Matteo Ricci was an Italian Jesuit missionary who introduced Christianity to China.

He was born in 1552 in Macerata where he began his humanities study. He was sent by his family to Rome in 1568 to begin the study of law at the La Sapienza University and in 1571 he entered the Society of Jesus, studying at the Collegio Romano. While he was still a student of philosophy, in 1577 he was assigned to the missions in India. After four years in India, he was called to Macau to study the Chinese language and prepare himself for attempting to get into China. In 1583, he entered the city of Zhaoqing, where he founded the first Catholic residence. His aptitude for languages and his respect for the Chinese classics increased his standing among the officials and by 1589 he had also adopted the dress of the literati. In eighteen years of a laborious approach to the imperial court, he opened three more residences. In 1601, Ricci was invited by the Emperor to become an adviser to the Imperial court. He was the first Westerner to be invited into the Forbidden City, even if he never met the reclusive Wanli Emperor, who however granted him patronage and a generous stipend. In Peking he became a court mathematician and astronomer, preached the Gospel and taught science to scholars. He helped translate many Western works on mathematics and the sciences into Chinese. His maps were eagerly perused by the Chinese, who gained from him their first notion of modern Europe. In return, Ricci sent back to Europe the first modern detailed report on China. At his death, which occurred in 1610, the emperor granted a plot of land for the burial of a foreigner for the first time in Chinese history.

Ultimo aggiornamento8ottobre2012