Matteo Ricci in China, 1583-1610

Father Ricci spent many years on his mission near Canton. Nora C. Buckley describes how, eventually, this Jesuit's skills in mathematics and astronomy were welcomed in Peking.

Matteo Ricci, Jesuit missionary and the first Westerner to win acceptance in the highest circles of Chinese cultural life, was a man of his period, the late Italian Renaissance. His career reflected the influences prevailing during his formative years in Mediterranean Europe. Sixteenth-century exploration and the Christianizing of other continents became the goal of many, and it was these pursuits that eventually carried Matteo Ricci to China.

Marco Polo’s accounts of adventures in an exotic country he called ‘the Great Cathay’ had been published in Italy at the close of the thirteenth century. Polo’s descriptions of the rich natural resources to be found in Cathay had at first been considered too fabulous to be taken seriously. Eventually, however, his account lent impetus to the drive to find a sea route to the Orient, and open a lucrative trade. This goal was accomplished at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

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