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Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court

Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court

by Michela Fontana
Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court

Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court

by Michela Fontana


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Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), the first of the early Jesuit missionaries of the China mission, is widely considered the most outstanding cultural mediator of all time between China and the West. This engrossing and fluid book offers a thorough, knowledgeable biography of this fascinating and influential man, telling a deeply human and captivating story that still resonates today. Michela Fontana traces Ricci's travels in China in detail, providing a rich portrait of Ming China and the growing importance of cultural exchanges between China and the West. She shows how Ricci incorporated his ideas of "cultural accommodation" into both his life and his writings aimed at the Chinese elite. Her biography is the first to highlight Ricci's immensely important scientific work and that of key Christian converts, such as Xu Guangqi, who translated Euclid's Elements together with Ricci. Exploring the history of science in China and the West as well as their dramatically different cultural attitudes toward religious and philosophical issues, Michela Fontana introduces not only Ricci's life but the first significant encounter between Western and Chinese civilizations.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442205864
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 05/16/2011
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Michela Fontana, who holds a degree in mathematics and taught at Milano State University, is a science journalist and writer who lived in China for several years. She was a recipient of the Knight Science Fellowship for science journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has won the Glaxo Prize for science journalism, the Pirelli International Award for the popularization of science, and the 2010 Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique for the French edition of Matteo Ricci. She wrote the script for the play Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit Scientist at the Ming Court.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Mandarin's Clothes xiii

The Audience xiii

Chapter 1 The Jesuit and Mathematics 1

The Choice 1

The Society of Jesus and the Roman College: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam 5

Mathematics, and Astronomy Christopher Clavius 9

Chapter 2 In the East 17

Departure: "All Those Seas" 17

In India 22

"Chinese in China": Valignano's Policy of Cultural Accommodation 25

Macao, the Gateway to China 28

Chapter 3 The Difficulty of Learning Chinese 33

The Name of China, Ideograms, and Brushes 33

Books Galore 37

The Charade of the Permit and the Letter Wang Pan 39

Residence on Chinese Soil in Zhaoqing 42

Chapter 4 The Man from the West 47

Chinese Life 47

Discovering Chinese Society 51

The Five Continents: The First Edition of the Map of the World 54

Religion in China: Heaven, the Gods, and the Name of God 59

Chapter 5 The Pride of Li Madou 67

"We Have Become Chinese": Ricci Turns into Li Madou, Xitai 67

The Failure of the Idea of a Spanish Embassy to the Chinese Emperor 70

Superstitions, Wondrous Potions, and False Accusations: Wang Pan's Volte-face and Ruggieri's Departure 73

Expulsion from Zhaoqing 77

Chapter 6 The Meeting of Confucius and Euclid 81

The Buddhist Monastery and the Mummy of Liuzu 81

Life in Shaozhou and the Meeting with the Would-be Alchemist Qu Taisu 84

Doing Sums with Brush and Paper 88

Euclidean Geometry and the Achievements of Chinese Mathematics 90

Social Relations and Popular Hostility 93

Chapter 7 Metamorphosis into Mandarin 99

Distance and Nostalgia 99

The Minister Wang and the Reform of the Calendar 102

Confucius, "Another Seneca": The Translation of the Confucian Classics 104

The Attempt to Reach Beijing: Shipwreck and the Abandonment of Buddhist Robes 106

Expulsion from Nanjing 111

China and the Cathay of Marco Polo 114

Chapter 8 The Strength of Friendship 120

A Courteous Welcome to Nanchang 120

I Cannot Tell a Lie 123

The "Treatise on Friendship," a Moral Essay in Chinese 126

An Extraordinary Gift: The "Treatise on Mnemonic Arts" 129

The "Absurdities" and Achievements of Chinese Astronomy 132

Astronomy and the Emperor 135

Chapter 9 To Beijing! 140

The Conjecture about Cathay, the Order to Reach Beijing, and the Gifts for the Emperor 140

The Imperial Examinations for Entry into the Bureaucracy 143

Along the "Grand Canal" to the Capital 145

The First Time in Beijing, the City of Dust 148

Withdrawal to the South 151

Chapter 10 Heated Disputes and Science Lessons 154

Social Life in Nanjing 154

An Argument with a Buddhist 158

A Universe of Crystalline Spheres: The "Treatise on the Four Elements" 162

The Forgotten Astronomical Observatory 164

Chapter 11 Prisoner of the Eunuch 169

The Eunuchs, the Emperor's Private Bureaucracy 169

A Chinese Name for Europe: The Second Edition of the Map of the World 172

The Journey to Beijing: The Meeting with the Fearsome Ma Tang 176

Imprisonment and Liberation 180

Chapter 12 In the Heart of the Empire 185

The Solemn Entrance into Beijing 185

The Golden Prison of the Emperor Wanli 189

The Dialogue at a Distance with the Son of Heaven 191

Imprisonment in the "Foreigners' Castle" 196

Chapter 13 The Empty Throne 200

The Audience in the Forbidden City 200

Other Memorials on the Ricci Case 204

Ricci Settles in Beijing by Order of the Emperor 206

Li Zhizao and Geography: The Third Edition of the Map of the World 209

Constellations, Arithmetic, and Christian Doctrine 212

Chapter 14 The Lord of Heaven 217

The Burning of "Idols" and Books, and the Fourth Edition of the Map of the World 217

Anti-Buddhist Persecution 220

Valignano's Help to Strengthen the Mission 223

Ricci's "Catechism," The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven 224

Chapter 15 Doctor Paul 230

the "Pillar" of the Mission Paul Xu 230

Examinations and Baptisms 232

Commending Virtue: The Twenty-Five Discourses 234

"Send Me an Astronomer" 237

The Jew and the "Worshipers of the Cross" 239

Chapter 16 Euclid Becomes Chinese 243

The Death of Valignano 243

The Search for Cathay: Confirmation of Ricci's Conjecture 246

Mathematics at the Service of the Empire 249

The Translation of Euclid's Elements 251

The Perfection of Geometry 253

The Fruits of the School of Mathematics: Works of Trigonometry and Astronomy 257

Chapter 17 The Open Door 260

The Paradoxes of an Extraordinary Man 260

The History of the Mission 263

The Imperial Map of the World 266

The End of the Journey: Ricci's Death 268

Wanli's Tribute 272

Chapter 18 After Matteo Ricci: the Scientific Legacy, Triumph, and Persecution 277

The Jesuit Mathematicians and the Scandal of the Eclipse 277

Scientific Work 280

The Reform of the Calendar 282

The End of the Ming Dynasty 285

The Jesuit Verbiest, Emperor Kangxi, and Ricci's Geometry 288

The Chinese Rites Controversy and the Suppression of the Society of Jesus 291

Remembrance of Matteo Ricci: Writings and Monuments 294

Chronology 299

Chinese Dynasties 303

Glossary 305

Bibliographic Sources 307

Acknowledgments 309

Index of Names 313

About the Author 319

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