xxxxxThe Italian Matteo Ricci became a Jesuit in 1571. He first served in India, but then spent almost 30 years in China, beginning in 1583, where he became highly regarded by scholars and members of the royal family. In 1597 he was appointed director of Jesuit activities throughout the country. He translated Christian works into Chinese, taught mathematics, and spoke about life in the West. He also produced an amazing map of the world to show China’s geographical position. By the time of his death there were many churches in the south and centre of the country, including one in Peking. In 1692 the Chinese government passed an Edict of Toleration, but later a dispute arose over the value of Confucian thought, and persecution followed.
MATTEO RICCI IN CHINA 1583 -
Matteo Ricci: detail, by the Chinese painter Emmanuel Pereira (1575-
xxxxxMatteo Ricci was born in Macerata, central Italy, and after studying law in Rome, became a Jesuit in 1571. He served in India for a short time, and then at Macau where he began his study of Chinese and Confucianism. In 1583 he entered China and settled in Kwantung Province. Here he spent much time learning the language, studying Chinese literature, and adopting native dress and customs. His travels then took him to Nan-
xxxxxDuring his stay and travels in China, he was allowed to preach and to translate Christian works into Chinese. He also taught science to Chinese scholars, informed them about the West, and produced a remarkable map of the world, called The Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries to show them their country's geographical position (illustrated). His acknowledged place in Chinese cultural circles also enabled him to provide Europe with its first modern account of life in the Chinese Empire. Among the works he wrote in Chinese, most of them during his years in Peking, were The Secure Treatise on God, The Twenty-
xxxxxBy the time of his death, nearly thirty years after he first arrived in China, Jesuit communities had been established in many cities in the south and centre of the country, a church had been built in Peking itself, and the Christian faith was understood and respected by many of the intelligentsia. Later, in 1692, the Chinese government went so far as to pass an Edict of Toleration, but by that time controversy had broken out in the Church over the extent to which Confucian thought should be incorporated into Christian belief, and this led to a period of persecution.
xxxxxIncidentally, over the years 1574 to 1603 Ricci produced several versions of his world map. In 1620, ten years after his death, his successor, Giulio Aleni, was tasked with amending it so as to show China more in the centre!
Edmund Campion and
xxxxxA Jesuit missionary who enjoyed no such success was the Englishman Edmund Campion (1540-
xxxxxAnxious to re-
xxxxxThe Englishman Robert Southwell (1561-
Last verse -
God present is at once in every place,
Yet God in every place is ever one;
So may there be by gifts of ghostly grace,
One man in many rooms, yet filling none;
Since angels may effects of bodies shew
God angels' gifts on bodies may bestow.
xxxxxA Jesuit who helped to prepare Ricci for his missionary work was the Italian Alessandro Valignano (1539-
xxxxxA fellow countryman who helped to prepare Ricci for his work in China was the Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano (1539-
xxxxxA Jesuit who enjoyed only limited success was the Englishman Edmund Campion (1540-