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The accommodation of Confucianism articulated by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) reflected a Neoscholastic approach in which rational agreement was the primary hinge of interreligious engagement. Ricci’s rationalism, however, was somewhat atypical among Jesuits of the late sixteenth century who often made overtures towards typology to explain the cultural and religious phenomena encountered in their missionary activities in East Asia and the New World. This article focuses on the writings of two Jesuits, the encyclopedist Antonio Possevino (1533–1611) and the China missionary Michele Ruggieri (1533–1611), who collaborated on the first European-language publication to include an extract of the Confucian corpus. It examines how Possevino adapts the manuscripts on China that Ruggieri provided him while in Rome in the early 1590s, and the tensions between the scholastic approach to evangelisation proposed in earlier chapters of the Bibliotheca selecta and the more extravagant typological strategies articulated in Ruggieri’s original manuscripts.

In: Erudition and the Republic of Letters

On 29 September 1584, the first Catholic catechism was printed in China under the title The True Record of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shilu 天主實錄). Written primarily by the Jesuit missionary Michele Ruggieri (1543–1607) with the assistance of at least two other Jesuits and Chinese interpreters, the catechism inaugurated the rich cultural exchange between China and Europe for which the Jesuit China mission would be renown. Despite the pioneering role of this catechism, it has been viewed for the most part by posterity as a pale forerunner of the later catechism by Ruggieri’s confrère, Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shiyi 天主實義). This article attempts to skirt the anachronistic comparison with Ricci’s Tianzhu Shiyi by proposing the Tianzhu Shilu as an autonomous text expressive of a cogent strategy for tailoring Western scholasticism to the contingencies of the Chinese cultural context.

In: Frontiers of Philosophy in China
Editor / Translator:
The True Record of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu shilu, 1584) by the Jesuit missionary Michele Ruggieri was the first Chinese-language work ever published by a European. Despite being published only a few years after Ruggieri started learning Chinese, it evinced sophisticated strategies to accommodate Christianity to the Chinese context and was a pioneering work in Sino-Western exchange. This book features a critical edition of the Chinese and Latin texts, which are both translated into English for the first time. An introduction, biography, and rich annotations are provided to situate this text in its cultural and intellectual context.