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Preparation for Jesuit Matteo Ricci anniversary gathers pace


September 11 2009

Preparations for the celebration of the 400th death anniversary of Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) are picking up in China, the country where Ricci performed his life's work, and Italy, where he was born.

The Nanjing Museum, one of three mainland Chinese museums to host an exhibition on Father Matteo Ricci in 2010

Taipei, Macau and three cities on the mainland will run academic symposiums and exhibitions on the pioneer missioner's life and work.

The Marche region of central Italy where Father Ricci's hometown Macerata is located, is organizing a touring exhibition in Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing next year.

Riccardo Sessa, Beijing-based Ambassador of Italy to China, told UCA News that the Marche exhibition "will focus, through the person and the work of the eminent Jesuit, on the first encounter of great significance between Europe and China in the late Ming period."

The exhibition is to celebrate Father Ricci's "many, great contributions to the contacts between East and West, Asia and Europe, China and Italy," Sessa said.

Each of the three cities will host the exhibition for two months. Beijing's opening is scheduled for Feb. 9 at the Capital Museum, Shanghai's in the first week of April at the Shanghai Museum, and Nanjing's on June 12 at the Nanjing Museum.

After Nanjing, the exhibition might also travel to Macau and South Korea, although details have not been finalized, Sessa said.

The exhibition comprises two sections. The first will display important documents and texts from Europe that Ricci introduced to China. They include works on art and architecture of the late Renaissance and early Baroque period, science and technology, philosophy and theology.

The second part of the exhibition will illustrate Ricci's voyage from Macau to Beijing with images of the cities where he stopped on the way and artifacts mainly from the museum collections in China.

A video showing Ricci's trip from Italy to Macau will be an "intermezzo" in-between the two sections.

Meanwhile, Church organizations in Macau and Taiwan are inviting scholars to join their international symposia, both commemorating Father Ricci's contributions to the Church's mission and to wider East-West relations.

The Jesuit-run Macau Ricci Institute's symposium focuses on the theme "Education for New Times: Revisiting Pedagogical Models in the Jesuit Tradition" on Nov. 25-27. The institute said the event is "dedicated to the intellectual and humanistic Jesuit formation that Matteo Ricci has brought to China."

In Taiwan, Fu Jen Catholic University will organize another symposium themed "Beginning and Development of Dialogue between East and West" on April 19-22, 2010.

Riccardo Sessa, the Italian ambassador to China

The Tainan-based Catholic Window Press will print the 2010 Catholic diaries based on the illustrations and monuments of Father Ricci and Macerata.

UCA News learnt that some mainland dioceses also plan to hold activities in commemoration of Father Ricci, but concrete information has yet to be announced.

Father Ricci began his journey from Portugal in 1578 and arrived in Goa, a Portuguese colony in India. Four years later he was sent to Macau, then the gateway for foreigners entering China.

In 1583, he traveled inland to Zhaoqing and Shaozhou (today's Shaoguan) in Guangdong province and then on to Nanchang in Jiangxi province and Nanjing.

Wherever he stayed, he met with intellectuals and bureaucrats who appreciated his wide knowledge of geography, mathematics and science. With the help of Jesuits and Chinese Catholic scholar Paul Xu Guangqi, he also published world maps and books in Chinese, as well as translating Confucian classics into Latin to introduce the dominant Chinese philosophy to Europe.

Father Ricci arrived in Beijing in 1601 and the Chinese emperor allowed him to stay in the capital until his death on May 11, 1610.

Although Father Ricci never visited Shanghai, his Jesuit counterpart Father Lazzaro Cattaneo introduced Catholicism there in 1608. Shanghai gradually became a major center of the Jesuits' missionary activities, particularly after foreign powers forced China to open its doors in the mid-19th century.