Matteo Ricci and His Closest Chinese Friends
Chapter 4. Making Use of Stoicism: Matteo Ricci’s Surprising Breakthrough in Ershiwu Yan
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MAKING USE OF STOICISM
Matteo Ricci’s Surprising Breakthrough in Ershiwu Yan
Published in 1604 or 1605, Ershiwu Yan (Twenty-Five Paragraphs) marked a very special breakthrough in the intellectual evangelism of Matteo Ricci. In 1595, he had garnered warm and widespread applause for his collection of European sayings about friendship (Jiaoyou Lun), but the subject matter of that work had not left him much scope for any of the doctrinal concerns which were close to his heart. In 1603, he had finally published his main proselytizing work Tianzhu Shiyi which was radically revised from Ruggieri’s Tianzhu Shilu, but his open and unprovoked attack on Buddhism had aroused antagonism and his diagnosis of Confucian and Neo-Confucian metaphysics as needing the logical supplement of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas had not impressed the Confucian scholar-officials as much as he had hoped. Only with the publication of Ershiwu Yan did he gain both popular approval and doctrinal satisfaction. For a long time the treatise was thought of as “a short exposition of essential Christian moral doctrines”1 or “a book about the ethical beliefs, guidelines, and cultivation of Catholicism,”2 because he had depicted it as “twenty-five tracts on diverse moral questions and on control of the evil propensities of the soul.”3 In 1975, however, it was recognized as a selected translation of Epictetus (55–135)’s Encheiridion,4 Still in need of being better known, that relatively recent discovery can now help us...
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