A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci 1552-1610

Research output: Book/ReportBook

82 Scopus citations


A 16th century Italian Jesuit, Matteo Ricci was the founder of the Catholic Mission in China. This critical biography tells the story of his remarkable life, one that bridged Counter-Reformation Catholic Europe and China under the Ming dynasty. Using Chinese and western sources, Hsia follows the life of Ricci from his childhood in Macerata, through his education in Rome, to his sojourn in Portuguese India, before embarking on the long journey of self-discovery and cultural encounter in the Ming realm. Along the way, we glimpse the workings of the Portuguese maritime empire in Asia, the mission of the Society of Jesus, and life in the European enclave of Macau on the Chinese coast. The book offers sketches of Ricci's fellow Jesuits and portraits of Chinese mandarins, who formed networks indispensible for Ricci's success. Examining new sources, Hsia offers new information and insight into Ricci's long period of trial and frustration in Guangdong province, where he first appeared in the persona of a foreign Buddhist monk. After 12 years in China, Ricci achieved in 1595 the crucial breakthrough in his career. Ricci's move to Nanchang enabled him to engage in sustained intellectual conversation with a leading Confucian scholar and consequently, to find a synthesis between Christianity and Confucianism in propagating the Gospels in China. With his expertise in cartography, mathematics and astronomy, Ricci quickly won recognition, especially after he had settled in Nanjing in 1598. As his reputation and friendships grew, Ricci launched into a sharp polemic against Buddhism, while his career took its crowning achievement in the imperial capital of Beijing. The life, work, and legacy of Ricci is alive today, as the author reflects on a century of Ricci scholarship and commemoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages384
ISBN (Electronic)9780191595622
ISBN (Print)9780199592258
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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