THE MEMORY PALACE OF MATTEO RICCI
The treaty of Tordesillas (1494) divided Asia between Portugal and Spain.
The Chinese did not sign, nor were they asked, nonetheless
We of Portugal claim first right to padroado, bishops of our choice (bane of popes to come)
and draw the line on Europe's rim (and then in 1580 Spain)
A priest Ricius, armed with a new curriculum, Clavius' Euclid, a new Stoa for today, even songs
and the arts of memory, natural or taught, to stow the lot in grounds and palaces
Zhaoqing, Chaozhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, the Song capital
without its local gods or healing wells, or Ge Hong's temple hidden in the hills.
In 1594, now Li Madou, he left his Buddhist robes for the glitterati, the cult of Kong Fu Tzu:
a vision of empire ruled by reason, from the capital,
an ordered world of civil rites, managed from above,
it took him twenty years to reach Beijing: a new mission for the new century.
Next, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (or Propaganda Fide 1622): only we
guide all professors of true faith abroad. Our vicars apostolic rule
not as bishops in proprio nomine but in pontifico.
And we decree (in 1678) all new missions swear obedience to us.
In 1688 Lisbon: all routes east go through us, with oaths to honor same.
In 1705 the papal emmisary Charles Maillard de Tournon arrived in Canton, to find: usury
(or so he said) in the Society of Jesus (and at Chinese rates), and the long reach of Lisbon lined
up against him. Questioned by the emperor, he could not read
a single Chinese word, or quote verse or scripture: I KNOW NO LANGUAGE BUT MY OWN!
Tournon decreed: No rites for the ancestors, no incense
before their altars or shrines of Kong Fu Zi. Never say shangdi or tian for God.
The Goan bishop and archbishop issued pastorals.
He excommunicated the bishop and interdicted the Jesuit college at Macao.
Whereupon the Chinese emperor Kangxi held Tournon
at Macao under house arrest, nonetheless the pope
appointed him a cardinal and cooled toward Jesuits.
But Kangxi set a piao or rescript: NO FOREIGN WAYS except the Way of Li Madou.
And his heirs without his skills, peculiar charm, or learning
were caught between. Mendicant Orders arrived on the scene, avid
for patronage, place, grace, and the last word on all rite
holy language and the right names for God.
© 2004 Lisa Raphals