New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951. First edition. Octavo, original brick red cloth with paper spine label, uncut. Upper front corner bumped, scattered foxing to edges of the text block, gentle toning, creasing to spine ends of bright dust jacket. A nearly-fine copy. Item #752
"THE CATHOLIC DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN HAS BEEN PREFIGURED IN ALL THE RELIGIONS OF THE EAST" First edition of the autobiography of the influential Chinese convert to Roman Catholicism, in a scarce example of the original illustrated dust jacket. Educated in the United States and Europe, John Ching Hsiung Wu had become a respected author and jurist by the mid-1930s. Wu was teaching in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War when he had an epiphany while reading Thérèse of Lisieux's Story of a Soul: "It was through reading this book that I decided to become a Catholic. Grace had touched my heart." Wu received conditional baptism on December 18, 1937 and made his First Communion the next day. After the close of the Second World War, Wu and his family resided in Rome while he represented the Nationalist Chinese government at the Holy See in the years before the Communist Revolution in 1949.
The text—preceded by the author's Dedication: "To Mary, Mother of Divine Grace and Queen of Peace"—is divided into two parts, the first describing a period of "spiritual wandering" followed by a "return of the prodigal." Throughout, Wu is animated by a special devotion to the Mother of God, which he describes as natural to the Asian psyche: "The Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin has been prefigured in all the religions of the East. The Oriental love for the Mother—whatever form she may take—is apt to be a lifelong passion. The passionate affection for the Mother runs through all the religions of the East like a common strain." The affinity for matriarchy is reflected in the back of the double-paneled dust jacket, illustrated with a Chinese Madonna and Child: "One cannot too much emphasize that God is more motherly than a mother. The Chinese respect the father but love the mother. One of the things that attracted me so strongly to Thérèse of Lisieux is that she knew well the maternal quality of God's love."
A Note of Introduction by F.J. Sheed (the publisher of Sheed and Ward) presents Wu to the English-speaking audience: "He is totally Catholic, totally Chinese, and totally himself. Of that self I need say nothing. It is all here in the book. Go ahead and meet John Wu." The book is illustrated with a lovely colored frontispiece portrait by Jean Charlot and four photographic plates throughout the text. The concluding Epilogue is followed by Wu's Explanations and Acknowledgements (dated "Honolulu/February 11, 1951/Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes") recounting the progress of this autobiography to print. The original dust jacket was designed by Jeanyee Wong. Menendez. Road to Rome, 178.