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The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci von…
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The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (Original 1984; 1985. Auflage)

von Jonathan D. Spence (Autor)

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8521019,714 (3.66)15
From the renowned historian and author of The Death of Woman Wang, a vivid and gripping account of the 16th-century missionary's remarkable sojourn to Ming China   In 1577, the Jesuit Priest Matteo Ricci set out from Italy to bring Christian faith and Western thought to Ming dynasty China. To capture the complex emotional and religious drama of Ricci's extraordinary life, Jonathan Spence relates his subject's experiences with several images that Ricci himself created--four images derived from the events in the Bible and others from a book on the art of memory that Ricci wrote in Chinese and circulated among members of the Ming dynasty elite. A rich and compelling narrative about a fascinating life, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci is also a significant work of global history, juxtaposing the world of Counter-Reformation Europe with that of Ming China.… (mehr)
Mitglied:SamuelThomasCat
Titel:The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
Autoren:Jonathan D. Spence (Autor)
Info:Penguin Books (1985), Edition: unknown, 368 pages
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The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci von Jonathan D. Spence (1984)

  1. 10
    Gedächtnis und Erinnern Mnemonik von Aristoteles bis Shakespeare von Frances A. Yates (vy0123)
    vy0123: A better read on the topic of memory tricks.
  2. 00
    Die Prüfung oder die abenteuerliche Reise der Brüder Chen und Hong von Malcolm Bosse (infiniteletters)
    infiniteletters: Different styles, but they're both about China and education, particularly memory.
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While historically interesting, it really didn't give me either the depth of the man nor the insights into his methods that I was really looking for. It is a solid biography, though, if that's what you're looking for. ( )
  jamestomasino | Sep 11, 2021 |
Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit missionary in China in the late 16th/early 17th century. Ricci had trained in the “memory palace” technique, whereby the user imagines a room, building, or even a “palace”, filled with various items and objects that trigger memories. I was unaware of this memory trick; it turns out to be well known since Roman times, is called “the method of loci” in the literature, and was adopted by no less than Dr. Hannibal Lector. (An example of the method given by author Jonathan Spence: you are asked a question on an anatomy exam. In your mind, you enter your memory palace, which is shaped like a human body. Taking the elevator to the top floor, you enter a bedroom. The bed has a red-white-and-blue bedspread; sprawled out on it is a woman. She has slutty, heavy makeup but is otherwise naked. She languorously eats a bon-bon and smiles temptingly. What are you remembering?


However, despite the title, the book is only peripherally about memory but is instead sort of a speculative biography of Ricci coupled with a social history of the China of his age (plus a little about Goa, where Ricci stayed for a while before progressing on to China). One of the problems with European relations with China at the time is that the Chinese had a lot of things Europeans wanted – silk, porcelain, tea – but the Europeans had very little that interested the Chinese. The balance of trade was thus heavily in China’s favor. Ricci, like other missionaries, had to give gifts to Chinese officials to get anywhere, but didn’t have much to offer – some European paintings and clocks – except his memory system. This turned out to fascinate the Chinese, especially students trying to pass the Confucian literary exams. Ricci was able to dumbfound his hosts by memorizing pages of Chinese writing – even random characters – then flawlessly reproducing them – then doing it again, backwards this time.


Spence, perhaps deliberately invoking the “memory palace”, moves his narration through various episodes of Ricci’s life; youth in a medium-sized Italian town; sea voyage to Goa; encounters with Indian Christians; on to Macao; travels around China (mostly by boat). But these are done in flashback and flashforward. This is a little unsettling at first but eventually works out well; I don’t quite know why but I found the presentation relaxing. Oddly, the only thing that doesn’t quite work is when Spence returns to Ricci’s “memory palace”; particularly four European paintings illustrating episodes from the Bible and four Chinese characters that Ricci chose to decorate his “palace”. These divide the book into sections, but the discussions of the images and paintings don’t relate very closely to the narration of Ricci’s life experiences in the rest of the section.


Could use (as usual) some more maps. References are adequate. Worth a read for the Chinese history and the biography of an interesting man. ( )
1 abstimmen setnahkt | Dec 26, 2017 |
Jonathan Spence has made a name for himself as the author of books on various aspects of Chinese history which aspire to be more than informative works of scholarship or historiography, works which aim at the status of literature. He does this by eschewing a conventional exposition in which narrative is balanced by analysis, and looks for a more thematic, artistic, human approach. In this way he reveals new insights into the culture he is writing about, and has created a new kind of genre, one that sits between literature and history, and shares the best of both. It helps that Spence can also write really vividly.

Here he casts his eye on the story of Matteo Ricci’s interaction with the Ming Dynasty, using as his basis...

Read the full review on The Lectern ( )
5 abstimmen tomcatMurr | Mar 3, 2014 |
An interesting book which is something more than an ordinary biography. Matteo Ricci is an interesting character, and the Palace of Memory is a framework and a link between topics, but there is also an excellent glimpse of Ming China and the vast currents of religion and peoples and thought in that vibrant civilization.

It's very interesting to see the interactions between Ricci, who is a Christian Italian Jesuit who is trained in the classical Roman tradition, learn Chinese, interact with the mandarins, learn the Chinese language, and explain his customs to a Confucian/Taoist/Buddhist audience and not get confused with the Muslims. Also bear in mind the Chinese isolationist tendencies. It's a fun book. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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From the renowned historian and author of The Death of Woman Wang, a vivid and gripping account of the 16th-century missionary's remarkable sojourn to Ming China   In 1577, the Jesuit Priest Matteo Ricci set out from Italy to bring Christian faith and Western thought to Ming dynasty China. To capture the complex emotional and religious drama of Ricci's extraordinary life, Jonathan Spence relates his subject's experiences with several images that Ricci himself created--four images derived from the events in the Bible and others from a book on the art of memory that Ricci wrote in Chinese and circulated among members of the Ming dynasty elite. A rich and compelling narrative about a fascinating life, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci is also a significant work of global history, juxtaposing the world of Counter-Reformation Europe with that of Ming China.

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