Gianni Criveller is member of Macau Ricci Institute, a Fellow Researcher at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and a professor in Hong Kong and Milan. He specializes on the encounter between China and Christianity, with particular attention to Jesuit mission; missionary work and strategies and the Chinese Rites Controversy. Author of numerous publications Jesuit mission in China, among his recent publications are: (in collaboration) 500 Hundred Years of Italians in Hong Kong and Macau (Hong Kong, 2013); La malinconia immaginativa di Matteo Ricci (Milano, 2016).
The talk investigates Matteo Ricci’s contribution to the intellectual history of melancholy. This specific rhetorical edge is still rather unexplored, and is potentially able to add meaningful insights to the interpretation of Ricci, who referred to himself as a melancholic missionary. Ricci writes that the dream that anticipated the success of his mission in Beijing took place while he was under a melancholic spell. Moreover, quite remarkably, Ricci describes melancholy as something good, while Christian teaching rejects melancholy as a spiritual malady. Dante Alighieri’s melancholy is an omen of despair and death.
The term melancholy comes from ancient Greek medicine and holds a negative meaning. Aristotle, however, links melancholy to genius. Similarly, Renaissance associates melancholy to the power of imagination of the artists. The same Matteo Ricci associates melancholy with dreams and imagination; the latter a fundamental trait in Jesuit contemplative exercise of 'composition of place'. Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), the modern Magna Charta of melancholy, often cites Matteo Ricci.