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The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by…

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (original 1984; edition 1985)

by Jonathan D. Spence

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706713,397 (3.62)13
Title:The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
Authors:Jonathan D. Spence
Info:Penguin Books (1985), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan D. Spence (1984)

  1. 10
    The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates (vy0123)
    vy0123: A better read on the topic of memory tricks.
  2. 00
    The Examination (Sunburst Book) by Malcolm Bosse (infiniteletters)
    infiniteletters: Different styles, but they're both about China and education, particularly memory.

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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 ( )
4 vote 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 |
Interesting life, but overelaborate structure causes some confusion and boredom. Also, I think assumes too much tacit knowledge of China and Chinese. Possibly also of early modern Europe and its expansion. ( )
  SimonDagut | Jan 27, 2013 |
Reviewing this biography is rather a complicated business. At first when reading the description on the dust jacket you might be inclined to think that this is a description of a 16th century missionary's life with many pieces of background information on the construction of memory palaces. In reality it is an unstructured narrative about an early Renaissance traveler to China. Granted, the usage of Mateo Ricci's writings about memory palaces as the guiding means to talk about the Far East and it's exploration is quite a clever one and would have worked extremely well if the mechanism was actually used by the author as a meta-structure of the book. Ironically the structure of the book completely defeats the basic goals of a memory palace and it is one of the most chaotic and unstructured pieces of writing ever seen.

The author freely jumps between events in the Far East and Italy or anywhere else in Europe. Some of it is related to Ricci and some of it consists of curious facts about the period. Some of the events are described in chronological order but most of them are grabbed at random and thrown together to create some kind of related text. Reading this book takes a lot of mental effort since it is up to the reader to glue all the facts and descriptions together.

From the contents of the book you start to wonder if perhaps it would be more interesting to read Ricci's own Historie in translation. ( )
1 vote TheCriticalTimes | Jan 27, 2012 |
1 vote | louvel | Aug 1, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140080988, Paperback)

Matteo Ricci (1552-1616), an Italian Jesuit, entered China in 1583 to spread Catholicism in the largely Confucian country. In order to make a persuasive argument for the educated Chinese to abandon their traditional faith for the new one he was carrying, Ricci realized that he would have to prove the general superiority of Western culture. He did so by teaching young Confucian scholars tricks to increase their memory skills--an important advantage in a nation with countless laws and rituals that had to be learned by heart. Ricci attracted numerous students with this method; more important, Ricci came to have a sympathetic understanding for China that he communicated to Rome, and thence to the European nations at large. Spence's portrait of Ricci is a gem of historical writing. --Gregory MacNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:21 -0400)

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