Portrait of Martino Martini
September 20, 1614|
Trento, Bishopric of Trent
|Died||June 6, 1661
|Cause of death||Cholera|
|Occupation||missionary, cartographer and historian|
Martino Martini (simplified Chinese: 卫匡国; traditional Chinese: 衛匡國; pinyin: Wèi Kuāngguó) (20 September 1614 – 6 June 1661) was an Italian Jesuit missionary, cartographer and historian, mainly working on ancient Imperial China.
Martini was born in Trento, in the Bishopric of Trent. After finishing high school studies in Trent in 1631, he entered the Austrian province of the Society of Jesus, from where he was sent to study classical letters and philosophy at the Roman College, Rome (1634–37). However his interest was more in astronomy and mathematics which he studied under Athanasius Kircher. His request to be sent as a missionary to China had already been granted by Mutius Vitelleschi, the then Superior General of the Jesuits. He did his theological studies in Portugal (1637–39)—already on his way to China—where he was ordained priest (1639, in Lisbon).
In the Chinese Empire
He set out for China in 1640, and arrived in Macau in 1642 where he studied Chinese for some time. In 1643 he crossed the border and settled in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, from where he did much traveling in view of gathering scientific information, especially on the geography of the Chinese empire: he visited several provinces, as well as Peking and the Great Wall. He made great use of his talents as missionary, scholar, writer and superior.
Soon after Martini's arrival to China, the Ming capital Beijing fell to Li Zicheng's rebels (April, 1644) and then to the Manchus, and the last "real" Ming emperor, the Chongzhen Emperor, hanged himself. Down in Zhenjiang, Martini continued working with the short-lived regime of Zhu Yujian, Prince of Tang, who set himself up as the (Southern) Ming Longwu Emperor. Soon enough, the Manchu troops reached Zhejiang. According to Martini's own report (which appeared in some editions of his De bello tartarico), the Jesuit was able to switch his allegiance to China's new masters in an easy enough, but bold, way. When Wenzhou, in southern Zhejiang, where Martini happened to be on a mission for Zhu Yujian, was besieged by the Manchus and was about to fall, the Jesuit decorated the house where he was staying with a large red poster with seven characters saying, "Here lives a doctor of the divine Law who has come from the Great West". Under the poster he set up tables with European books, astronomical instruments, etc., surrounding an altar with an image of Jesus. When the Manchu troops arrived, their commander was sufficiently impressed with the display to approach Martini politely and ask if he'd like to switch his loyalty to the new Qing Dynasty. Martini agreed, and had his head shaved in the Manchu way, and his Chinese dress and hat replaced with Manchu-styles ones. The Manchus then allowed him to return to his Hangzhou church, and provided him and the Hangzhou Christian community with necessary protection.
The Chinese Rites affair
In 1651 Martini left China for Rome as the Delegate of the Chinese Mission Superior. He took advantage of the long, adventurous voyage (going first to the Philippines, from thence on a Dutch privateer to Bergen, Norway, which he reached on the 31 August 1653, and then to Amsterdam). Further, and still on his way to Rome, he met printers in Antwerp, Vienna and Munich to submit to them historical and cartographic data he had prepared. The works were printed and made him famous.
When passing through Leyden, Martini was met by Jacobus Golius, a scholar of Arabic and Persian at the university there. Golius did not know Chinese, but had read about "Cathay" in Persian books, and wanted to verify the truth of the earlier reports of Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci and Bento de Góis who believed that Cathay is the same place as China where they lived or visited. Golius was familiar with the discussion of the "Cathayan" calendar in Zij-i Ilkhani, a work by the Persian astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, completed in 1272. When Golius met Martini (who, of course knew no Persian), the two scholars found that the names of the 12 divisions into which, according to Nasir al-Din, the "Cathayans" were dividing the day, as well as those of the 24 sections of the year reported by Nasir al-Din matched those that Martini had learned in China. The story, soon published by Martini in the "Additamentum" to his Atlas of China, seemed to have finally convinced most Europeans scholars that China and Cathay were the same.
It is only in the spring of 1655 that Martini reached Rome.
There, in Rome, was the most difficult part of his journey. He had brought along (for the Holy Office of the Church) a long and detailed communication from the Jesuit missionaries in China, in defence of their inculturated missionary and religious approach: the so-called Chinese Rites (Veneration of ancestors, and other practices allowed to new Christians). Discussions and debates took place for five months, at the end of which the Propaganda Fide issued a decree in favour of the Jesuits (23 March 1656). A battle was won, but the controversy did not abate.
Return to China
In 1658, after a most difficult journey, he was back in China with the favourable decree. He was again involved in pastoral and missionary activities in the Hangzhou area where he built a three naves church that was considered to be one of the most beautiful of the country (1659–61). The church was hardly built when he died of cholera (1661).
According to the attestation of Prosper Intorcetta (in Litt. Annuae, 1861) his body was found undecayed twenty years after; it became a long-standing object of cult not only for Christians, until in 1877, suspecting idolatry, the hierarchy had it buried again.
Today's scientists are more and more interested in the works of Martini; he is acclaimed as the father of Chinese geographical science. During an international convention organized in the city of Trento (his birthplace) a member of the Chinese academy of Social Sciences, the Professor Ma Yong said : "Martini was the first to study the history and geography of China with rigorous scientific objectivity; the extend of his knowledge of the Chinese culture, the accuracy of his investigations, the depth of his understanding of things Chinese are examples for the modern sinologists". Ferdinand von Richthofen calls Martini "the leading geographer of the Chinese mission, one who was unexcelled and hardly equalled, during the XVIII century…There was no other missionary, either before or after, who made such diligent use of his time in acquiring information about the country". (China, I, 674 sq.)
- Martini's most important work is Novus Atlas Sinensis, which appeared as part of volume 10 of Joan Blaeu's Atlas Maior (Amsterdam 1655). This work, a folio with 17 maps and 171 pages of text was, in the words of the early 20th-century German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen, the most complete geographical description of China that we possess, and through which Martini has become the father of geographical learning on China. The French Jesuits of the time concurred, saying that even du Halde's monumental Description…de la Chine did not fully supersede Martini's work. (A Scan of the maps of the atlas (not very high resolution), can be seen at the National Library of Australia web site; a very high quality zoomable scan of the maps, at Gallica.bnf.fr).
- Of the great chronological work which Martini had planned, and which was to comprise the whole Chinese history from the earliest age, only the first part appeared: Sinicæ Historiæ Decas Prima (Munich 1658), which reached until the birth of Jesus.
- His De Bello Tartarico Historia (Antwerp 1654) is also important as Chinese history, for Martini himself had lived through the frightful occurrences which brought about the overthrow of the ancient Ming dynasty. The works have been repeatedly published and translated into different languages. There is also a later version, entitled Regni Sinensis a Tartaris devastati enarratio (1661); compared to the original De Bello Tartarica Historia, it has some additions, such as an index.
- Interesting as missionary history is his Brevis Relatio de Numero et Qualitate Christianorum apud Sinas, (Brussels, 1654).
- Besides these, Martini wrote a series of theological and apologetical works in Chinese, including a De Amicitia (Hangzhou, 1661) that could have been the first anthology of Western authors available in China (Martini's selection fished mainly into Roman and Greek writings).
- Several works, among them a Chinese translation of the works of Francisco Suarez, which has not been found yet.
- Grammatica Linguae Sinensis: 1652-1653. The first manuscript grammar of Mandarin Chinese and the first grammar of Chinese language ever printed and published in M. Thévenot Relations des divers voyages curieux (1696),
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Hangzhou
- Vicariate Apostolic of Kiang-nan
- Religion in China
- Christianity in China
- Jesuit China missions
- "Martino Martini". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Mungello, David E. (1989). Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 106–107. ISBN 0-8248-1219-0.. Also, p. 99 in De Bello Tartarico Historia.
- Mungello, p. 108
- Lach, Donald F.; Van Kley, Edwin J. (1994), Asia in the Making of Europe, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-46734-4. Volume III, "A Century of Advance", Book Four, "East Asia", p. 1577.
- "Martin Martini" in Notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les jésuites de l'ancienne mission de Chine (1552-1773), par le P. Louis Pfister,…Tome I, XVIe et XVIIe siècles -Impr. de la Mission catholique (Shanghaï)-1932, pp. 256-262.
- Paternicò, Luisa M. (2013). When the Europeans Began to Study Chinese, Leuven Chinese Studies XXIV, Leuven: Ferdinand Verbiest Institute, KU Leuven. ISBN 9789081436588
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Martino Martini.|
- BOLOGNANI, B., L'Europa scopre il volto della Cina; Prima biografia di Padre Martino Martini, Trento, 1978.
- DEMARCHI, F. and SCARTEZZINI, R. (eds), M.Martini a Humanist and Scientist in XVIIth century China, Trento, 1996.
- MARTINI, Martino, Opera Omnia, vol. I, Lettere e documenti, a cura di Giuliano Bertuccioli,Trento, Università degli Studi di Trento, 1998
- MARTINI, Martino, Opera Omnia, vol. II, Opere minori, a cura di Giuliano Bertuccioli, Trento, Università degli Studi di Trento, 1998
- MARTINI, Martino, Opera Omnia, vol. III, Novus Atlas Sinensis , con note di Giuliano Bertuccioli, Trento, Unitn, 2002, con un volume di complemento intitolato Tavole (le diciassette carte geografiche dell’Atlas riprodotte in folio).
- MARTINI, Martino, Opera Omnia, vol. IV, Sinicae Historiae Decas Prima, a cura di Federico Masini e Luisa M. Paternicò, Trento, 2010.
- MARTINI, Martino, Opera Omnia, vol. V, De Bello Tartarico Historia e altri scritti, a cura di Federico Masini, Luisa M. Paternicò e Davor Antonucci, Trento, 2013.
- PATERNICO', Luisa M. (2013). When the Europeans Began to Study Chinese, Leuven Chinese Studies XXIV, Leuven: Ferdinand Verbiest Institute, KU Leuven. ISBN 9789081436588
- VACCA, Giovanni, Martini, Martino, voce in Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Roma, Ipzs, vol. XXII, 1934, p. 448.
- AA.VV., Martino Martini geografo, cartografo, storico, teologo (Trento 1614-Hangzhou 1661, atti del Convegno Internazionale, Trento 1983.
- BALDACCI, Osvaldo, Validità cartografica e fortuna dell'Atlas Sinensis di Martino Martini, Trento, Provincia Autonoma di Trento, 1983.
- QUAINI, Massimo e CASTELNOVI, Michele, Visioni del Celeste Impero. L’immagine della Cina nella cartografia occidentale, Genova, Il Portolano, 2007 (English: Massimo Quaini e Michele Castelnovi, Visions of the celestial empire. China's image in western cartography, Genova, Il Portolano, 2007).
- AA.VV., Riflessi d'Oriente. L'immagine della Cina nella cartografia europea, Mostra 18/12/08-18/02/09, a cura di Aldo Caterino, Genova, Il Portolano (Centro Studi Martino Martini di Trento), 2008.
- LONGO, Giuseppe O., Il Mandarino di Dio. Un gesuita nel Celeste Impero. Dramma in tre scene, Trento, Centro Studi M. Martini, 2008.
- LONGO, Giuseppe O., Il gesuita che disegnò la Cina. La vita e le opere di Martino Martini, Milano, Springer, 2010.
- CASTELNOVI, Michele, Il primo atlante dell’Impero di Mezzo. Il contributo di Martino Martini alla conoscenza geografica della Cina, Trento, Centro Studi Martino Martini per le relazioni culturali Europa-Cina, 2012. ISBN – 978-88-8443-403-6.