Jesuit missionaries often led the way for political and cultural contacts with other peoples and the Jesuits in China were no exception. Manuscript letters as well as publications by and about these missionaries will be the focus of this exhibit, which will feature the famous 1602 world map by Zhang Wentao and Jesuit Matteo Ricci.

Jesuit missionaries often led the way for political and cultural contacts with other peoples and the Jesuits in China were no exception. Manuscript letters as well as publications by and about these missionaries will be the focus of this exhibit, which will feature the famous 1602 world map by Zhang Wentao and Jesuit Matteo Ricci.

1602-ricci-mapMatteo Ricci Map

Born in October 1552, in the central Italian town of Macerata, Matteo Ricci (mät-tā'ō rēt'chē) spent nearly all of his adult life engaged in a struggle to bring Christianity to the people of China. He received a classical education, first at the Jesuit school in his home town, and then at Jesuit colleges in Florence and Rome. He was fortunate to study mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy with renowned astronomer Christopher Clavius, a German-born Jesuit who was the primary architect of the Gregorian calendar.

In 1582, he joined fellow Jesuit Michele Ruggieri at Macau, a bustling commercial center and enclave for Europeans and, from 1583, a Roman Catholic archdiocese. At this time, Macau was an island off the coast of Guangdong province (later, in the 17th century, land reclamation turned it into a peninsula, although it shares only 0.19 miles of coastline with the mainland).

Travel from Macau to the mainland was strictly regulated, and the Jesuits followed European merchants into the Chinese interior for commercial fairs twice a year. The goal of the missionaries was to establish themselves on the mainland, and this they accomplished, after several failed attempts, in 1583. Ruggieri and Ricci received permission to construct a mission at Zhaoqing, an important administrative center and seat of the viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi—the first Christian mission on mainland China.

Following successful exhibits at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the map is now on display at the Bell Library as part of the exhibit, Matteo Ricci and the Jesuits in China through Nov. 10, 2010. The opening night reception with remarks by Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota professor of history and director of the Institute of Advanced Study was quickly filled to capacity but tickets for the upcoming lecture Ricci’s Map and its Place in His China Strategy by Jonathan Spence, noted expert on Chinese history and culture, are still available.

Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, author of several books including The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, and one of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese history and culture, will deliver the 48th Annualjonathanspence James Ford Bell Lecture on Oct. 7, 2010. Tickets are available now from the Northrop Ticket Office by phone at 612-624-2345, or online at www.tickets.umn.edu.

Jonathan Spence

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