A Jesuit In The Forbidden City

Ronnie Po-chia Hsia is a professor at Pennsylvania State University, he has written a very engaging biography of the first Jesuit (Matteo Ricci)  to enter and be received into “The Forbidden City” (Beijing) in 1596.

Everyone knows that the Papacy really screwed up by not accepting long standing genuine practices of inculturation that created Jesuit success throughout the world.  Think Brazil, and even Peru and Ecuador, they all had flourishing Universities and political life because of Jesuit missions.

Matteo Ricci pioneered missions into China with Michele Ruggieri in 1596.  Ruggieri had been recalled back to Europe and in so doing the Society rejected Ricci’s identification of Buddhism in favor of Confucianism.  Having assumed his new persona, Ricci set out to learn Confucian classics, for it was Ricci’s conviction that ancient Chinese beliefs in an omnipotent God had been subverted by the Confucian literati.

By 1608, Matteo Ricci had established mass conversions and political intrigue.  He was called ‘guanxi’ or Master of the Way from the West.  Ricci had mastered Confucian classics, mathematics, astronomy and geography.  What this author exposes is how Ricci’s political connections throughout China saved his missions.

Most are familiar with the achievements of Joseph Needham, for he chronicled most if not all of China’s material achievements in his magnum opus ‘Science & Civilization In China’.  Simon Winchester’s lovely biography ‘The Man Who Loved China’ is a great introduction to Needham’s achievements.

Nevertheless, interested in knowing why the Ming dynasty had such intellectual achievements?  Look no further than the political and cultural achievements that was Li Zhizao, Yang Tingyun or Matteo Ricci.  All three are referred to as ‘The Three Pillars’ of the nascent Jesuit mission that permitted the Han ascendancy of the Ming dynasty.

Ronnie Po-chia Hsia “A Jesuit In The Forbidden City”.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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