannons is found in the Description of Cochinchina
conventionally credited to the authorship of Pierre Poivre (1719-1786) who
visited Cochinchina in 1742-1743 and 1748-1750;  91 it contains two excerpts relevant to the subject. The first one reads as follows:92

“Le roy a douze cents pieces de canon, toutes de bronze, autour de son palais,
parmi lesquelles il y en a beaucoup de campagne de differens calibres, aux armes
d’Espagne et de Portugal, mais surtout quatre couleuvrines de dix-neuf pieds de
long, aux armes de Cochinchine, qui sont d’une beaute achevee. On y voit des
dragons qui sont les armes du roy, des sphinx, des leopards fort bien executes,
et une main qui semble faite par la nature meme, qui tient un foudre et des traits
enflammes avec cette devise: Ostendunt tela parentem. 93 Elies sont sur des affuts
d’un bois aussi noir que l’ebene, travailles a jour et incrustes en cuivre surdore.


89 On the identity of Ung Coy Back see Cadiere (ed.) (1920), pp. 21 1—212, n. 16.

90 Cadiere (ed.) (1920), p. 198. The English original remains unavailable to me. For the location of the Palace at that time, see Cadiere, op. cit., p.223, n.34.

91 A brief biography of P. Poivre is found in Li and Reid 1993, pp. 60-63. It was suggested that the Description was written not by Poivre but by someone else, probably by an anonymous officer who traveled together with Poivre (Li and Reid 1993, p.63). An English translation is published in Li and Reid 1993, pp.70-71. The original description is found in (Poivre 1885, pp.478—480); it was also quoted (probably, indirectly) in Manguin (1972, p.207, n.2), who provides a different year of publication of Poivre’s Description (1887).

92 I would like to thank Mau Chuan-Hui who kindly photocopied for me the relevant pages of (Poivre 1885) in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

93 “They display spears for the ancestors”; see Li and Reid 1993, p.71.




Presque toutes les autres pieces sont sur des repiquets ou sur des traverses
de bois grossierement faites. La date de la fonte de ces canons est de 1650
jusqu’en 1660, avec le nom du fondeur en abrege.

Cette belle artillerie est 1’ouvrage des Portugais. Dans le temps que cette nation
formoit un etablissement a Macao, alors l’objet de tous ses soins, elle y envoyoit
tous les ans plusieurs vaisseaux avec des gens a talent de toute espece, mais
surtout des fondeurs. Quelques-uns de ces vaisseaux perirent sur les cotes de la
Cochinchine. Ceux qui se sauverent offrirent leurs services au Roy qui regnoit
alors et qui leur fit fondre les canons qu’on voit aujourd’huy.

Les Cochinchinois negligent ou ignorent ce qui pourroit rendre cette artillerie
utile, chaque piece n’a pas six coups a tirer et la plupart des boulets ne sont pas
de calibre.” 94

This description by Poivre partly contradicts another description of the
cannons found in his report on the Royal Palace:

“Tous les vides que laissent ces colonnes sont gamis de canons dont le tiers est
monte sur des affuts un peu legers mais tres propres. Sur mille deux cent pieces
de canon que j’ai comptees dans cette halle tout le tour du palais, il y a plus de
huit cents de belle fonte et presque tous du calibre de quatre livres, quelques
uns de six et douze pieces de vingt-quatre.

Ces demiercs pieces sont magnifiques. On y voit les armes de Portugal, le nom
du fondeur portugais nomme Joan d’Acrus d’Acunha et l’annee a laquelle
il fondait ces beaux ouvrages qui est l’annee mille six cent soixante et un.

Les petites pieces sont presque toutes aux armes du Roy de Cambodge qui sont
un coq, elles sont egalement fondues par les Portugais anciennement etablis
a Athien, capitale alors du Cambodge.” 95

One can conjecture that the number of cannons given by Poivre (1200) was
most likely based on the number of columns of the palace (800) he mentioned
(p.90) and on a particular disposition of cannons next to the columns (e.g. three
cannons for every two columns).

The two excerpts authored by Poivre contradict each other in many points.
When mentioning the material of which the cannons were made, the former
excerpt mentions 1,200 cannons made of bronze, while according to the latter,
not all of them but only “more than 800” were made of bronze. 96 According to
the first description some of them bore the coat of arms of Spain and Portugal,
while the four largest (six meters) cannons bore the coat of arms of Cochinchina. 97


94 Poivre 1885, p.90; for an English translation, see Li and Reid 1993, pp.70-71.

95 Poivre 1885, pp.478^179.

96 According to Manguin, exactly 800 cannons were made of bronze (Manguin 1972, p.207).

97 The description of the “coat of arms” of Cochinchina suggests that it was designed by a Westerner, in particular, because it had a motto in Latin.



In the second description Poivre mentions not four but 12 six-meter cannons
with the coat of arms of Portugal (and not Cochinchina). In the first description
he does not mention any specific name(s) of the founder(s) while saying only
that the “name of the founder is abbreviated”, 98 yet in the second one he
gives the name of “Joan d’Acrus d’Acunha” (probably, a transcription of
“JOAODACRUSDACUNHA”?). The coat of arms printed on the largest
cannons is not mentioned in the second description, while in the first one it is
discussed in great detail. Moreover, in the first description Poivre claimed that
the cannons bore the date when they were made (“from 1650 until 1660”), 99
while in the second description he does not mention any these dates but instead
specifies that the 12 longest cannons were made in 1661. According to Poivre ’s
second description, he also saw some cannons of smaller size with a stamp of a
rooster that he identified as the coat of arms of the King of Cambodia. Manguin
conjectures that those might have been the cannons seized during the sack of
Udong of 1658 by the Nguyen Lord when Joao, according to Manguin, was
captured by the Cochinchinese troops and brought to Hue.100 As the reader saw
in the section above devoted to the cannons made in Cambodia by a Western
founder (presumably by Joao) in 1651, the cannons did not have the coat of arms
with a rooster (which, technically, would have been related to Portugal rather
than Cambodia).

The cannons made in 1664 and 1665 and stored in Hue were inspected by
J. Crawfurd in 1822, yet the latter author does not provide any information
concerning their founder and total number:

“[…] among the cannon in the arsenal were a good number of very well
founded ordnance, apparently of the size of long nine-pounders, as old as the
years 1664 and 1665. These had an inscription in the Portuguese language,
importing that they were cast in Cochin China, or Kamboja, 101 and bearing the
dates in question, with the name of the artist. Although very inferior indeed to
those recently cast under the direction of the French, still they were very good
specimen of workmanship.”102


98 It cannot be ruled out that Poivre refers to the “Joao da t” mentioned by Cadiere (see above).

99 Manguin (1972, p.207) does not mention the dates 1650-1660 probably, because it would contradict his hypothesis that Joao was brought to Hue by force in 1658 and thus it would be very unlikely that a large amount of cannons could have been produced by him between 1650 and 1660.

100 Manguin 1972, p.207.

101 As the reader shall see below, the extant cannons made by Joao indeed bear an inscription mentioning Cochinchina and Cambodia, yet it is also possible that Crawfurd saw cannons made in Cambodia and transferred to Hue.

102 Crawfurd’s report (Crawfurd 1987, p.253) was also mentioned in (Cadiere 1919, p.528) who assumes that the cannons were made by Joao.




When the French took over Hue in 1885. the total number of cannons in
cast iron and in bronze they found there was around 800, of which 336 were
mounted on the ramparts; 10, they were “broken by the French and sold out”
in 1888-1890. and many of them bore the name of Joao, according to
J.-N. Renauld. 104 The reasons for destruction of the cannons remain unknown. 106

L. Cadiere mentions two cannons made by Joao put on display near the
Ministry of War (now Ministry of Defence) in Bangkok; the inscriptions on them
made in Portuguese for the first time were copied and translated by G. Ccedes
(1886-1969) and later by J. Burnay (1936).

My inspection of the exhibition next to the Ministry of Defence (July 2009)
reveals the following. The two cannons made by Joao are still on display near
the Ministry. 106 Each cannon has an individual number; the cannon no. 23 is the
one made by Joao in 1667, and no. 27, in 1670.


103 “Sur les remparts, on trouva 336 canons: 173 en fonte et 163 en bronze. Le nombre total de bouches a feu ramenees au pare fut d’environ 800. Le poids estime des canons en bronze fut d’environ 500 tonnes.” (Delvaux 1920, p.29 1 )

104 ”Ce nom [= Jean de la Croix] se voyait dans des inscriptions portugaises sur de nombreuses pieces de canon qui ont ete brisees et vendues par les Francais en 1888. 1889, 1890. avec le dates de 1600 et quelques annees.” (Cadiere 1919, p.530)

105 One can conjecture that the bronze of which the cannons were made was used to produce bronze coins of one cent (introduced by the French colonial authorities in 1880s).

106 I would like to express my gratefulness to the personnel of the Ministry of Defence of Thailand with whose kind permission I was able to take photographs of the inscriptions on both cannons.



The brief introductions provided by anonymous Thai historians on billboards
set next to the cannons wrongly mention Joao as a Jesuit.

The pictures of the inscriptions are shown in Figures 6-7 (cannon no. 23) and
Figures 8-9 (cannon no.27).




The inscription on cannon 23 in the upper cartouche reads “PorEIREI
DACRVSAEESEM1667”. 10, The most convincing interpretation of the inscrip-
tion was suggested by Burnay; it reads “Por el Rei e Gra S[enhor] de Cochinchina
Champa e Camboia Ioao da Crus a fes em 1667”, or, in modem orthography,
Joao da Cmz a fez em…” (p.438), that is, “For King and Great Lord of Cochin-
china. of Champa, and of Cambodia. Joao da Crus made it [i.e. the cannon] in 1667”____________________

107 Burnay (p.438) transcribes “ECRAS 0 ” instead of “ECRAS 0 ”.



The inscription on cannon 27 reads: in the upper cartouche, “PorEEREI
DACRVSAEESEM 1670”. 108 The interpretation of Bumay for this inscription is
the same as for the previous one. 109


108 Bumay does not mention that the last “N” in this inscription is inverted and printed as “H” and transcribes it with a regular N.

109 Manguin 1972, pp.206-207 reproduces only the transcription of the text on cannon 27; he uses the transliteration and interpretation of Cadiere and not those of Bumay.




APPENDIX B — Joao’s bronze gong

Besides the production of cannons so appreciated by King Hien, Joao is credited
with the production of a number of other objects (listed in Cadiere 1924, p.3 14)
including a bronze gong khdnh if. 110 The statement of Joao’s authorship was
reiterated by Cadiere in his publication of 1930 (p.426) with a reference to
Bonhomme 1915, yet the latter in his publication does not mention the name of
the founder.

Cadiere only mentions that the gong was established in front of the pagoda
Tien-Mo (or rather Thien Mu Heavenly Matriarch) later known as the “Pagoda of Confucius” and does not discuss the objects it represented. 1 1 1 These objects are: the Big Dipper located in the central part of the gong and symbols of the so-called 28 lunar mansions (lunar lodges) of Chinese cosmography depicted in the traditional way around it as small circles connected by segments of straight lines, subdivided into two groups of fourteen constellations each. If Joao indeed designed the gong, he either was familiar with the Vietnamese scientific tradition or used an astronomical chart provided by Vietnamese literati or priests. 112

In his account Bonhomme mentions two inscriptions on the surface of the
gong, yet from the pictures he offers it is clear that the surface of the gong is
decorated with four vertical inscriptions, each in a rectangular cartouche.
Bonhomme combined in pairs the inscriptions located on the opposite surfaces
of the gong.

Inscription 1 (side A, right cartouche) reads:
that is, “The leader of the [templel parish Tran Binh-An, Daoist name (?) Minh-
Hong, Buddhist name Tinh-Tin”.

Inscription 2 (side A, left cartouche) reads: “Merits and virtues

(or: meritorious and beneficent [deeds]) of/for [all] the ten directions [of the
Universe]”. 113


110 For a brief description of the gong, see Bonhomme 1915, pp.273 274. This description contains two handmade pictures of the object as well as the inscriptions on it.

111 Bonhomme provides a description of the buildings in the complex, which included apparently Daoist (such as Yu huang dian BESfS) as well as Buddhist temples, see Bonhomme 1915, p.178. This fits into the presence of the Daoist and Buddhist names of the donator of the gong. Tran Dinh-An.

112 The images of constellations on the gong contain certain particularities which, to my knowledge, were not studied by colonial or Vietnamese scholars; I shall discuss them in a later publication.

113 “Ten directions”, a Buddhist term representing the entire Universe referring to the four cardinal directions and four intermediate directions of the compass, the nadir and the zenith.



Inscription 3 (side B, right cartouche) reads: “The gong of the (Daoist) temple Binh Trung”.

Inscription 4 (side B, left cartouche) reads: “Made in the mid-autumn of the second year of [the era] Vinh Tri 114 corresponding to the cyclical signs dinh-ti”. 115

In his communication Bonhomme (1915, p.274) combines the inscription 4
with inscription 1 to obtain … (translated by him as “Fabrique en la 2 e annee de Vinh Tri annee dinh-ti, (1674), au milieu de l’automne; offert par le President de la confrerie Tran-Binh-An, du nom religieux de Minh-Hong et du nom bouddhique de Tinh-Tin”)
and inscription 3 with inscription 2 to obtain (translated as “ Khanh du temple Binh-Trung, 116 merite de la region entire”). 117. The photograph of the gong and the sketches of sides A and B (Planches 37-38) he offers in his paper are not clear enough, but the words cannot be seen in Inscription 1 .

The gong (or its replica?) is still extant and preserved in the same Thien Mu
temple (now belonging to a small Buddhist monastic community).
My inspection of the recent pictures of the gong (see Figs. 10 and 11) proved that
Inscription 1, indeed, does not contain the words i##^. 118

Bonhomme ’s suggestion to combine together the inscriptions found on the
opposite sides of the instrument appears plausible, but the order in which he puts
the inscriptions can be questioned. One can suggest that side A contains the begin-
nings of the inscriptions, and side B, their endings. In this case the first inscription
is to be read “The gong of the (Daoist) temple Binh Trung [granting] merits and benefits for [all] the ten regions [of the Universe]”, 119 and the second, “The leader of the [temple] parish Tran Dinh-An, Daoist name (?) Minh-Hong, Buddhist name Tinh-Tin, made [it] in the mid-autumn of the second year of [the era] Vinh Tri 120 corresponding to the cyclical signs dinh-ti”. 121


114 Era Vinh Tri: 1678-1680; second year of this period corresponds to 1679.

115 the year dinh-ti (Chinese reading ding-si ) corresponds to the 54 th year of the 60-year cycle; if the beginning of the cycle is taken to be 1624, as in China, then the 54 th year should be 1677.

116 Bonhomme mentions that Tran Dinh-An after retirement stayed in the “pagoda” Binh-Trung tu (Bohnomme 1915, p.274, n.l).

117 Bonhomme 1915, p.274.

118 lam grateful to Mr. Mai Khac Ung and Ms. Mai Bui Dieu Linh for kindly sending me pictures of the gong and providing me with information concerning the current state of the monastery and the foundry.

119 This inscription thus suggests that the gong was designed to be placed in the monastery Binh Trung in Tran’s home village where he stayed after his retirement in 1703.

120 Era Vinh Tri: 1678-1680; second year of this period corresponds to 1679.

121 According to Le 2006, the year dinh-ti corresponds to 1677.




Figure 10. Side A of the gong. The abbot of the monastery, Mr. Thi’ch Tn Tun, is sitting next to the gong.  Picture courtesy of Mai Khac Ung and Mai Bui Dieu Linh, April 2009.

Figure 11. Side B of the gong. Picture courtesy of Mai Khac Ung and Mai Bui Dieu Linh, April 2009.



Brief biographies of Tran Binh-An (1624-1705) are found in (Bonhomme
1915, p.274, n. 1) and (Cadiere 1920, p.215, n.23); both authors draw upon the
Dai Nam liet truyen tien bien BtT&fii (Initial Chapters of the Ordered

Biographies of the Great Southern [State]) published in 1852. According to those,
Tran distinguished himself during the military campaign of the Nguyen against
the Trinh in 1672-73, being the military advisor to the King. A personal
connection between Tran, the prominent military leader, and Joao, the high-rank
expert in weaponry, thus would seem rather natural. It remains uncertain whether
Joao indeed “made” (that is, designed and cast) the gong himself, as Cadiere
suggested. However, if the foundry was indeed directed by Joao, it would have
been him who officially “made” the gong even if he was not directly involved in
its production.

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