A Jesuit in the Ming Court
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About the author
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.
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.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
; May 2011
336 pages; ISBN 9781442205888Read online
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Title: Matteo Ricci
Author: Michela Fontana
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
In the press
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.