Matteo Ricci: “Religious Sects among the Chinese”

(1615)

“Religious Sects among the Chinese” was written by Matteo (Matthew) Ricci (1552–1610), an Italian Roman Catholic priest and member of the Society of Jesus, who was among the first Europeans to travel to China in the premodern period. Although Europeans had interacted with Chinese officials and traders since the early decades of the sixteenth century, their comprehension of Chinese culture, political thought, religion, and society was impeded by a formidable language barrier. When Ricci was sent to southern China in 1582 to join a fledgling Jesuit mission, he made the mastery of...