At the conference "Dialogue among Civilizations and Global Challenges" held in Shanghai in 2010, friend of eRenlai and former managing director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus, provided the starting point for a discussion on intercultural dialogue,  inspired by Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi. He first gave a speech on the secret of Matteo Ricci:

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Professor Choong Chee Pang from the Oxford Institute for Asian Society and Religion gave a response to Michel's wise words, particularly focusing on the importance of China's cultural and spiritual resources in contrast to the factors economic, political and military might that are usually focused on:

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Read more: Matteo Ricci, spiritual resources and partnership

Part 3Part 1Part 2

matteo_ricci_dvdcover3This three part documentary was recorded over 20 years ago by the Guangqi film studios, but takes us back 400 years with re-enactments of conversations that would have actually happened between the Jesuit Matteo Ricci and his friend Xu Guangqi. A challenge that all western students of Chinese can relate to in part, Ricci shows us what it was to struggle through the strokes of a Chinese character before the days of the The Grand Ricci, let alone the brand new digital version.  Fittingly Ricci is played by Jesuit Jerry Martinson.

To purchase the full version of the DVD Matteo Ricci in Chinese contact or come and visit the Kuangchi Offices in Taipei. Also available are educational documentaries on Matteo Ricci's good friend Xu Guangqi and two other Jesuits influential in Sino-Western history - Adam Schall von Bell and Francis Xavier. All available in Chinese and English.

Fr Jerry Martinson who acts Matteo Ricci in this film has also been involved in many cross cultural dialogue missions of his own, to hear about them click here.

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Without Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Society of Jesus. The grounds for Matteo Ricci's mission in China, may not have been laid. In fact, Francis Xavier actually touched on Chinese soil in the same year as Matteo Ricci was born. Although Francis Xavier never made it to the mainland and passed away on Hong Kong, the significance of his legacy cannot be understated.

 

In a pilgrimage comparable in scope to that of the Monkey King in Journey to the West, the KPS decided to produce an 8-part docudrama following the footsteps of Francis Xavier:

 

A young Asian vacationing in Europe stumbles onto the story of St. Francis Xavier and begins a personal pilgrimage that takes him to the places Xavier travelled to during his life. In this docudrama, the story of the 16th-century missionary is rediscovered through the eyes of the Asian Pilgrim. But this is more than just the story of Xavier's life retold. As the Pilgrim grows more and more involved in Xavier's story, he discovers the many parallels between Xavier's life and his own. In following the footsteps of Xavier, he meets people of different races and backgrounds, and finds himself confronting some of the important issues all Christians face today. At the end of his journey, the Pilgrim begins to understand his role as a Christian living in today's world and the meaning this has for his life. It is a pilgrimage every young Christian must make.

 

So come and join us on the final leg of Francis Xavier's pilgrimage...

To purchase the full version of the DVD In the footsteps of Francis Xavier contact or visit the Kuangchi Program Service of Taipei. Also available are educational documentaries on Matteo Ricci, his good friend Xu Guangqi and Fr. Adam Schall von Bell: In the service of emperors..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2Part 1Part 3

matteo_ricci_dvdcover2This three part documentary was recorded over 20 years ago by the Guangqi film studios, but takes us back 400 years with re-enactments of conversations that would have actually happened between the Jesuit Matteo Ricci and his friend Xu Guangqi. A challenge that all western students of Chinese can relate to in part, Ricci shows us what it was to struggle through the strokes of a Chinese character before the days of the The Grand Ricci, let alone the brand new digital version.  Fittingly Ricci is played by Jesuit Jerry Martinson.

To purchase the full version of the DVD Matteo Ricci in Chinese contact or come and visit the Kuangchi Offices in Taipei. Also available are educational documentaries on Matteo Ricci's good friend Xu Guangqi and two other Jesuits influential in Sino-Western history - Adam Schall von Bell and Francis Xavier. All available in Chinese and English.

Fr Jerry Martinson who acts Matteo Ricci in this film has also been involved in many cross cultural dialogue missions of his own, to hear about them click here.

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As we know, Matteo Ricci was the first Jesuit to make a significant impact in China however since then there has been various other Jesuits who have had shaped the history of dialogue between the western and Chinese civilisations. Among the most significant is Fr. Adam Schall von Bell

In 1618, Fr. Johann Adam Schall von Bell, a brilliant young Jesuit scholar from Germany, set out for the mysterious and still little-known land of China. Following in the footsteps of his Jesuit missionary predecessor Matteo Ricci, Schall mastered the Chinese language and diligently adapted his lifestyle to Chinese culture. When Schall's talents in astronomy and mathematics attracted the attention of the Ming Dynasty Emperor, he was appointed head of the Bureau of Astronomy and given the monumental task of renovating the Chinese calendar.

Schall retained his position even after the Ming Dynasty fell and was replaced by the Manchu Qing Empire. He became the close friend and spiritual guide of the young Qing Emperor who raised Schall to the highest official level ever attained by a westerner in Chinese history-Mandarin of the First Class. When the Emperor met with an early death, Schall was influential in choosing his successor - the great Kangxi Emperor - who came to be China's longest reigning and most respected ruler. It was the Kangxi Emperor that issued the edict giving the Catholic Church legal status in China.

In memory of Fr. Johann Adam Schall von Bell The Kuangchi Program Service, Taipei and Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation, Nanjing have jointly produced a two-part TV docudrama following Schall throughout his long and dramatic life in China, his accomplishments, his struggles with his fellow missionaries as well as his own conscience, his persecution and narrow escape from a cruel death, and his official burial presided over by the Emperor himself.

To purchase the full version of the DVD Adam Schall von Bell: In the Service of Emperors contact or visit the Kuangchi Program Service of Taipei. Also available are educational documentaries on Matteo Ricci, his good friend Xu Guangqi and Fr. Francis Xavier.

 

Bendu029At one point, a few years ago, I was standing in the front yard of my mother’s house in Texas. She and I were talking, doing our usual different-schedules-same-house-4:00 PM update as she was coming home from and I was going to work. In my family, no one can stay on topic in any conversation and what started as a mundane discussion of odd jobs, bills, and babysitting jobs quickly morphed into me intellectually puttering around, trying to describe to my mother the mental process I use to accomplish goals or resolve conflicts into which I have backed myself.

I adopted the process from the only person in the world I can honestly say I viscerally hate – my ex-mother in law. (I would not slow down a car if I were driving and she was walking across the road in front of me. Such was our relationship.) She said that when she was about 24, she had a vision of herself at age 50. She was wearing a suit, in a boardroom, and she was leading the meeting. Now, when she had this vision in 1966, she didn’t understand its meaning nor how she would bring it to life. What she did understand was that the vision was not so much a goal, but a trajectory. If she acted and worked in accordance with this vision, she would, in some way, end up in a suit, in a boardroom, leading a meeting. By 2004, when I divorced and left Florida, she was a well respected real estate broker worth several million dollars with a real estate portfolio that included Atlantic beach front property and an 80 slip marina. I may have hated the woman, but her techniques worked. So, I adapted them and was telling my mother about them. She smiled then laughed and said “Well that just sounds like prayer.”

I squinted at her, trying to put these things together. I am not a man who prays. My parents however prayed a lot. My father, in the last ten years of his life, daily prayed the Rosary (He loved the meditative value of the Rosary.) My mother was a Franciscan Nun for ten years, until deciding she was actually more suited for the lay life. I however do not pray - not in any structured way that would be recognizable to someone orthodox. So, my ex-nun mother identifying my visualization process as a form of prayer quite amazed me. I was surprised in the interesting ways in which my Catholic background and upbringing always returns.

[inset side="right" title="Ars Morativa"] If you could represent Chinese as a serious of images in a building, a block of buildings and a city of those blocks of buildings of images, then why couldn’t you build a 3D model of it and wonder around in it with Google Maps?[/inset]

After work that evening, I came home and started researching the various schools of thought on visualization techniques, their uses and their overall importance in people’s daily lives. The technique which most fascinated me was the Ars Memorativa a combination of images, architecture and memory. But more on that in a bit….

What do we remember on this 400th anniversary of Matteo Ricci? I am not a Ricci Scholar, by any means. I am familiar with Ricci through having read three sources – Jonathan Spence’s work The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Jean Lacouture’s multibiography on the Jesuits, and Francis Yates’ work on the Ars Memorativa. Ricci’s historical importance is due to three factors. He was the first westerner to truly master Chinese. His Histories was the primary source on information about China for three centuries. His introduction of Western science and technology (including his famous memory palaces) to Ming dynasty China showed the dynasty that perhaps the West had something of value. For centuries, Ricci was the door, the threshold one had to cross to move from West to East.

matteoricci_portraitBut aside from his historical importance what relevance does Ricci have for us today? Among a thousand things, in Ricci, we find a clue to the mastery of such an unfamiliar world as the Chinese language. What made Ricci’s accomplishment so astounding was that he was accepted as a scholar on Chinese terms, not merely as a curiosity (which he clearly was), but as a man who had mastered the Classical Chinese Canon As proof of this, he had written and published works of his own in Chinese. What aided Ricci was his use of the classical mnemonic device of the Ars Memorativa. Francis Yates and Jonathan Spence have written much about this Classical and Renaissance memory aide and I am merely parasitical on their scholarship. The Ars is a fascinating tool used to remember long passages of text or tremendous lists. At its simplest, one creates a mental room and fills that room with images adapted from the target text. At its most complex, one fills a whole city with room and building of mental images. Instead of building a memory palace and filling it with passages of Euclid or Martial, Ricci filled his memory palace with mental images of Chinese characters. Each image was a composite of radicals translated into some striking mental image. In The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Jonathan Spence gives us two characters : 武,要 as examples. For 武 , Ricci created the image of two soldiers locked in combat, the one trying to strike a finishing plunge with a lance, the other gripping the shaft, blocking the strike and creating a stand-off. For 要,Ricci conjured up a woman from the Western Frontiers of the Ming Dynasty – today’s Xinjiang and Gansu provinces. (This woman may be a Muslim, which points towards a Chinese perception of the sameness of the Abrahamic Religions, when compared to the Triple Braid of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. ) After forming such images as the Soldiers and the Woman from the West, Ricci would then transform a Chinese sentence into a serious of detailed images. The sentence/image would be grouped together until whole Classical Texts had been transformed into mental cities.

Now, I do not advocate that all of us Chinese Language Learners create full memory palaces, a process I doubt any of us could do anymore. (The truly classically educated individual who could pull this off in 2010 is as rare as a WWI veteran.) What interests me in Ricci’s method is the link between the aural and the visual in language processing and second language acquisition, especially in terms of cognitive maps of the language. I know I’ve learned a word when I hear it fly out of the mouth of a native Chinese speaker humming along at full speed in the middle of a conversation and I can see the word in my mind’s eye, as clear and distinct as the Taipei 101 on a rare sunny Taipei day. I know I’ve mastered a piece of grammar when I can see that piece of grammar flow logically into the other parts of related grammar .“Oh that’s what the double 了 (or 到) (or 得) is for!”

What I advocate, instead of memory palaces, is to update Ricci’s method for the computer age. If you could represent Chinese as a serious of images in a building, a block of buildings and a city of those blocks of buildings of images, then why couldn’t you build a 3D model of it and wonder around in it with Google Maps? What would these Language Cities look like? Would English be a sprawling metropolis? Or something utterly different?

And prayer? If my mom is right and prayer is a visualization process, a dialogue with the divine, what happens when my reading comes full circle and one builds a memory palace of one’s lifetime of prayers? What would a city, filled with buildings of prayers and hopes, look like?

Paul Xu Guangqi (1562 -1633) from rural Shanghai rose to the office of Grand Secretary of the Ming Dynasty Emperor and is known as the forerunner of modern science in China. His friendship and collaboration with European Jesuit missionaries, especially the renowned Matteo Ricci, is the first instance of real cultural dialogue between China and the West. Together with Ricci, Paul Xu introduced western mathematics, astronomy, and scientific method into Chinese scholarship. By developing new crops to combat famine, Xu triggered China’s “green revolution”. This 4-part docudrama shows China at the start of its cultural relations with the West and provides us with a wealth of material for reflection on globalization today.

Read more: Xu Guangqi - China's Man for All Seasons

To mark 400 years of dialogue and cultural exchange set off by Matteo Ricci, on May 11th 2010 Michel Camdessus opened the Inauguration International Forum on the "Dialogue among Civilizations and Global Challenges" held by the new Xu-Ricci Dialogue Research Center at Fudan University Shanghai. He explains to us why he is so delighted that the new institute has been jointly named after Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi and how they are still relevant today.

[dropcap cap="I"] rejoice in the fact that the new Centre organising our forum has been placed under the twin names of Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci. Through this patronage, its founders are inscribing their academic endeavour into the domain of humane friendship – and more specifically of intercultural friendship. For sure, solitude plays a part in scientific research as well as in all human pursuits. But friendship plays a role at least as important, especially in our time where most research endeavours are collective ones. I would say that, besides the quest for pure truth, friendship and rivalry – sometimes associated with one another – is another important driver – if not the most important - for humane and scientific achievements.[/dropcap]

xu_ricci_smallRicci opened a new world to the curious mind of Xu Guangqi. However, it is also true to say that without Xu Guangqi, without his welcoming kindness, his ardour to study, his questions, his patience in revealing to Ricci the Chinese ways of thought and cultural treasures, there would not have been a Ricci. Their interaction is a fascinating chapter in the history of scientific, cultural and spiritual encounters. The four hundredth anniversary of the death of Matteo Ricci, is marked by a number of celebrations – including our forum - that show how relevant and inspiring the lives of these two pioneers remain today. This anniversary has implications for the future interaction between China and the rest of the world, it helps one to reflect anew on the role of China in the era of globalisation and on the ways to develop meaningful intercultural exchanges for our times.

Universal in scope, the message given by the life of Ricci also has special implications for the way we can have intercultural encounters and conduct research projects as individuals and as teams of persons dedicated to common objectives. A fellow Jesuit, Nicolas Trigault, kept vivid for us the memory of the last days of the life of Ricci, depicting him joyfully conversing with his fellow Jesuits and the nascent Chinese Christian community.

To one of the priests asking him how they could repay the affection he always showed to his brothers, Ricci replied by asking them to do likewise for the Jesuits coming from Europe, “in such a way that they receive from you, more friendship than they could receive from the ones from outside.” Ricci’s care for his fellow Jesuits had started early, he was known for helping - with particular zeal - foreign Jesuit students arriving in Rome during the time of his studies.

Thus, from the start, the secret of Ricci’s life, spirituality and success is revealed to us: His is a spirituality of friendship, first anchored in the way he experiences his relationship with a God, to whom, according to an expression found in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, we are able to speak “as a friend speaks to his friend.” Ricci would extend this sense of friendship to the people he met, making himself the neighbour of the ones he encountered along the way.

[inset side="right" title="MIchel Camdessus"]Ricci and Xu Guangqi’s lesson is still valid today: friendship is both the starting point and the fruit of a dialogue pursued in truth and reciprocal respect[/inset]

Of particular significance, are the subject-matter and the title of the first booklet he published in China, a booklet composed on the basis of his recollections of Greek and Latin authors: “On Friendship.” The fact that this is his first published work makes it resonate like a program; from then on, friendship would be at the root of his communication strategy.

By deliberately choosing this approach, Ricci would also prove to be a peace-builder of particular historical significance. The way he introduced Chinese classics to the West also contributed in this endeavour. Later on, relationships between China and the West would be marred by the rise of imperialisms and cultural misunderstandings. Still, the living memory of Ricci and of the first Jesuits who followed in his steps has continued to reassure the Chinese people that the message and ways of interacting they were bringing with them, could go along with respect for one’s culture and national dignity as well as equality in partnership.

As a peacebuilder, Ricci is also a pioneer of dialogue. “The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven” - the work of natural theology he wrote in his later years - is conceived as a dialogue between a Confucian scholar and a sage from the West, and this dialogical form is not only a rhetorical device but also reveals his deep-rooted confidence in Man’s ability to communicate in truth and spirit with the help of reason and of the other qualities he is endowed with. The same confidence in dialogue, communication and reason also explains his commitment to the lifelong study of the Chinese language and classics. It is not the natural gifts of Ricci, his uncanny linguistic abilities, that should draw our attention, but rather the respect for language and serious learning that he displays. In an age where communication seems sometimes oversimplified and globalised, Ricci’s example rings as a reminder: we can never stop immersing ourselves in the language and mindset of the Other, untill these somehow becomes our own. Short cuts in apprenticeship and communication eventually lead to a watering down of the quality of the exchange – sometimes with dangerous misunderstandings.

Ricci and Xu Guangqi’s lesson is still valid today: friendship is both the starting point and the fruit of a dialogue pursued in truth and reciprocal respect. And if we are not able to nurture such a spiritual attitude then we will not be able to tackle the challenges that define our common destiny.

 

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