Lost in translation

20 07 2009


Random notes on Jonathan Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci

Spence’s book is one that I have wanted to write on for weeks, but I am not really feeling disciplined enough to write a tight, well-crafted essay on it. To summarize, the book is about the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci’s ambitions and dreams to convert the Emperor of China and thus the whole country to Roman Catholicism, and all the misfires, foibles, and tragedies that occur along the way. For this task, Ricci felt it necessary to adopt the garb of a Confucian scholar and attempt to lure the upper class into Catholicism through education, a typical Jesuit tactic. The particular bait that Ricci was trying to use was a set of memory techniques once popular but now extinct in the West. (I can’t even remember AG’s cellphone number.) He hoped to help young aspiring bureaucrats pass the exams necessary to enter civil service in imperial China, and in exchange, he hoped to show that the “barbarians” of the West had much to offer, especially in the religious realm. While not a total failure, he was far from a success. The closest he got to the Emperor himself, for example, was prostrating before his empty throne; the “divine” ruler was far too paranoid about his own safety to see anyone other than the inner circle of his court.
Read the rest of this entry »

Asian Fusion

1 05 2009

From two very different sources:

A setting of the Ave Maria by a Chinese composer, obviously from some centuries back. Performed by Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya. Found thanks to a “Facebook friend” who pointed this one out.

Bollywood meets classic Carnatic vocals. From the film, Morning Raga 2004