A World, Lost and Found

A World, Lost and Found

Catholicgauze has a great piece on the Ricci Map, a world map (including the fabled land of Ka-Na-Ta) composed as part of the Jesuit’s intellectual work for the Ming Emperors of China. The lead Jesuit, Matteo Ricci, defeated Muslim astronomers in predicting heavenly events, and rapidly gained the trust of the Imperial Household.

The Jesuit program in China included the Chinese Rites, the recognition of the deep cultural and emotional similarity between Chinese “ancestor-worship” and Catholic prayers for Intercession from the Saints. The Jesuits installed in the churches the characters  天主, “Lord of Heaven,” to ease the conversion of Chinese, just as the early Christians had adorned their saints with halos, using the iconography of an old order to emphasis a now revealed truth. Sadly, the Taliban of an earlier era did not approve, and in the bowels of Church politics the conversion of China was forgotten.

I feel blessed to have been married in the South Cathedral of Beijing, standing on land given to Matteo Ricci and the Church by the Wanli Emperor. While the current building dates to reconstruction after the Boxer Rebellion, the land on which it stands has been the site of a Catholic Church since Ricci’s time. The church, after suffering during the Cultural Revolution, is rejuvenating.

Catholicgauze concludes: “The Ricci Map is undeniably a Chinese map. It shows the combination of European knowledge with a Chinese worldview. It shows a lost world.