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Matteo Ricci

1552-1610. Missionary to China. An Italian Jesuit, he reached Macao in 1582 in response to an appeal from Alexander Valignano in that city. He at once set about mastering the spoken and written Mandarin dialect of China. In 1583 he entered China proper at the invitation of the magistrate of Chao-ching and there translated the Ten Commandments while enduring much opposition from the people. But gradually his famous map of the world, his clocks, his books, and his mathematical instruments made an impression upon the learned. In 1594 Ricci moved to Shao-chow where he adopted the dress and the etiquette of the Chinese literati. In 1599 he set up a base in Nanking and was introduced to the learned society of that city, where he also instructed Paul Hsü Kuang-ch'i, the father of the mission at Shanghai. In 1600 Ricci set out for Peking, but reached the capital in 1601 only after imprisonment in Tientsin.

Once Ricci arrived in Peking he never left it, and he soon won the esteem of the learned and of the emperor for his scholarship and knowledge of Chinese culture. By his sympathetic approach to Confucian culture, which he did not regard as inconsistent with the Christian faith, and by his approval of the Confucian Rites ceremonies he started what became known as the Chinese Rites Controversy.* He witnessed many conversions, including some among the highest court officials. He died in Peking and was buried in the Tartar City in land granted by the emperor.