The Tomb of Matteo Ricci

The tomb of the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci stands behind the French Church at 12 Maweigou (Horsetail Ditch) Road in the Fuchengmen district. Ricci died in Beijing in June 1610 at the age of 58. According to the code of the Ming Dynasty, foreigners who died in China had to be buried in Macao. The Jesuits made a special plea to the court, requesting a burial plot in Beijing in view of Ricci' s contributions to China. Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty granted his permission and designated a Buddhist temple, which had been appropriated from a court eunuch for the purpose. In October of 1610, the Jesuit Father' s remains were transferred to the tomb.

Constructed of square bricks and surrounded by a brick wall, the tomb is entered through a decorative iron latticework gate. A pair of carved Ming stone vases still stands before the tomb, and a stone tiger from the same period stands outside the gate.

Matteo Ricci was born in 1552 of a noble Italian family. He first came to China in 1582 after studying the Chinese language in Macao. He worked for a period in Zhaoqing, then the capital of Guangdong Province, and a number of other places before receiving permission to enter Beijing in 1601. Upon his arrival at eh capital, Ricci presented Emperor Wanli with maps of foreign countries, a chiming clock and other gifts, which induced the emperor to permit Ricci to carry on missionary work in Beijing, and to approve the building of the Southern Cathedral (Nantang), the first Catholic church in the city, near Xuanwumen.

Ricci proposed a synthesis of Confucian ideology and the ancestor worship of the partriarchalclan system with Catholicism. He also introduced Western scientific achievements into China. His books include Basic Geometry, translated with the help of Xu Guangqi; Astronomy: Fact and Fiction; and on the Introduction of the Society of Jesus to China. Ricci gained the respect of the high-ranking officials of the time who addressed him as the "Wise Man of the Great West."

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