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First Ricci exhibition center opens

New Zhaoqing attraction provides insight into life of Jesuit missioner

A special display of antique European clocks at the Matteo Ricci Exhibition Center (Photo courtesy China News Agency). A special display of antique European clocks at the Matteo Ricci Exhibition Center (Photo courtesy China News Agency).
  • ucanews.com reporter, Zhaoqing
  • China
  • May 15, 2012
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China’s first exhibition center dedicated to Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) has opened in Zhaoqing, the place where the Italian missionary first set foot on the mainland.

Acting director of the Paris Ricci Institute, officials from the Guangdong provincial cultural bureau and Zhaoqing city attended the opening ceremony on Sunday.

The new Matteo Ricci Cultural Exchange Exhibition Center details the life of the Jesuit priest, known as Li Madou to Chinese people, through an array of exhibits and written accounts.

The center is located near the ruins of the first church and Jesuit house that Fr Ricci and his confrere Fr Michele Ruggieri were allowed to build after they arrived in China in 1583. The church, called “Xianhua Temple” out of respect for Buddhist custom, was dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

At that time Zhaoqing was the capital of Guangdong province.

The location of the church was next to a 500-year-old Buddhist pagoda on the banks of the Xijiang (West) River, from where the two missioners arrived by boat.

Father Gabriel Li Jiafang of Jiangmen, who attended the opening, hoped the exhibition, which is designed to boost tourism, would make more people aware of the missionary and the Catholic faith.

“The local Church has provided historical material such as books  and written records for the Ricci exhibition center which is managed by the  city museum. A replica of a Ricci statue owned by the parish is also erected  there,” the pastor of Zhaoqing’s Immaculate Conception Church said.

Other exhibits include Fr Ricci’s writings, items of clothing,  scientific instruments and astronomical data, to help visitors understand his  background, his six years in Zhaoqing (until 1589) and his contribution to cultural  exchanges between East and West.

A special feature, around 30 clocks made in Europe between the 17th  and 20th centuries, impressed Fr Li.

“Though these clocks are not relics of Fr Ricci, they commemorate  his contribution in introducing Western clock-making techniques that influenced the development of Zhaoqing’s clock industry,” he said.

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