Shanghai (Fides Service) – While the Italian town of Macerata, birthplace of Matteo Ricci, Jesuit missionary to China in the 16th century is honouring its famous citizen with an exhibition, (see Fides 23/7/2003), Shanghai in mainland China is also showing exhibits recalling the mission and achievements of the bold and dedicated missionary. For the first time since 1949 the Shanghai local authorities have given permission for an exhibition of Matteo Ricci’s activity IN that region. The exhibits include writings of Ricci, ancient texts he carried with him to China, as well as works of art, portraits and objects of the Ming epoch.
The exhibition is hosted by Shanghai Library (formerly the library of the archdiocese) in the city’s commercial district Xujiahui, the building is part of a compound of a church, schools and an orphanage built by the Jesuits in the 19th century. When Christian missionaries were expelled from China in 1949 the Jesuits took with them some of Ricci’s belongings but much had to be left behind and was confiscated by the state: these are the objects on show today.
Among the most precious works, dictionaries French-Latin-Chinese, Latin-Chinese and Portuguese-Chinese published in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Jesuits. There is also section of 19th century photographs documenting the activity and the spread of the Society of Jesus in China and the work of construction of St Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai between 1896 and 1910 which seats 2,500 people and is the largest in China.
Inaugurated on 27 July the exhibition will stay open for two weeks “a necessarily brief period so as not to damage the articles on show” one of the organisers explained. The exhibition is drawing a large number of visitors; scholars, intellectuals and researchers as well as ordinary people Christians and non. Matteo Ricci (Macerata 1552 – Beijing 1610), one of the first Europeans to speak and write fluent Chinese was the first to introduce in China European philosophy, science, art and theology. PA (Fides Service 1/8/2003 EM lines 33 Words: 379)