Ricci, Matteo

Ricci, Matteo, one of the earliest and most successful missionaries of the Romish Church. He was born at Macerata, in Ancona, Oct. 6, 1552, and was early devoted to a clerical life. After a thorough instruction in languages and the sciences, he entered the Order of Jesuits in 1571. His comprehensive learning, together with his shrewdness, led to his being selected some years later to undertake the work of reestablishing the missions of his Church in China. The Minorite Monte Corvino had founded them so long ago as A.D. 1294; but the hostility of the resident Nestorian Christians, and the opposition of the native religions, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, followed by the persecutions of the Ming dynasty, had destroyed all the fruits of his labors. The Capuchin Gaspar de Cruz had attempted to reintroduce Christianity into China in about A.D. 1522, but without success. Ricci arrived with two companions in 1583 and was permitted to settle at Tsao-King-Fo. Aided by the Jesuit Roger, he was even permitted to build a Christian church in the immediate vicinity of a Chinese temple. His method was to gain the confidence of the people by conforming to their manners and prejudices. He assimilated his first teachings, for example, to the religious and moral tenets of Confucianism; and he constructed a map of the world in which he grouped all other states about China as their center. The Chinese priests were eventually successful, however, in exciting suspicion against him, from which he was compelled to flee to the seaport Chow-chu. In 1595 he attempted a visit to Pekin, but, being considered a Japanese in disguise, he was unable to secure a presentation at court. Five years later he repeated the undertaking, and was fortunate enough to be selected by the Portuguese as the bearer of presents to the emperor; and he so improved the opportunity that he was thereafter permitted to reside with the other missionaries of his company in Pekin itself. Ricci now labored with increased energy in his mission. He acquired the respect of the imperial family and of prominent mandarins through his mathematical proficiency and through the arts of painting and music. Having given much attention to the vernacular, he was able to write a number of books in the Chinese language, and to adapt all his sayings and writings to the promotion of Christianity. His influence extended, in course of time, beyond the precincts of the court and the capital, and was felt to the advantage of his cause in several provinces of the empire. The foundations for a durable work appeared to have been definitely laid when Ricci died, May 11, 1609. The mission immediately felt his loss in the withdrawal of the emperor's favor, and in being obliged to remove from the capital for a time. But the services rendered by the missionaries to the cause of mathematical science, and even to the State, were so valuable that they were soon permitted to resume their appropriate labors The Jesuits Schall, Verbiest, Pereira, and others are prominent in the subsequent history of Roman Catholic missions to China, and the successes realized were large but the entrance of other orders upon this work, e. g the Dominicans and Franciscans, introduced an element of discord among the missionaries themselves which impaired their usefulness and brought them into disfavor with the Chinese rulers. Incessant persecutions followed, extending from 1722 to 1845, which have almost obliterated the traces of the work of Ricci and his colleagues. SEE CHINA in this Cyclopaedia. See Trigault, De Christ. Exped. apud Sinas ex Comm. Ricci (Augsburg, 1615, 4to); Wertheim, Ricci, in Pletz's Neue theol. Zeitschr. (Vienna, 1833), No. 3; Schall, Relatio de Initio et Progr. Missionis Soc. Jesu apud Chinenses (Ratisbon, 1672, and with Notes by Mannsegg, Vienna, 1834); Du Halde, Descript. de l'Emp. de la Chine (Paris, 1736; German, with Mosheim's introd., Rostock, 4 vols. 4to); Gutzlaff, History of China (Canton, 1833; German by Bauer, Quedlinb. 1836, 2 vols.; and with continuation by Neumann, Stuttgart, 1847); Wittmann, Herrlichkeit d. Kirche in ihren Missionen (Augsburg, 1841, 2 vols.); Gesch. d. kathol. Missionen bis auf unsere Zeit (Vienna, 1845); Hue, Chines. Reich (Leipsic, 1856, 2 vols.) Comp. Gieseler, Lehrb. d. Kirchengesch. III, 2, 658 sq.

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