Matteo Ricci

1552–1610. The Italian Jesuit priest who founded the Catholic missions in China. He was the greatest pioneer in the exchange of Eastern and Western thought and spirituality. In addition to bringing Christianity to China, he shared his knowledge of Western mathematics, cartography, astrology, and philosophy. Also, he was the first to translate Confucian classics into a European language. Unlike later missionaries, he encouraged the Chinese converts to continue the practice of ancestral veneration.

In his Chinese catechism, The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (천주실의 天主實義), he maintained that his God and Shangdi (Sangje), the Lord of Heaven in the Chinese classics, were the same entity. Sangjenim revealed that Matteo Ricci bridged the East and West and, after his death, led the Eastern spirits of civilization to the West and tried to build heaven on earth. These spirits breathed inspiration into people, enabling rapid advancements of civilization. According to Japanese scholar Sukehiro Hirakawa, who dedicated his life to researching Matteo Ricci, he was the first ‘citizen of the world,’ who laid a bridge between Eastern and Western civilization. Matteo Ricci’s Chinese name was Li Matou (Yi Ma-du in Korean), and his honorific name was Shixian (시헌 時憲, Si-heon in Korean).