China: Xu Ricci Institute of Dialogue opens in Shanghai

world | May 15, 2010 | By Asia News

Shanghai (AsiaNews / Ucan) – On May, the Institute of Dialogue Xu-Ricci opened in Fudan University in Shanghai, to commemorate the Italian missionary of the Society of Jesus on the 400th anniversary of his death. The institute, which responds to the local Faculty of Philosophy, launched the structure with an seminar to celebrate the contribution of Fr Ricci to dialogue between East and West.

The new centre is named after the Macerata born priest and his closest Chinese friend, Paul Xu Guangqi, the first Catholic in Shanghai. According to French Jesuit Benoit Vermander, co-director of the institute, it is the first Chinese academic centre to combine these two names. The purpose of the structure is to promote academic research, the teaching of religious studies and comparisons between Chinese and Western cultures and philosophies.

The first seminar on May 11 was attended by 70 teachers from China and abroad, working in the field of economics, philosophy and religious studies. In the debate, participants discussed inter-religious dialogue and the challenges facing the Chinese and global communities. Immediately afterwards, the digital edition of the "Grand Ricci", a French-Chinese Dictionary, was also presented to the public at Shanghai Museum.

The dictionary, which is considered the most extensive text to compare Chinese and a foreign language, is published by the Ricci Institute of Taipei. Fr Ricci arrived in China in 1583 and spent 27 years in the country, dying in Beijing on May 11, 1610. Known as Li Madou in China, he is considered the founder of modern Christianity in China as well as the instigator of cultural exchange between East and West. For its part, Shanghai was the largest centre of missionary activities in modern China, especially after the city was forced to open its doors to foreign powers in the first half of the nineteenth century.  

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