solving the riddle of Sabbatino de Ursis’ Chinese name.
The current opinion amongst scholars is that Matteo Ricci, who at first envisaged to adapt his image in China to that of a Buddhist monk, later realized that monks were not sufficiently esteemed in the Chinese public opinion and he changed is “look” to one of the literati (i.e. of the intellectual elite), who were prevalently Confucian.
It also seems that Matteo Ricci feared the possible confusion between Christian and Buddhist values; therefore he sought the Confucianism as the most apt philosophy to establish an acceptable syncretism.
The question is the substantial identity between Christian and Buddhist mysticism, which exudes continuously from the most inspired scripts by the great missionary.
Take, for example, the “Second Song for European Zither”, composed by Ricci in 1601 for the Emperor Wan Li. The title of the song is “The Sheperd and the Hill”; it concerns a young sheperd who tries to overcome his sadness moving from one hill to another hill. The second hill looks more beautiful, seen from distance, but is identical to the previous one–and the sheperd cannot become happy. Matteo Ricci includes a reference to the letters of Saint Paul Apostle in the text: “Oh sheperd, you feel upset for a speck of dust entering your eye and you are careless about the spear which transfixes your heart (i.e. the physical death).”