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利玛窦的记忆之宫(终) The "Memory Palace" (Final)

(2008-08-03 13:54:54)





分类: 文化论文Discorsi

The “ Memory Palace” of Matteo Ricci: a possible reconstruction of a system of Diplomacy and Culture




Part III

      This virtual palace contained 49 boxes, or rooms, correlated by passages and corridors; it was basically a “magical square” composed of 7 rows of 7 rooms, each one doted of a door/archway, painted with various images and filled with symbols and virtual inhabitants.


      The number 7, a magic number according to the western tradition, corresponds to the 7 main planets influencing the human beings on earth: from left to right, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.


      Giulio Camillo devised a mystical system in which the 49 boxes/rooms would be combined horizontally and vertically, according to a complex game of esoteric and astrologic correspondences: his work was considered as a pure and precious treasure, and as such, studied by Kings and Courts men all around Europe.

噶米洛(Giulio Camillo)依照隐秘的星占术原理,设计出由49个盒子/房间依照垂直与水平走向组成的神秘系统,他的这项成果被视作至宝,被整个欧洲的君主王公拿来钻研。

      Ricci was born few decades after the death of Giulio Camillo and added a huge religious and missionary objective to the philosophical system of Giulio Camillo: the evangelization of China. In order “to preach the Verb”(1) Matteo Ricci had to include the Gospel in the Memory Palace.

利玛窦在噶米洛(Giulio Camillo)死后几十年中诞生,并肩负起一项切合噶米洛(Giulio Camillo)哲学体系的宗教使命:向中国传教。“布道为业”(“To preach the Verb” )利玛窦必须将福音置入记忆之宫。

1.  This heraldic device belongs to the coat of arms of Mgr., Bishop of Macerata and uncle of the Author. The present study is humbly dedicated to him and to the saint memory of “The Apostle of China”. 这句句子是作者的叔叔、马切拉塔市主教Tarcisio Carboni (1923-1995)阁下徽章的一部分。本研究正是作者谦恭地献给他和他的“中国传道者”回忆的。


      One possible clue to Ricci’s choice of Giulio Camillo’s system based on 49 rooms came to our mind while reading the recommendation of the Church Fathers to the youth: “to pray a lot”, and “to remember the words of the prayer Holy Father in Heavens” which was composed by Jesus Christ in person, according to the Gospels.

可以借来说明利玛窦承用了噶米洛(Giulio Camillo)建基于49间房间的记忆之宫的一条线索,就是神甫经常教导青年的话,祈祷吧,记住祈祷文“教宗在天”(“Holy Father in Heavens”),福音书中说那是耶稣基督的话。

      We noticed then that this prayer contains exactly 49 latin words, some of them being unnecessary and redundant for the meaning or the sintaxis of the text, such as some prepositions (sicut et nos dimittimus…etc).

我们发现这句祈祷文由49个拉丁词组成,其中有些是无关紧要的赘文(诸如sicut et nos dimittimus…etc)

      It means that the mysterious system of memory for young Catholics was based on a palace of 49 rooms, each one connected to the other by the words of “Holy Father in Heavens” like the grains of a rosary!

这说明年青的天主教徒的神秘的记忆之宫是由49间房间组成的,房间之间凭借“Holy Father in Heavens”这样的祈祷文像念珠一般联接起来。

We therefore filled the palace of Giulio Camillo with the words of that prayer, starting from the basement (the lower floor) and proceeding vertically, one column at a time, from left to right.

这样,我们就从下往上,然后从左往右一列接一列,将噶米洛(Giulio Camillo)的记忆之宫用祈祷文填补起来了。

      We then translated in Chinese characters the Latin letters and formed “families” of characters related to each other by the meaning or the repetition of some components.



      We hereby show 3 examples:我们这里展示3个例子:

The first box, or room, of the Palace, corresponding to the word “Father” (n° 1);



The middle box, or room, of the Palace, corresponding to the word “da” (n° 25);


The last box, or room, of the Palace, corresponding to the word “malo” (n° 49).



      The box n° 1 relates to the first word of the prayer: pater = father. The literal translation in Chinese is

“fu qin” = 父亲.

       第一个盒子指祷文的第一个词:pater=father, 中文的字面翻译为“父亲”

      The character “fu” 父 can be associated with “hammer” = “fu tou” 斧头. The character “qin” 亲 includes two other characters:


lì立 = to stand

mù木 = tree.


      So the memory image of the room no. 1 would be: one’s father standing near a tree with a hammer in hand. We associated as well this mental image with the lame no. 1 of the tarots showing in fact a standing man.



In the box n° 25 we find the word


“da” = to give, part of the sentence “give our daily bread to us”. It is translated with “gěi” 给, character composed of:



sī 丝 = silk

rén 人 = man

kŏu口 = mouth.


     Giulio Camillo indicated the mythological reference for this box: the Latin hero Aeneas, taking the golden bough to penetrate into the Ades. The memory image would thus be a man, possibly one’s friend, with a silk mantle pulling a golden bough with his mouth and giving it to the incumbent.


      The box n° 25 is the exact center of the magical square and we find it significant that it encompasses the most important theme of the Christian religion: to give, to be generous.



      The last box (n. 49) contains the final word of the prayer: malo = the evil, part of the sentence “Free us from the evil”. It corresponds to the Chinese “móguí” 魔鬼.


      We thought that Matteo Ricci could have introduced in this box the concept of the Good which overcomes the evil. The idea could well represent a bridge between Christian and Confucian values. Therefore the Chinese characters “mó” 魔could be fragmented into:


fángzi 房子= house

lín 林 = forest


      On the other hand, the concept of Good could be perfectly expressed with the Chinese character “hăo” 好 divided into:


nü女= woman

zi 子= child.


      What a marvellous possibility for Matteo Ricci to thus visualize the Virgin Mary, holding in her hand Jesus Christ as a child and killing under her feet the evil in the shape of a snake!


      One could visualize a house in a forest as a background to this holy image. The game of correspondences between the different parts of the Palace of Memory can be synthesised in these series of concepts: it begins with the Father, it ends with the Mother and the central box refers to oneself giving away everything for the sake of love.


Paolo Sabbatini


Italian Culture Institute, Shanghai

倪波路 (萨巴蒂尼)




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