Jesuits Retrace Matteo Ricci’s Journey through China
Tags: China, Jesuit, Jesuit Father Jeremy Clarke, Jesuit Father Jim McDermott, Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, jesuits, Society of Jesus
At the beginning of his documentary, “Beyond Ricci: Celebrating 400 Years of the Chinese Catholic Church,” Australian Jesuit Father Jeremy Clarke, Boston College Assistant Professor of History, speaks directly to his audience.
“This is not National Geographic. This is not Lonely Planet. Hopefully, one of those stations will want to pick it up because it’s a really interesting story. But this is two blokes, two Jesuits, Jim McDermott and myself, Jeremy Clarke [pictured], trying to tell you a story dealing with all the messiness of what it is to come do guerrilla filming in China.”
Armed only with backpacks, a tripod and camera, Frs. Clarke and McDermott traveled throughout China retracing the steps of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, an Italian priest from the 16th century who was one of the founding members of the Chinese Jesuit Catholic Mission.
“Beyond Ricci” is the result of an exhaustive 30-day journey. Buoyed by beautiful shots of sprawling Chinese countryside and intimate details of city life, the film begins in Macau, a city in Southern China, and snakes through Zhaoqing, Nanchang, Jiujiang, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and ends in the Zhalan Cemetery in Beijing, where Fr. Ricci was buried in 1610.
The production was not without challenges: a tropical storm that prevented shots at one location; rental cars that broke down; hurried transitions from taxis to buses; near-misses with train connections; and governmental and cultural sensitivities added to the drama.
“The story became threefold: It became Fr. Ricci’s story, the story of Chinese Catholics and, ultimately, the story of Jim and me finding our way across China,” said Fr. Clarke, who is an in the U.S. on his tertianship.
Honoring the legacy of the Jesuits was part of the project, says Fr. Clarke, but so too was honoring the legacy of what he called a “ministry of friendship.”
“This is not an imposition of a foreign church, but a communication between people. Fr. Ricci’s story was huge, but he could only have done what he did as a result of the friendships with people like Xu Guangqi, a significant Chinese scholar who ended up the equivalent of prime minister who invited the church to Shanghai,” said Fr. Clarke. [Boston College Chronicle]