chapter  1
33 Pages

The men: Selective biographies of José de Acosta and

WithMatteo Ricci

Besides being the main figures in this book, José de Acosta (1540-1600) and Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) were two exemplary representatives of the Jesuit intellectual apostolate. In fact, their versatility makes it impossible to encompass all the different facets of their personalities and their works. This chapter is not limited to merely providing facts about their lives, but will attempt to provide ‘selective’ life histories of the two Jesuits. Basically, Acosta and Ricci have three things in common: their education in Jesuit colleges, which they both put to good use in their missions and expressed in the works composed in those spaces; their melancholic moods; and, most important, their taste for power. Much has been said about the closeness to power, typical of the Jesuit Order. However, there are always new angles to discover in particular contexts, especially when contrasting different mission spaces, such as Peru and China. Even though Acosta and Ricci are the main figures in these pages, this chapter also features other less known, sometimes self-effacing, Jesuits in Peru and in China, who also contributed to shaping these missions. Given that Acosta was twelve years senior to the Italian Jesuit, and merely

for chronological purposes, his selective life history is the first to follow this brief introduction.