Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

The New Clothes of the Missionaries: Reconsidering Matteo Ricci's Change of Clothes and Alexandre Valignani's "Cultural Accommodation Policy"

Author: QI Yinping, Professor, School of Philosophy, Zhejiang University



That Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary, wore the same robes as a “Chinese scholar” has been considered as a significant milestone in the history of East-West cultural communication. This was, in fact, not the only time Matteo Ricci changed his image and clothes. When he entered the Mainland China for the first time, Ricci swapped his western clothes for the gown of a Buddhist. Nevertheless, twelve years later, Matteo Ricci took to wearing the robes of a “Chinese scholar”, the sign of his effort to maintain a deeper social intercourse with Chinese scholars and officials. There is some evidence to indicate that the previous change of clothes was not only to imitate the Jesuit missionaries in Japan, but also a reflection of the controversy over the strategy of accommodation within the wider Jesuit order. The change of image was, in essence, a form of permit or protection for the missionary work, a concrete expression of Alexandre Valignani’s “Cultural Accommodation Strategy”. Therefore, the well-known phrase “synthesizing and supplementing Confucianism” was neither the original intention of Matteo Ricci, nor a cultural myth that was ever realized.



Matteo Ricci; Alexandre Valignani; change of clothes; Cultural Accommodation


Full Text (International Version):

QI YinpingSCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

QI YinpingSCN JSCC.pdf