Public Lectures

Public Lecture +Workshop

Matteo Ricci: A Missionary in China and His Legacy in Japan

  • 20160618poster
  • 20160618研究会poster
Date: 2016/06/18 10:00-15:00
Place: Imadegawa Campus, Doshisha University
Public Lcture :Divinity Hall Chapel
Workshop: Room G1, Shingaku-kan
Lecture: Professor M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J. (Director, Ricci Institute for Chinese- Western Cultural History,University of San Francisco )

Professor Mika Murakami ( School of Theology, Doshisha University)
  It is generally accepted that Saint Francis Xavier came to Japan on a religious mission in 1549, and that early Japanese Christians found themselves in a very difficult situation because of the religious prohibition that followed. However, there still is a scope of further examination of how Christian teachings spread under such circumstances, among devotees as well as the educated classes. This lecture used historical sources to take a look at how missionaries who came to East Asia from Francis Xavier spread Christian teachings, and the form that the traces of their missions took place in Japan.
Through his sojourn to Japan, Francis Xavier thought that missions to China would be essential for the missionary inJapan. This is because of the strong historical and political connection between Japan and China. Alessandro Valignano, who travelled to both China and Japan as a Jesuit East Indies missionary, inherited this thinking, as did other missionaries to Macau, such as Michele Ruggieri, and Matteo Ricci.
Ruggieri and Ricci, who bacame acquaintances with various Chinese scholars and close associates of the emperor, noticed the neccesity of learning the language for religious missions. Furthermore, both missionaries began to write books in Chinese, having noticed that “written words are more important than spoken words in China.” One could say that prime examples of this concept are Ruggieri’s catechism in Chinese, Tianzhu Shilu (1584) and Ricchi’s book on doctrine, Tianzhu Shiyi (1603) (incidentally, Ricci wrote the most publications of any missionary).
These books were also treasured by Valignano when he was on mission in Japan. Ricci’s letters to the Vatican (1605, 1608) note that he had received correspondence from Valignano saying that books by missionaries in China written in Chinese were helpful in Japan, and he requested more books. Furthermore, Chinese books by Ricci and others did not stop at Christian doctrine, but included calendar-making, maps, On Friendship (a compilation of books on friendship by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers), and Euclid’s Elements (oral instruction by Ricci, translated and notated by Xu Guangqi). These Chinese books on a great variety of subjects would gradually come to spread their influence in Japan.
 The crisis in Japan surrounding the expansion of Christian thought and the influence of Chinese books by Ricci and others were considered as ‘dangerous’, not long after Ricci’s death. The Edo shogunate ordered the destruction of churches and banned missionaries , and issued a decree on prohibited books in 1630. An inventory of banned books was created, and the governmental bureaus for inspecting books were established . Science books (for example, Euclid’s Elements) were included in the inventory. The shogunate thought that any book written by a Jesuit, including Ricci, would be related to Christianity (jyakyo ), and thus considered as dangerous. Such regulations were eased somewhat with the dismissal of laws banning books and translations (in 1720), stating “it is allowed if it does not lead to heretical sects,” meaning that it would be permissible to import books if they did not encourage Christianity. Yet, for the nearly 100 years, Chinese books written by Jesuits were prohibited in Japan.
 Nevertheless, recent digital humanities projects run by various universities, research institutions, and government agencies, show that the Chinese books written by Ricci existed even during the 100 years when they were banned. Among these books, we can see the Jesuit seal or Matteo Ricci’s name erased or torn out, and some even conceal phrasing that would reveal a connection to Christianity. Interestingly, scholars such as Hayashi Razan, the Shoheizaka School, and the Imperial Household Agency possessed banned books. That is to say, the banning of religion and books could not prevent the thirst for knowledge among those people trying to learn from Christianity or trying to learn Western science. Existing historical sources tell us that people tried to get their hands on Ricci and others’ books by any means possible.

Yukiko Kawamoto
Postdoctral Fellow, CISMOR

The pulic lecture is for everyone and is free to attend. No reservation necessary

The workshop is open for students and academics. If you would like to participate in this workshop, please send an email to the CISMOR office in advance: Registration closes on Jun 14.