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Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court

Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court

Hardback

By (author) Michela Fontana

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  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 164mm x 239mm x 26mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 16 May 2011
  • Publication City/Country: Lanham, MD
  • ISBN 10: 1442205865
  • ISBN 13: 9781442205864
  • Sales rank: 1,171,857

Product description

Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), the first of the early Jesuit missionaries of the China mission, is widely considered the most outstanding cultural mediator of all time between China and the West. This engrossing and fluid book offers a thorough, knowledgeable biography of this fascinating and influential man, telling a deeply human and captivating story that still resonates today. Michela Fontana traces Ricci's travels in China in detail, providing a rich portrait of Ming China and the growing importance of cultural exchanges between China and the West. She shows how Ricci incorporated his ideas of "cultural accommodation" into both his life and his writings aimed at the Chinese elite. Her biography is the first to highlight Ricci's immensely important scientific work and that of key Christian converts, such as Xu Guangqi, who translated Euclid's Elements together with Ricci. Exploring the history of science in China and the West as well as their dramatically different cultural attitudes toward religious and philosophical issues, Michela Fontana introduces not only Ricci's life but the first significant encounter between Western and Chinese civilizations.

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Author information

Michela Fontana, who holds a degree in mathematics and taught at Milano State University, is a science journalist and writer who lived in China for several years. She was a recipient of the Knight Science Fellowship for science journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has won the Glaxo Prize for science journalism, the Pirelli International Award for the popularization of science, and the 2010 Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique for the French edition of Matteo Ricci. She wrote the script for the play Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit Scientist at the Ming Court.

Review quote

Michela Fontana's definitive biography has the merit of presenting Ricci's everyday life with splendid narrative rhythm, historical rigor, and precise scientific understanding while helping readers to find their way in the Middle Kingdom. La Stampa Matteo Ricci is a fascinating figure, and this excellent biography by Michela Fontana, a journalist and popularizer of science resident for some years in Beijing, does full justice to its subject. Il Corriere Della Sera The extraordinary adventures of Matteo Ricci are related with the utmost care in this admirable biography by Michela Fontana, whose scientific background enables her to present a clear picture of both Western and Chinese knowledge in the various fields of science at the time. Il Manifesto In this gripping account, Michela Fontana traces the life of an exceptional individual and through it explores the epochal encounter of Chinese and European cultures in early modern times. The author's expertise in the history of science distinguishes this new biography as she provides fascinating detail on early modern Chinese and European sciences and societies and their interaction through historical actors. In addition to offering a compelling read appealing to a wide audience, this is also an excellent and accessible overview of Chinese-Western cultural relations, reminding us that the circulation of knowledge so typical of contemporary 'globalization' is, after all, an old phenomenon. -- Eugenio Menegon, Boston University Michela Fontana's superb biography offers not only a detailed reconstruction of the extraordinary life of Matteo Ricci but also an exemplary introduction to the history of relations between the Christian West and China. La Repubblica A stimulating and inspiring read. The first biography of the famous Jesuit truly based on Ricci's own account of his experience in China, this lively and captivating book is also knowledgeably informed by recent research on late Ming and late Renaissance society. Fontana skillfully shows readers the world Ricci encountered as he made his way from Rome to Beijing and explains his many scientific contributions. Unlike other attempts, this life story does not glorify him as either a hero or a saint, nor does it favor the scholar or the apostle. Instead, it shows Ricci the man and the challenges he faced in China in all their historical and human dimensions. -- Marianne Bastid-Bruguiere, Institut de France and CNRS, Paris The [award] reflects both the members' recognition of the extraordinarily high quality of the author's research and writing and a desire to share their own pleasure in discovering a little-known figure in world political and religious history. At a time when the papacy was a European power to be reckoned with and the Jesuit order an authentic political force, the man that Michela Fontana's book reveals to us played a considerable part in forging a link and establishing dialogue between Europe and China. This work also shows us that globalization is not confined to the history of conquest and domination but can also be an extraordinary intellectual, spiritual, and cultural adventure. Jury For The Grand Prix De La Biographie Politique Fontana chronicles the life of a 16th-century foreign missionary with historical precision, geographical vision, and linguistic acumen while maintaining an engaging, inviting prose. This is the story of the first substantive encounter between Continental Europe and China. While Fontana's subject, Matteo Ricci, remains front and center, the author is instructive about the various milieus that distinguish him: the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, of which he was a member; the culture of Christendom, within which he was raised; and the determinedly impenetrable China of the Ming Dynasty, wherein he spent his life. Respectively, Fontana manifests an unprecedented cosmopolitan sensitivity, a political and spiritual verve, and the protocols, powers, and progress of an ulterior empire. A special feature of the study is its ability to bridge two disparate civilizations along the lines of scientific inquiry, revealing, in turn, the resilience of intellectual and spiritual quest. An important scholarly contribution is Fontana's discussion of Ricci's pioneering translation of Euclid's Greek-inspired Elements from Latin to Mandarin and its reception by Ming China. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. CHOICE This biography of that renowned Jesuit father by a writer who shares with her famous subject not only nationality and science education but also years of experience in the capital city and various provinces of China cannot but be a uniquely valuable addition to an already notable flurry of biographical and scholarly publications all paying homage to and attempting brave new assessments of one of the most fascinating characters in the long history of intellectual interactions between East Asia and the West. Review Of Politics Missionaries of various traditions have long admired Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit who entered China in the sixteenth century. This work, showing significant knowledge of the politics and culture of China during the Ming dynasty, is the most thorough biography of Ricci of which I am aware... This is a remarkable book, carefully researched, well written, and will be of interest to any student of mission history. Missiology: An International Review

Table of contents

Prologue Chapter 1: The Jesuit and Mathematics Chapter 2: In the East Chapter 3: The Difficulty of Learning Chinese Chapter 4: The Man from the West Chapter 5: The Pride of Li Madou Chapter 6: The Meeting of Confucius and Euclid Chapter 7: Metamorphosis into Mandarins Chapter 8: The Strength of Friendship Chapter 9: To Beijing! Chapter 10: Heated Disputes and Science Lessons Chapter 11: Prisoner of the Eunuch Chapter 12: In the Heart of the Empire Chapter 13: The Empty Throne Chapter 14: The Lord of Heaven Chapter 15: Doctor Paul Chapter 16: Euclid Becomes Chinese Chapter 17: The Open Door Chapter 18: After Matteo Ricci: The Scientific Legacy, Triumph, and Persecution Chronology Chinese Dynasties Glossary Bibliography