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Ever on a Mission

Written by Mike Thee
October 11, 2010

Dean Michael Andrews of Matteo Ricci College is on the 6th floor of the new Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, pointing to the 1602 World Map by the famous 16th-century Italian Jesuit scholar and missionary to China, Matteo Ricci, S.J.  It is a full-size replica of the original map hand drawn by Ricci as a gift to the Wanli Emperor.  Andrews is marveling at how closely the 16th- and 17th century Jesuit missionary came to presenting an accurate depiction of the earth’s make-up.

The story of how this replica arrived at Seattle University is as fortuitous as it is circuitous. After changing hands a number of times and winding up in Japan, Ricci’s original map was purchased by a trust in the United States. En route to its destination in the University of Minnesota’s James Ford Bell Library, the piece made a temporary stop this spring at the Library of Congress for an exhibition.  Rob Sokol, a curator at the Library of Congress who also happens to be a Matteo Ricci College alumnus (BAH 1998), took note of the map’s arrival and contacted the college.  It was a straight shot from the Library of Congress to campus.  The map was presented to Seattle University as a gift from Matteo Ricci College.

The map arrived at the university just as Matteo Ricci College is marking two important milestones: the 400-year anniversary of the Ricci’s death and the 35th anniversary of the college’s founding. As part of the year-long celebration here on campus, Matteo Ricci Week (October 18-22) will include:

  • the inaugural Matteo Ricci College Lecture in the Humanities, “The Global Legacy of Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit Humanist’s Encounter with China,” delivered by Rev. Antoni  Ucerler, S.J. (7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 21, Pigott Auditorium); and
  • the First Annual Humanities Symposium, “Matteo Ricci College Alumni Forum,” in which five alumni of the college will speak on a panel (3:30-5 p.m., Oct. 22, Pigott Auditorium).

Receptions will follow both events. All are invited.

The Commons recently spoke with Dean Andrews about the map, its creator, the college’s anniversary and more.

The Commons:  What stands out for you about this map?

Dean Michael Andrews:  There are so many distinctive features about the map it is hard to know where to begin! For one thing, the map represents the very first time that a westerner depicts China as the literal center of the earth and Europe is pushed off to the side. Also, it is the very first eastern map to outline the western 

Dean Andrews believes there's a reason for Matteo Ricci's awkwardly drawn representation of Italy and Europe.
  hemisphere with any precision.  And, of course, one wonders why Matteo Ricci, himself one of the most skilled cartographers of his age, drew Italy and the rest of Europe—where he spent so much of his formative life and which he knew so well—in such an awkward and haphazard fashion? My own sense is that everything Ricci does on this map is intentional. The idea behind the map, I think, was for Ricci to lessen the importance of Europe at the exact stage when the European nation states were rising and, thereby, give prominence and honor to that part of the world ruled by the Wanli emperor (pointing to China). So I think what you have in Ricci’s 1602 vision of the world is both a geographical map of the earth alongside a theological map depicting humanity’s relationship to God as encountered through Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.

The Commons:  Why do you think Ricci drew this map and how did he go about doing it?

MA:  Matteo Ricci’s “1602 World Map” stands 12.5 feet long and 5.5 feet high and encompasses the known world of the seventeenth century. Its official title is, “Carta Geografica Completa di tutti i Regni del Mondo” that is, the Complete Geographical Map of All the Kingdoms of the World. Ricci himself declared that the map offers testimony “to the supreme goodness, greatness and unity of Him who controls heaven and earth.” The map portrays the intellectual, spiritual, and physical crossroads of two great civilizations, Europe and China. Ti Bin Zhang, the first secretary for cultural affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., was noted as saying that the map represents the momentous first meeting of East and West. And Edward Rothstein of the New York Times commented that Ricci himself suggested that the size and format of the map had an almost magical, seductive effect on the viewer. It enables the viewer, Ricci wrote on the map, “to travel about, as it were, while reclining at ease in his own study and thereby be able to scan all the countries of the world without going out of doors.”   

What is truly remarkable is the fact that the map was of course put together without Matteo ever seeing the earth as it is so commonly depicted today from relief maps, globes, satellite shots, Google Earth, etc. When viewing the map, try to keep in mind that the whole thing was drawn mainly from what Ricci learned during his Jesuit studies in Rome, including of course geography and astronomy. What I find most interesting, however, is trying to understand the extent that Ricci’s drawing of the world was influenced by reading letters that were being circulated by other Jesuit missionaries or colored by conversations he had with Jesuits passing through Macau or India or Japan. In a sense, Ricci’s Map of the World is really the world of the 17th century seen through the eyes, if you will, of the very first “global Jesuit.”   

The Commons:  What lessons today can we take from this Jesuit who lived four centuries ago, grew up in Italy, went to China and became so accepted there that he was welcomed into the emperor’s court?

MA:   With Ricci we have in one concrete, historical person the meeting of East and West. He was born in Macerata, Italy in 1552 and lived a fairly uneventful life as a student. Yet four centuries later, his ability to transcend cultural boundaries continues to inspire cross-cultural dialogue and mutual respect amongst diverse peoples and cultures. Pope Benedict XVI recently noted that Matteo Ricci sets an example for communities of peoples from different cultures and religions to “bloom in the spirit of hospitality and mutual respect.”

In order to understand Ricci’s impact on cross-cultural dialogue I think it is important to remember that Matteo Ricci was the first European to translate Euclid into Chinese (as well as Confucius into Latin), demonstrate Western clocks and music to the Chinese intelligentsia and create a method for representing Chinese characters using the Western alphabet. In fact, the Latinized name “Confucius” is an invention of Ricci’s own hand. As a sign of his deep respect for Ricci, the Wanli Emperor permitted that Matteo Ricci’s body be buried in Beijing and commissioned a special tomb for this purpose.  Matteo Ricci is, without exaggeration, perhaps the most respected and honored “foreigner” in all Chinese history, even to this day.

But it’s not just that Matteo went to China; it’s the way he went there. Matteo Ricci is well known for his notion of inculturation, that is, one enters a foreign culture as a guest, and not merely as a guest in terms of learning and adapting to the language and the customs. Ricci’s notion of inculturation is based on the revolutionary idea, drawn from the experience of the Spiritual Exercises, that one discovers God already present in cultures and ways of thinking foreign to one’s own. Think of that for a moment—to discover God already present where one does not expect to find God. That’s what Ignatius meant when he admonishes Jesuits to “find God in all things.” Matteo Ricci took Ignatius—and his own experience of God as drawn from the Exercises—at his own word. 

For students and faculty at Seattle University, contemplating Ricci’s map offers all of us a deeper invitation to engage in conversations over what makes global education distinctive at Seattle University. One learns about the richness of creation from studying other cultures; one does not simply assume Western ideas or cultural habits are normative. Rather, Ricci invites us to remain open to the graces already present in cultures different from one’s own. This is what makes education truly Jesuit and truly global, namely, to glimpse within concrete human history God’s own self-communication in and through diverse cultures. Matteo Ricci’s notion of inculturation is formative—he is not a missionary who merely “brings God” to the Chinese. Rather—and this is what I think his map bears witness to—Matteo Ricci helps us to understand how God presence is always already embedded in the world, even amongst non-western cultures.

I don’t think there is a better example of this, outside of Ricci’s map, than in his writings on “friendship.”  The other, the stranger, the foreigner, Ricci tells us, is another “I,” a subject just like me, only different.  Such empathic reciprocity—or what is commonly referred in ethics as “hospitality”—is the condition of possibility for genuine respect amongst social, religious, and cultural diversity. There really is no better theological or intellectual or practical model for “global Jesuit education” than Matteo Ricci himself.

The Commons:  As Matteo Ricci College celebrates the first 35 years of its history, what are some of its greatest highlights and accomplishments so far?

MA:  Well, of course I’ve only been dean for about 12 months, so there are others you can ask who have a much better sense of where we’ve come! But I think we’ve taken a small seed—we are, after all, a very small Humanities college—and have borne excellent fruit. Today Matteo Ricci College hosts a distinguished consortium of six Catholic high schools, including Seattle Prep, within the Seattle Archdiocese. This means that Seattle University is better able to serve the needs of the Archdiocese of Seattle through the work we do in the Matteo Ricci College Consortium. Each year a good number of qualified freshmen enter Seattle University through Matteo Ricci College’s three-year B.A. in Humanities degree. The vast majority of these students stay at Seattle University to study for a fourth year and complete a second degree (not merely a “double major”) in another undergraduate college on campus, such as in business or engineering. About eight years ago, Matteo Ricci College partnered with SU’s graduate College of Education and inaugurated a second degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities for Teaching. This degree is a four-year, pre-professional degree and draws on students from across North America and beyond. The BAHT prepares students to be excellent teachers in the very best formative practices of the Jesuit tradition. The mottos of Matteo Ricci College—“learning how to learn” and “lifelong learning”—are exemplified in the BAHT curriculum. 

This past May, the SU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the new B.A. in Humanities for Leadership Studies degree. Matteo Ricci College will welcome our first cohort of Leadership Studies students in Fall 2011, and we are busy now visiting high schools, recruiting students and coordinating sites in Africa, South and Central America, and Asia for our unique 15-credit International Internship.  The Humanities for Leadership Studies degree is a four-year degree that focuses on Jesuit “discernment” over the course of four years of study. Students will need to complete two internships—one local during their sophomore year and one international in their senior year. We are trying to be as true and responsible as we can to the Jesuit mission, and in a way that does justice to our limited resources as a small Humanities college steeped in the Jesuit way of proceeding.  At heart, we in Matteo Ricci College take very seriously the charge given to us in the 1599 Ratio Studiorum, namely, to make every student as successful as possible. The Jesuit mission requires nothing more, nothing less.

Matteo Ricci College was founded as a place for experimental curricular engagement.  That is who we are. Consequently, when Seattle University sees a particular need, Matteo Ricci College can oftentimes respond quickly to meet that need. So for example, when Father Sundborg says he wants to create a Jesuit multi-university system of the Pacific Rim, Matteo Ricci College looks at our namesake and his unique charism and responds in such a way as to help make that vision possible, more concrete. I think that is one of the things about which I am most proud regarding Matteo Ricci College. Again and again and throughout our 35-year history we’ve been blessed to have resources that can respond to the needs that the university has presented to us, that the larger culture has presented to us, and we’ve been able to meet or at least respond to those needs in a positive and engaging manner. For me, this is one of the joys of being dean of the Matteo Ricci College. Because of its unique founding and purposeful Humanities curriculum, Matteo Ricci College embodies an essential spirit of what it means for Jesuits to be sent on mission. For us, this spirit, this vision, this mission is best represented by the life and scholarship of Matteo Ricci, S.J.

The Commons:  Can you talk about the two major events happening this month to celebrate the 35th anniversary?

MA:  The Matteo Ricci College Lecture in the Humanities is on Thursday, Oct. 21 from 7-8:30 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium with a reception following. The Lecture in the Humanities offers a great opportunity for faculty, students, and alumni to learn more about who Matteo Ricci was, what he did, and what his unique vision of Jesuit education means for the future of Seattle University. And, through that, to learn a little more about the College and how the humanistic and global vision of Matteo Ricci can best serve the needs of Seattle University in the 21st century, and beyond. During the evening, we will present Rev. Antoni Ucerler, S.J. with the College’s highest honor, the Matteo Ricci Medal. Fr. Ucerler will present a lecture on “The Legacy of Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit Humanist’s Encounter with China.” Ucerler is a member of the Japanese Province of the Society of Jesus and a Research Fellow in East Asian History and Senior Tutor at Campion Hall, University of Oxford. He is also a Distinguished Fellow of the EDS-Stewart Chair at the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History at the University of San Francisco. He was a former member of the Jesuit Historical Institute in Rome and a tenured member of the faculty of comparative culture at Sophia University in Tokyo. His main research focuses on the history of Christianity in China and Japan as well as the history of cultural exchange between East and West in the Early Modern period. He has recently edited Christianity and Cultures: Japan and China in Comparison, 1543-1644 (2009). He has recently co-chaired a conference and serve as curator for an exhibit at USF entitled, Legacies of the Book: Early Missionary Printing in Asia and the Americas.

I am also very excited about the Matteo Ricci College Humanities Symposium on Friday, Oct. 22, 3:35-5 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium. We’ve invited five very interesting alumni from Matteo Ricci College, from across its 35-year history, and from a variety of experiences. The theme of this year’s Humanities Symposium is about how the study of the Humanities makes us who we are, both personally and professionally. The alumni who will be speaking have very diverse backgrounds, and they will be speaking about how their education in the Humanities at Matteo Ricci College prepared them to become the persons they are today. As you can imagine, the Humanities Symposium offers a unique opportunity for alumni and faculty to re-connect, and also for current Humanities students to network with alumni who care about the same things they care about. Both events are open to the public, and we strongly encourage everyone across campus to take part in the Matteo Ricci Week events.