Research Project


Prophecy and Typology in Early Jesuit Writings on China: Antonio Possevino (1533-1611) and Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607)

Daniel Canaris

The movement towards a typological interpretation of Chinese religion and philosophy has largely been seen as a late seventeenth-century development that culminated in the Figurism of the French Jesuit Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730). The accommodation of Confucianism articulated by Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) reflected a Neoscholastic approach in which rational agreement was the primary hinge of interreligious engagement. My research at IKGF has shown, however, that some Jesuit writings on China composed before the consolidation of Ricci's approach made overtures towards typology for interpreting Chinese religion. While preparing the chapter on China in the monumental Counter-Reformation encyclopedia Bibliotheca selecta (1593), Antonio Possevino (1533-1611) relied upon manuscripts of Ricci's marginalized forerunner in the China mission, Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607). By comparing Possevino's chapter and Ruggieri's original manuscripts, my research analyzed the typological reading of Chinese beliefs presented in these texts and concludes with a discussion on why Ricci came to reject it.

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