Matteo Ricci and His Closest Chinese Friends
Introduction: The Useful Instructions of Disagreement
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The Useful Instructions of Disagreement
The fascinating story of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) changing himself while trying to change the religious faith of the Chinese has been told many times.1 As a Jesuit, Ricci pushed Christian evangelism by claiming a monotheistic affinity with Confucianism and by presenting himself as a defender of Confucian orthodoxy from Buddhism. Already in his day, Ricci’s unusual cultural adaptation was controversial; not surprisingly scholarly studies have hitherto focused almost exclusively on variations of this controversy.2 Reacting mostly to Ricci’s account of events, this line of research has given us insight, but much more can be learned about the early modern cross-cultural encounter of Europe and China if the perspective is broadened to his Chinese friends whose relationship with him was both intricate and intriguing. With his distinctively different religiosity, personal charisma, and knowledge of European science and mathematics, Ricci impressed the social and cultural elite of late Ming China many of whom befriended him and some of whom became Christian converts. However, between him and his Chinese friends there were always disagreements, resulting sometimes from a lack of understanding or misunderstanding, but coming about sometimes even when he and they apparently understood each other perfectly. Followed closely as the investigative thread of this book, the many kinds of disagreement will yield an unusual light on an ← 1 | 2 → otherwise long familiar subject and will be instructive for the at times tense and even hostile but in reality...
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