Ricci was born 6 October 1552 in Macerata, part of the Papal States and today a city in the Italian region of Marche. He studied the classics in his native hometown and studied law at Rome for two years. He entered the Society of Jesus in April 1571 at the Roman College. While there, in addition to philosophy and theology, he also studied mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy under the direction of Christopher Clavius. In 1577, he applied for a missionary expedition to the Far East. He sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, in March 1578 and arrived in Goa, a Portuguese colony, the following September. Ricci remained employed in teaching and the ministry there until the end of Lent 1582, when he was summoned to Macau to prepare to enter China. Ricci arrived at Macau in the early part of August.
Once in Macau, Ricci studied the Chinese language and customs. It was the beginning of a long project that made him one of the first Western scholars to master Chinese script and Classical Chinese. With Ruggieri, he traveled to Guangdong's major cities, Canton and Zhaoqing (then the residence of the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi), seeking to establish a permanent Jesuit mission outside Macau.
In 1583, Ricci and Ruggieri settled in Zhaoqing, at the invitation of the governor of Zhaoqing, Wang Pan, who had heard of Ricci's skill as a mathematician and cartographer. Ricci stayed in Zhaoqing from 1583 to 1589, when he was expelled by a new viceroy. It was in Zhaoqing, in 1584, that Ricci composed the first European-style world map in Chinese, called "Da Ying Quan Tu" (Chinese: ?; lit. 'Complete Map of the Great World'). No prints of the 1584 map are known to exist, but, of the much improved and expanded Kunyu Wanguo Quantu of 1602, six recopied, rice-paper versions survive.
It is thought that, during their time in Zhaoqing, Ricci and Ruggieri compiled a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, the first in any European language, for which they developed a system for transcribing Chinese words in the Latin alphabet. The manuscript was misplaced in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, rediscovered only in 1934, and published only in 2001.
Matteo Ricci Museum in Zhaoqing (, ), location of the ancient Catholic Church he helped found called .
There is now a memorial plaque in Zhaoqing to commemorate Ricci's six-year stay there, as well as a "Ricci Memorial Centre" in a building dating from the 1860s.
Expelled from Zhaoqing in 1588, Ricci obtained permission to relocate to Shaoguan (Shaozhou, in Ricci's account) in the north of the province, and reestablish his mission there.
During the winter of 1598, Ricci, with the help of his Jesuit colleague Lazzaro Cattaneo, compiled another Chinese-Portuguese dictionary, in which tones in Chinese syllables were indicated in Roman text with diacritical marks. Unlike Ricci's and Ruggieri's earlier Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, this work has not been found.
In 1601, Ricci was invited to become an adviser to the imperial court of the Wanli Emperor, the first Westerner to be invited into the Forbidden City. This honor was in recognition of Ricci's scientific abilities, chiefly his predictions of solar eclipses, which were significant events in the Chinese world. He established the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing, the oldest Catholic church in the city. Ricci was given free access to the Forbidden City but never met the reclusive Wanli Emperor, who, however, granted him patronage, with a generous stipend and supported Ricci's completion of the Zhifang Waiji, China's first global atlas.
Once established in Beijing, Ricci was able to meet important officials and leading members of the Beijing cultural scene and convert a number of them to Christianity.
Ricci was also the first European to learn about the Kaifeng Jews, being contacted by a member of that community who was visiting Beijing in 1605. Ricci never visited Kaifeng, Henan Province, but he sent a junior missionary there in 1608, the first of many such missions. In fact, the elderly Chief Rabbi of the Jews was ready to cede his power to Ricci, as long as he gave up eating pork, but Ricci never accepted the position.
Ricci was succeeded as Provincial Superior of the China mission by Nicolò Longobardo in 1610. Longobardo entrusted another Jesuit, Nicolas Trigault, with expanding and editing, as well as translating into Latin, those of Ricci's papers that were found in his office after his death. This work was first published in 1615 in Augsburg as De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas and soon was translated into a number of other European languages.
Ricci could speak Chinese as well as read and write classical Chinese, the literary language of scholars and officials. He was known for his appreciation of Chinese culture in general but condemned the prostitution which was widespread in Beijing at the time. During his research, he discovered that in contrast to the cultures of South Asia, Chinese culture was strongly intertwined with Confucian values and therefore decided to use existing Chinese concepts to explain Christianity. With his superior Valignano's formal approval, he aligned himself with the Confucian intellectually elite literati, and even adopted their mode of dress. He did not explain the Catholic faith as entirely foreign or new; instead, he said that the Chinese culture and people always believed in God and that Christianity is simply the completion of their faith. He borrowed an unusual Chinese term, Ti?nzh? (, "Lord of Heaven") to describe the God of Abraham, despite the term's origin in traditional Chinese worship of Heaven. (He also cited many synonyms from the Confucian Classics.) He supported Chinese traditions by agreeing with the veneration of family ancestors. Dominican and Franciscan missionaries considered this an unacceptable accommodation, and later appealed to the Vatican on the issue. This Chinese rites controversy continued for centuries, with the most recent Vatican statement as recently as 1939. Some contemporary authors have praised Ricci as an exemplar of beneficial inculturation, avoiding at the same time distorting the Gospel message or neglecting the indigenous cultural media.
Like developments in India, the identification of European culture with Christianity led almost to the end of Catholic missions in China, but Christianity continued to grow in Sichuan and some other locations.
Ricci also met a Korean emissary to China, teaching the basic tenets of Catholicism and donating several books. Along with João Rodrigues's gifts to the ambassador Jeong Duwon in 1631, Ricci's gifts influenced the creation of Korea's Silhak movement.
Cause of canonization
The cause of his beatification, originally begun in 1984, was reopened on 24 January 2010, at the cathedral of the Italian diocese of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia. Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Macerata, formally closed the diocesan phase of the sainthood process on 10 May 2013. The cause moved to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican in 2014.
The following places and institutions are named after Matteo Ricci:
In the run-up to the 400th anniversary of Ricci's death, the Vatican Museums hosted a major exhibit dedicated to his life. Additionally, Italian film director Gjon Kolndrekaj produced a 60-minute documentary about Ricci, released in 2009, titled Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Dragon's Kingdom, filmed in Italy and China.
The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (?) is a book written by Ricci, which argues that Confucianism and Christianity are not opposed and in fact are remarkably similar in key respects. It was written in the form of a dialogue, originally in Chinese. Ricci used the treatise in his missionary effort to convert Chinese literati, men who were educated in Confucianism and the Chinese classics. In the Chinese Rites controversy, some Roman-Catholic missionaries raised the question whether Ricci and other Jesuits had gone too far and changed Christian beliefs to win converts.
Peter Phan argues that True Meaning was used by a Jesuit missionary to Vietnam, Alexandre de Rhodes, in writing a catechism for Vietnamese Christians. In 1631, Girolamo Maiorica and Bernardino Reggio, both Jesuit missionaries to Vietnam, started a short-lived press in Th?ng Long (present-day Hanoi) to print copies of True Meaning and other texts. The book was also influential on later Protestant missionaries to China, James Legge and Timothy Richard, and through them John Nevius, John Ross, and William Edward Soothill, all influential in establishing Protestantism in China and Korea.
Trigault, Nicolas S. J. "China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Mathew Ricci: 1583-1610". English translation by Louis J. Gallagher, S.J. (New York: Random House, Inc. 1953)
On Chinese Government, an excerpt from Chapter One of Gallagher's translation
De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, full Latin text, available on Google Books
A discourse of the Kingdome of China, taken out of Ricius and Trigautius, containing the countrey, people, government, religion, rites, sects, characters, studies, arts, acts; and a Map of China added, drawne out of one there made with Annotations for the understanding thereof (an early English translation of excerpts from De Christiana expeditione) in Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). Can be found in the "Hakluytus posthumus". The book also appears on Google Books, but only in snippet view.
An excerpt from The Art of Printing by Matteo Ricci
Ricci's On Friendship published in Chinese in 1595, translated to English in 2009.
^TANG Kaijian and ZHOU Xiaolei, "Four Issues in the Dissemination
of Matteo Ricci's World Map during the Ming Dynasty", in STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF NATURAL SCIENCES, Vol. 34, No. 3 (2015), pp. 294-315. ?,?34?,?3?(2015?):294-315
^"Dicionário Português-Chinês (Pu-Han cidian): Portuguese-Chinese dictionary" by Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci; edited by John W. Witek. Published 2001, Biblioteca Nacional. ISBN972-565-298-3. Partial preview available on Google Books
^Hinsch, Bret (1990). Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China. University of California Press. p. 2. ISBN0-520-06720-7.
^Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, "Western Gods Meet in the East": Shapes and Contexts of the Muslim-Jesuit Dialogue in Early Modern China, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 55, No. 2/3, Cultural Dialogue in South Asia and Beyond: Narratives, Images and Community (sixteenth-nineteenth centuries) (2012), pp. 517-546.
^Ricci, Matteo (2009). On Friendship. One Hundred Maxims for a Chinese Prince. Translation and introduction by Timothy Billings. New York: Columbia University Press. See also Chu, Wei-cheng (2017) The utility of 'translated' friendship for the Sinophone world: Past and Present. In Carla Risseeuw & Marlein van Raalte (Eds.): Conceptualizing Friendship in Time and Place pp. 169- 183. Leiden & Boston: Brill-Rodipi.
Dehergne, Joseph, S.J. (1973). Répertoire des Jésuites de Chine de 1552 à 1800. Rome: Institutum Historicum S.I. OCLC 462805295
Hsia, R. Po-chia. (2007). "The Catholic Mission and translations in China, 1583-1700" in Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe (Peter Burke and R. Po-chia Hsia, eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN9780521862080ISBN0521862086; OCLC 76935903
Vito Avarello, L'oeuvre italienne de Matteo Ricci: anatomie d'une rencontre chinoise, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2014, 738 pages. (ISBN978-2-8124-3107-4)
Cronin, Vincent. (1955). The Wise Man from the West: Matteo Ricci and his Mission to China. (1955). OCLC 664953N.B.: A convenient paperback reissue of this study was published in 1984 by Fount Paperbacks, ISBN0-00-626749-1.
George L. Harris, "The Mission of Matteo Ricci, S.J.: A Case Study of an Effort at Guided Culture Change in China in The Sixteenth Century", in Monumenta Serica, Vol. XXV, 1966 (168 pp.).
Simon Leys, Madness of the Wise: Ricci in China, an article from his book, The Burning Forest (1983). This is an interesting account, and contains a critical review of The Memory Palace by Jonathan D. Spence.