Daily Update: Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Matteo Ricci

Today is the Remembrance of Servant of God Matteo Ricci (died 1610).

Today’s Servant of God was born in 1522 in Macerata, part of the Papal States, which today is a city in the Italian region of Marche. Ricci started learning theology and law in a Roman Jesuit school. He entered the order in 1571, and in 1577 he applied for a missionary expedition to India. His journey began in March 1578 in Lisbon, Portugal. He arrived in Goa, a Portuguese colony, in September 1578. Four years later, he was dispatched to China. He arrived in August 1582 at Macau, a Portuguese trading post on the South China Sea. At the time Christian missionary activity in China was almost completely limited to Macau, where some of the local Chinese people had converted to Christianity and lived in the Portuguese manner. No Christian missionary had attempted seriously to learn the Chinese language until 1579 (three years before Ricci’s arrival), when Michele Ruggieri was invited from Portuguese India expressly to study Chinese, by Alessandro Valignano, founder of St. Paul Jesuit College (Macau), and to prepare for the Jesuits’ mission from Macau into Mainland China. Once in Macau, Ricci started learning Chinese language and customs. This was the beginning of a long project that made him one of the first Western scholars to master Chinese script and Classical Chinese. With Ruggieri, he traveled to Guangdong’s major cities, Canton and Zhaoqing (then the residence of the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi), seeking to establish a permanent Jesuit mission outside Macau. In 1583 Ricci and Ruggieri settled in Zhaoqing at the invitation of the governor of Zhaoqing, Wang Pan, who had heard of Ricci’s skill as a mathematician and cartographer. It was in Zhaoqing, in 1584, that Ricci composed the first European-style map of the world in Chinese, now called the “Impossible Black Tulip” after its rarity. No prints of the 1584 map survive, but six re-copied, rice-paper versions survive from 1602. It is thought that, during their time in Zhaoqing, Ricci and Ruggieri compiled a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, the first in any European language, for which they developed a system for transcribing Chinese words in the Latin alphabet. The manuscript was misplaced in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, not re-discovered until 1934, and not published until 2001. Expelled from Zhaoqing in 1589 by a new Viceroy, Ricci obtained permission to relocate to Shaoguan (Shaozhou, in Ricci’s account) in the north of the province, and reestablish his mission there. Further travels saw Ricci reach Nanjing and Nanchang in 1595. In August 1597 Alessandro Valignano (1539–1606), his superior, appointed him Major Superior of the mission in China, with the rank and powers of a Provincial, a charge that he fulfilled until his death. He moved to Tongzhou (a port of Beijing) in 1598, and first reached Beijing itself on September 7th, 1598. However, because of a Korean-Japanese war at the time, Ricci could not reach the Imperial Palace. After waiting for two months, he left Beijing; first for Nanjing and then Suzhou in Jiangsu Province. During the winter of 1598 Ricci, with the help of his Jesuit colleague Lazzaro Cattaneo, compiled another Chinese-Portuguese dictionary, in which tones in Chinese syllables were indicated in Roman text with diacritical marks. Unlike Ricci’s and Ruggieri’s earlier Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, this work has not been found. In 1601 Ricci was invited by the Emperor to become an adviser to the Imperial court of the Wanli Emperor; he thus became the first Westerner to be invited into the Forbidden City. This honour was in recognition of Ricci’s scientific abilities, chiefly his predictions of solar eclipses, which were significant events in the Chinese world. He established the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing, the oldest Catholic church in the city. Ricci was given free access to the Forbidden City, but he never met the reclusive Wanli Emperor. Wanli did grant him patronage, however, with a generous stipend. Once established in Beijing, Ricci was able to meet important officials and leading members of the Beijing cultural scene and convert a number of them to Christianity. One conversion, which he called “extraordinary”, occurred in 1602, when Li Yingshi, a decorated veteran of the Japanese-Korean War and a well-known astrologer and feng shui expert, became a Christian. This man provided the Jesuits with a wealth of information useful in communicating with the “heathens.” Ricci was also the first European to learn about the Kaifeng Jews, being contacted by a member of that community who was visiting Beijing in 1605. Ricci never visited Kaifeng, Henan Province, but he did send a junior missionary there in 1608, the first of many such missions. In fact, the elderly Chief Rabbi of the Jews was ready to cede his power to Ricci, as long as he gave up eating pork, but he never accepted the position. Ricci had discovered that, in contrast to the cultures of South Asia, Chinese culture was strongly intertwined with Confucian values and therefore decided to use existing Chinese concepts to explain Christianity. He did not explain the Catholic faith as something foreign or new; instead, he said that the Chinese culture and people always believed in God, and that Christianity is simply the most perfect manifestation of their faith. Later discovering that Confucian thought was dominant in the Ming Dynasty, Ricci became the first to translate the Confucian classics into a western language, Latin, with assistance from the scholar Xu Guangqi. Foreigners who died in China had to be buried in Macau; but on the death of Ricci in 1610, Diego de Pantoja made a special plea to the court requesting a burial plot in Beijing in the light of Ricci’s contributions to China. Emperor Wanli granted this request and designated a Buddhist temple for the purpose. In October 1610, Ricci’s remains were transferred there. The graves of Ferdinand Verbiest, Johann Adam Schall von Bell, and other missionaries are also there, and it became known as the Zhalan cemetery, and is now part of the campus of Beijing Administrative College. Ricci was succeeded as Superior General of the China mission by Nicolò Longobardo, in 1610 Longobardo entrusted another Jesuit, Nicolas Trigault, with expanding and editing, as well as translating into Latin, those of Ricci’s papers that were found in his office after his death. This work was first published in 1615 in Augsburg as De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, and soon was translated into a number of other European languages. Dominican and Franciscan missionaries felt that Ricca had gone too far in melding Catholicism with Confucian values, and convinced the Vatican to outlaw Ricci’s “Chinese Rites” approach, which the Pope did in 1715, one hundred and five years after Ricci’s death. Similarly to developments in India, the subsequent identification of European culture with Christianity led to the virtual end of Catholic missions in China until 1939. The cause of beatification of Ricci, originally begun in 1984, was reopened on January 24th, 2010; Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Macerata, formally closed the diocesan phase of the sainthood process on May 10th, 2013. The cause has now moved to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican; if you know of any miracles that can be attributed to his intercession, please contact the Vatican.

Richard had gathered up a large load of trash and wheeled the trash bin to the curb yesterday. Last night I finished reading The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards. And our #21 LSU Lady Tigers won their College Softball game at the SEC Tournament with the Missouri Lady Tigers by the score of 6 to 5.

I woke up at 9:00 am and did my Book Devotional Reading. I then ate my breakfast toast and read the Thursday papers. I then did my Book Devotional Reading while Richard talked to his friend Steve on the phone about setting up a simple will for Butch. I then did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards. We then watched MST3K Episode 1010 It Lives By Night (The Bat People), with a vacationing scientist being attacked by bats and slowly turning into a murderous bat-person, much to the distress of his newlywed wife.

We left the house at 1:45 pm, and left the truck off at the auto garage; Richard then went to Wal-Mart and got my salad supplies and some groceries. We arrived back home at 2:15 pm, and I watched MST3k Episode 1011 Horrors of Spider Island (Ein Toter hing im Netz), a German-made dubbed film that is light on mutant spiders biting one of the characters and turning him into a murderous spider-person, and heavy on several scantily clad women shipwrecked (or just nude swimming, as they do in one part). The people from our yard service showed up to do their property-maintenance thing for our property, and we watched Jeopardy! and ate Wal-Mart frozen heated-up pizza for dinner. When I finish this Daily Update I will start reading The Noonday Devil: Acedia, The Unnamed Evil of Our Times by Jean-Charles Nault, Translated by Michael J. Miller before going to bed. Our #21 LSU Lady Tigers (39-17, 12-12) will be playing the #7 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (44-9, 16-7) at the SEC College Softball Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Nereus and Saint Achilleus, Martyrs (died 98), and the Optional Memorial of Saint Pancras, Martyr (died 98). Tomorrow is also the second birthday of my granddaughter (2015). Richard and I will return to the Casino for the start of our work week, and on my breaks I will continue reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah; my goal is to read 25% of what I have left to read, which means that my goal is to get to about page 175 (out of 440). When we get home from work I will make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday and eat my Friday salad. In the afternoon I will continue reading (if necessary). Our #11 LSU Tigers (32-17, 15-9) will begin a three-game Home College Baseball series with the #14 Auburn Tigers (32-18, 14-10).

Our Parting Quote this Thursday afternoon comes to us from Bernard Gordon, American writer and producer. Born in 1918 to Jewish immigrants in New Britain, Connecticut, he grew up in New York City, where he attended City College. Beginning as a writer for print, Gordon moved to California and got a production job as a script reader, providing written “coverage” of screenplays submitted to studios. A political activist and, briefly in the 1940s, a member of the Communist Party, Gordon helped found the Screen Readers Guild. He married fellow activist Jean Lewin in 1946, one of the organizers of the Hollywood Canteen during the war. His first produced screenplay was Flesh and Fury (1952), a gritty boxing picture starring an up-and-coming actor named Tony Curtis. A western with Rock Hudson (The Lawless Breed, 1953) followed, but Gordon was subpoenaed to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigating Communist influence in Hollywood. Although subpoenaed, Gordon was never called to testify, and thus remained in a legal limbo. His producer, William Alland, had named Gordon in his own testimony to HUAC. A former left-wing sympathizer himself, Alland regularly informed the government about the political leanings of writers with whom he dealt at Universal Pictures. Gordon was thus blackballed from working in Hollywood. In 1954 Gordon received an under-the-table assignment from producer Charles Schneer, who worked with Columbia Pictures’ low-budget maven Sam Katzman. Gordon adapted a play written by two friends, which became the film The Law vs. Billy the Kid (1954), with the screenplay allegedly written by John T. William. Schneer employed Gordon many times during the 1950s, memorably as screenwriter of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), a low-budget alien-invasion film with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. Gordon worked under the pen name Raymond T. Marcus, a friend who was not in the film business. These low-paying assignments were generally B-level potboilers. Notably, one of the Schneer films was the only feature film to co-star both Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Davis, Hellcats of the Navy (1967). Reagan’s political views were, of course, diametrically opposed to the then still-blacklisted Gordon. The writer took ironic satisfaction in having written an introduction to the film for the esteemed Admiral Chester Nimitz. Another film for which Gordon wrote pseudonymously due to the Black List was Zombies of Mora Tau (1957). Through his friendship with writer/entrepreneur Philip Yordan, Gordon found regular work as a writer and producer in Madrid for the Samuel Bronston company. At first, however, he was still denied screen credit, with Yordan frequently listing himself as sole author of films like The Day of the Triffids (1962), Circus World (1964), and Custer of the West (1967). Gordon did receive on-screen credit for 55 Days at Peking (1963), and the first screen adaptation of The Thin Red Line (1964). Another film he wrote, Cry of Battle (1963), was playing at the theater in which Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested by Dallas police on November 22, 1963. As a producer he made a number of westerns in Spain and the well-received sci-fi thriller Horror Express (1972), co-starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Returning to the US, Gordon had trouble finding work until his former production secretary in Madrid, Lisa Doty, found him a job in Canada adapting Margaret Atwood’s novel Surfacing for producer Beryl Fox. Director Claude Jutra made it into a film in 1981. Gordon’s blacklist-era work remained relatively anonymous until journalist Ted Newsom happened upon the man behind the assumed name Raymond T. Marcus. When the Writers Guild of America took up the task of correctly crediting pseudonymous screenwriters from the 1950s and 1960s, awarding retroactive screen credits to them, Gordon received more after-the-fact credits than any other blacklisted writer. His first film to receive posthumous credit was The Day of the Triffids, originally credited to the film’s producer, Phillip Yordan. Gordon often spoke publicly about his experiences. He helped lead the fight against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 to Elia Kazan, who cooperated with HUAC during the blacklist era. He wrote Hollywood Exile, or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist (1999) and The Gordon File: A Screenwriter Recalls Twenty Years of FBI Surveillance (2007) (died 2007): “The action by the guild [restoring some of his writing credits] comes about 40 years too late to help my Hollywood career. I sure am angry at the way I was treated by all the major studios. They blacklisted me, and I couldn’t get any work in this damn town.”


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