Ricci, Matteo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ricci, Matteo

Matteo Ricci (mät-tā´ō rēt´chē), 1552–1610, Italian missionary to China. He entered the Society of Jesus, and in Rome he studied under Clavius. Ricci was sent to the Indies (1578), and he worked at Goa and Cochin until 1582, when he was called to Macao to enter China. In 1583 he and his companion, Father Michele Ruggieri settled in Guangdong prov., studying the language and culture. They found ready acceptance among some officials, for the Chinese took an intense interest in their possessions, such as clocks and Western paintings. The missionaries wrote tracts on Christianity, including a dialogue. Father Ricci's aptitude for languages and his respect for the Chinese classics increased his standing among the officials; by 1589 he had adopted the dress of the literati. In 1595, Father Ricci, now alone, moved to Nanchang, a center of erudition, where he stayed until 1597, when he went to Nanjing. He was twice turned away from Beijing, but in 1601 he was allowed entrance to the capital. There he became a court mathematician and astronomer; he made few converts, but he brought Christianity into good repute. He helped translate many Western works on mathematics and the sciences into Chinese. His maps were eagerly perused by the Chinese, who gained from him their first notion of modern Europe. In return, Ricci sent back to Europe the first modern detailed report on China. He composed a number of treatises, the principal being a catechism, True Doctrine of God, which was widely printed in China.

See H. Bernard, Matteo Ricci's Scientific Contribution to China (1937, repr. 1973); L. J. Gallagher, China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matteo Ricci (1953); V. Cronin, The Wise Man from the West (1955).

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