Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Giovanna Benadusi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gregory Milton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Philip Levy, Ph.D.


Early Modern Europe, Jesuits, Italy, Cartography, Knowledge


This thesis examines the cartographic works of Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), who spent his last twenty-seven years in Ming China. In particular, by focusing on Ricci's 1602 map, I examine the broader significance of Ricci's cartographic production to understand how it reflected early modern Chinese-European exchanges. In addition to the 1602 map, I use Ricci's letters to construct a framework for his cartographic involvement. In his writings, Ricci revealed his rationale for mapmaking and explained his collection of information. Only one year after his entry into China, in 1584, Ricci compiled a world map in the Chinese language and featured China towards the center of the map. In 1602, he completed the third revision of his map, adding a significant amount of details to his previous versions. This map was reproduced during and after Ricci's lifetime and has become a celebrated map in cartography. In my thesis, I contend that more than a proselytizing tool to attract the attention of the Chinese elites, Ricci used cartography to organize, preserve and transmit the information he collected during his travel in China.

In my thesis, I show that while Ricci established himself as a religious man, under the influence of both his humanist education and his travel, he also became increasingly interested in the natural world that surrounded him. Ricci's letters and map reveal his intellectual development. In particular, Ricci's long tenure in China witnessed two phases of his intellectual transformation. The first phase, from 1582 to 1595, displayed Ricci's humanist education as he learned about China through the writing and translation of ancient Chinese and Western classics. In the second phase, from 1596 to 1610, however, Ricci presented himself as a scientist as he applied his scientific skills to collect information while traveling. In the process, he became increasingly interested in cartography which he came to view as a powerful tool to organize and present information. In time, Ricci's cartographic works became more sophisticated, reflecting both his European education and the Chinese culture.