Monday, November 29, 2010

From Hong Kong

Hong Kong

23 November 2010

Mr. Will Fitzhugh


The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

Please accept my essay submission: “Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit Mission in China: 1583-1610.”

I’m a Junior at the Chinese International School ( in Hong Kong. CIS is a K-12 bilingual English-Mandarin school. I am fluent in both languages, and am now pursuing the IB Diploma. I intend to edit this essay and submit it as my IB extended essay.

My favorite subject is history, and my teacher, Mr. Christopher Caves, supervised the writing of this essay. Allow me to explain how I decided upon my subject. Last spring I was on holiday in Beijing with my family and we visited a special exhibition at the Capital Museum honoring the life of Matteo Ricci. He was the Italian scholar and priest who led the pioneering Jesuit mission to China in the late 16th century. There are Jesuit schools and colleges in Hong Kong and Macau named after Ricci, but I confess I did not know anything more about him. It turns out that this year marks the 400th anniversary of his death, and the exhibition was a showcase of his intellectually astonishing life. The exhibition was stunning. On display were a number of his books written in Latin, Portuguese, and Chinese; his journals; scientific and musical instruments he brought to China from Europe; and copies of some of the incredible world maps he created. As my essay explains, Matteo Ricci was the first major conduit connecting China to the West, and he left an indelible mark on both worlds in terms of a mutual appreciation for culture and civilization.

By chance, my mother had read Jonathan Spence’s wonderful book, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, and I read it soon after returning from Beijing. I was enthralled at the breadth and depth of Ricci’s intellect, and his devotion to his mission. I was also amazed by his mastery of Chinese. I have found it a difficult language to learn, so I can only imagine what it was like for him to master the Confucian classics four centuries ago. Blood, toil, tears and sweat. I felt deeply humbled.

The large-scale world maps he started producing in 1584 are amazing. He cleverly put China in the middle of the world to please the Ming Emperor Wan Li. Attached are copies of a few (reprinted with permission) which give you a glimpse of his genius.

I thank you for giving high school students like myself a chance to pursue our passions in depth. This process of research, discovery, organizing thoughts and references, and continuous redrafting has made me much more appreciative of historical scholarship. Regardless of whether my essay is selected, I hope you enjoy reading it and learning about this fascinating man, whose life and work have opened up my eyes to the beauty of the humanities across cultures.

Sincerely yours,
Caitlin Lu
Class of 2012
Chinese International School (Hong Kong)

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