Binding Friendship: Ricci, China and Jesuit Cultural Learnings is an exhibition of rare books from the Jesuitana collection held at the John J. Burns Library, Boston College. These works, which mostly date from the sixteenth through to the eighteenth centuries, richly illustrate the cross-cultural exchange that was taking place between China and the nations of Europe at that time. The exhibition focuses on the ways that this exchange was very much a product of the arrival of Jesuit missionaries at the end of the sixteenth century.
Perhaps the most famous of these missionaries was the Italian Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), who lived in China for close to twenty-seven years, eventually dying in Beijing. He worked in fields as diverse as horology, hydraulics, geometry, catechetics, observational astronomy and music, among other things. His work would not have been possible, of course, without the help of Chinese scholars, who helped him acquire a deep knowledge of Chinese language and culture.
One of Ricci's principle academic companions was a Shanghai scholar, Xu Guangqi, shown here in an engraving from a work by Athanasius Kircher, printed in 1667 (which is on display in the exhibition). In addition to being academic colleagues Xu and Ricci became fast friends, and it was friendships such as these that bound together both the Jesuit missionary enterprise and cross-cultural learning and exchange.