Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Ricci, Matteo
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(mät-tā'ō rēt'chē), 1552–1610, Italian missionary to China. He entered the Society of Jesus, and in Rome he studied under Clavius. Ricci was sent to the Indies (1578), and he worked at Goa and Cochin until 1582, when he was called to Macao to enter China. In 1583 he and his companion, Father Michele Ruggieri settled in Guangdong prov., studying the language and culture. They found ready acceptance among some officials, for the Chinese took an intense interest in their possessions, such as clocks and Western paintings. The missionaries wrote tracts on Christianity, including a dialogue. Father Ricci's aptitude for languages and his respect for the Chinese classics increased his standing among the officials; by 1589 he had adopted the dress of the literati. In 1595, Father Ricci, now alone, moved to Nanchang, a center of erudition, where he stayed until 1597, when he went to Nanjing. He was twice turned away from Beijing, but in 1601 he was allowed entrance to the capital. There he became a court mathematician and astronomer; he made few converts, but he brought Christianity into good repute. 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. He composed a number of treatises, the principal being a catechism, True Doctrine of God, which was widely printed in China.

  • See H. Bernard, Matteo Ricci's Scientific Contribution to China (1937, repr. 1973);.
  • Gallagher, L. J., China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matteo Ricci (1953);.
  • Cronin, V., The Wise Man from the West (1955).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article Ricci, Matteo (1552 - 1610)
Who's Who in Christianity, Routledge

Ricci was a member of the Jesuit Order. He went to Macao in 1582 where he learnt the Mandarin language. Then, in 1583 he...

Full text Article Ricci, Matteo (1552 - 1610)
The Encyclopaedia of the Renaissance

Born in Macerata, Ricci obtained a wide-ranging education in Rome. He went to Goa in 1578 and Macao in 1582, before following...

Full text Article Ricci, Matteo (1552 - 1610)
Thames & Hudson Dictionary of the Italian Renaissance, The

Jesuit missionary. He was born in Ancona and worked in China from 1582 until his death. He found ready acceptance among the...

See more from Credo