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Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionary who visited China during the late Ming Dynasty, died almost four hundred years ago. However, the legendary figure in the history of cultural exchanges between China and the West has remained fascinating to scholars around the world and is the subject of numerous essays and books.
Was misunderstanding inevitable when Matteo Ricci went to China as a Jesuit missionary in the late sixteenth century? Is cross-cultural understanding possible? Or do we, because of our individual conceptual frameworks, distort meaning as we interpret and translate ideas from cultures other than our own? Are competing paradigms incommensurable?
After three days of animated discussion during the international conference, the group of delegates went to Beijing , to visit Ricci ' s tomb and the Southern Cathedral, the first church built by Ricci in Beijing , in a tour led by CityU President Professor H K Chang and Professor Zhang LongXi, Director of the Centre for Cross-Cultual Studies.
"There is no need to emphasize the richness of the theme of China in the West," Professor Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, began. "For the last 400 years, the West has been infused with images of China and the Chinese. No other country or culture has absorbed so much energy and so consistently in the Western world."
Planning for a centre to study cross-cultural influences between East and West began at CityU in 2000, with the establishment of the Steering Committee of the Cross Cultural Centre.
To reinforce its commitment to cultural exchange and research, CityU launched the Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies (CCS) (see related story) on 12 October 2001, following the establishment of the Chinese Civilisation Centre in 1998.