27 September 2010

Missionary to the Forbidden City

Missionary to the Forbidden City, by Sheila Melvin (New York Times, 27 September 2010)

In early May of 1610, the renowned Italian missionary Matteo Ricci took to his bed in the small Beijing rectory he shared with his fellow Jesuits.

It was the Confucian exam season, when candidates from around China flocked to the capital to be tested, and Ricci had been besieged by visitors — sometimes 100 a day. The men who knocked unbidden were drawn by his knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, mechanics, philosophy, literature and rhetoric; the widely popular books he had written — in Chinese — including “On Friendship” and “Ten Discourses of a Strange Man”; his Chinese translation of Euclid’s “Geometry”; annotated maps of the world; deep knowledge of the Confucian classics; phenomenally trained memory — he could scan a list of 500 Chinese characters once and then recite it from memory — backwards — and, no doubt, his reputation for sincerity and modesty.
Link: Missionary to the Forbidden City