9. Period Voices

"So many [Jesuits] with franke spirit and fervent affection desire to be sent as it were into an other world, to the barbarous Infidels of both Indiaes, to convert them to the faith, which thing for the great daunger many waies, and the smal probabilitie (as a man would thinke) to doe great good, might justly make very good men to stagger."

Gregory Martin, Roma Sancta, 1581

"You and two or three of your colleagues are eager to spread your teachings concerning the Lord of Heaven to China - this intention seems to me a worthy one, and as I examined its message there seemed no difference from what our own sages have taught [...] The people of our humble land have always understood heaven; can you agree with me as to that?"

Zou Yuanbiou to Matteo Ricci, c. 1600

"God only has us born into this world in order to test us and to have us practice virtue. So this life is for us but a journey, we are not here forever, nor does our final goal lie here below. It is only after our death that we will reach it. Our true homeland is not on this earth, but in heaven, and it is in that direction that we should turn our eyes. Present time is all that the animals have for happiness, and that is why they are built to look at the ground. Man is created for heaven, and his head and eyes are raised high so he can always see whither he is bound. To put one's happiness in earthly things is to descend to the level of the beasts."

Matteo Ricci, Tianzhu shiyi (True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, 1603)

"Hanging on the wall of the reception room in the Mission House in Zhaoqing there was a cosmographical chart of the universe, done with European lettering. The more learned among the Chinese admired it very much and, when they were told that it was both a view and a description of the entire world, they became greatly interested in seeing the same thing done in Chinese [...] When they learned that China was only a part of the great east, they considered such an idea, so unlike their own, to be something utterly impossible, and they wanted to be able to read about it, in order to form a better judgement."

Nicolas Trigault, De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas (1615)

Lines in Praise of a Self-Chiming Clock
Portrait of the Kangxi Emperor

The youthful Kangxi Emperor at a writing desk.

The skill originated in the West,
But, by learning, we can achieve the artifice:
Wheels move and time turns round,
Hands show the minutes as they change.
Red-capped watchmen, there's no need to announce dawn's coming.
My golden clock has warned me of the time.
By first light I am hard at work,
And keep on asking, "Why are the memorials late?"

Kangxi Emperor, c.1705