[Tavola / Table 3]1

Michele Ruggieri **


The landa of the Chinese that the inhabitants call Tamin, and the inhabitants themselves Tamgin. Which men inhabited it originally, and who settled there and thus considered themselves inhabitants of the land, I think must be sought for in their stories and annals. Quite rightly it is said to be a large and very vast kingdom and an extreme one between the lands of the east. To the west are defined the limits of India and the kingdom of Brahma. To the north they are separated from the Scythians, whom they call Tartars, by a mutual fear and by the mountains and, what is more, by a wall, the rest is hemmed inb by the Ocean including vast gulfs and immense coastlines. The mountains that extend from the north to the south divide the Chinese from the Scythians; where there are no mountains the people are united by valleys and plains of fields interrupted by very thickc walls. d In general that line of walls and mountains extends for 500 miles, so that of these 80 are man-made, and the mountains constitute the rest, that is 420 miles.

The stories of the inhabitants say that the wall was built by the kinge who had freed China from the tyranny of the Tartars, which tyranny had been inflicted on them for 93 years. 2 But the stories also narrate that every third man in the multitude of the kingdom was inducted into the construction of the walls. The region is the most fertile of all both because of the industry of its men and because of its nature. It contains all things useful for and necessary to life, both for luxury and elegance. Large numbers of flocks on the mountainsides and in the fields; in the fields there is high quality wheat, in the forests they hunt f hare, sable and other wild animals, and all types of bird are captured. The ponds, rivers and seas contain a wealth of fish. There is a great abundance of gold, silver, copper, iron and other metals, gems and pearls. They also produce moschum, esiva root, rhubarb, other herbs and sugar. Here there is no place without its use; where there are hills and mountains there are pine forests; beneath these vegetables are grown; where the swamps dampen the ground they cultivate rice, the staple foodstuff of the inhabitants; an arid field is useful for corn and barley. But there is no doubt that their main trade is in silk, because there are many mulberry-trees, the leaves of which, as we know, g are used to nourish the silk worms. And we cannot not mention the aquatic animals, such is their number, and above all the ducks, of which there are so many that in one city alone (which is not even one of the most important in the kingdom) about 12,000 a day are transformed into food. Here you can see that the kingdom has been divided into 15 provinces.

Each day, ten thousand armed men guard the king, who is considered the highest and most illustrioush authority in the land and to whom they give other august titles; and should there be another war against the Tartars he has chosen the city closest to their borders as his royal seat, the which city they call Tien. He never leaves this city, except when compelled by war. They are better than the Scythians (who are their equals in terms of military force) in their intelligence and arts, so it often happens that they are outdone by the Scythians in force but in their turn they are able to vanquish the Scythians through their craftiness and ability. They undertake military service for the king throughout the kingdom, and 948,350 horsemen and 59/4,650 infantrymen are on permanent sworn duty — this is how they defend their kingdom. The people have the following colour and appearance: those living in the south are coloured; those who inhabit the lands near the north are very white, similarly to the Europeans. They have a broad face, their eyes are not all that big, their noses are slightly snub, they do not have much facial hair, and yet their aspect is not lacking in beauty. The men decorate their hair wherever possible, and they very properly tie their hair by means of silver clasps. Women's hair is heavy not only with gold but also pearls and gemstones. Their dressi is absolutely dignifiedj if not sumptuous, made of coloured silk, which is sometimes even interwoven with gold thread in keeping with the period of the year. In winter they cover themselves with skins taken from sable, marten and other animals are used to line the inside of the lighter, poorer clothing. Their clothes are of black silk with gold interweave. Very few nobles use horses, but rather sedan chairs. Even the women are taken about the city in these chairs, but the chairs are covered with a veil and laden with gold so that they cannot be seen by others. Their quality of life and sumptuous upkeep are not very different from those of the Gauls and the Germans; they make very careful use of fasting, they sit at their tables much as we do, and do not hunch on the floor as do the Persians and the Turks. Drinking and being happy do not lead them to shameful behaviour. As for matrimony, k they observe the following custom — it is legitimate for a man to have more than one wife. Noblemen have different wives who may even live in different places; the lower classes have only one wife but the penalty for adultery is one of the worst possible. Marriages are normally celebrated in March and with the new moon. Sumptuous preparations are made and they mitigate the worries of the spirit with a great sense of fun, with songs and concerts of musical instruments. And so that the genius of their population should shine above all others, in learning their letters, they pass on to many others the large number and great variety of charactersl they use as their writing system. They have many different fishing systems, but the following is worthy of note. There are birds that the Spanish call sea crows; when they need to fish, they do not give these crows (I will continue to use this term) any food so that they will be greedy for food.

They then tie their throats with a piece of string so that the birds are unable to swallow the fish. They then release them from their boats. They let them dive into the watery depths and follow them as they come up with a wealth of fish. Assoon as the birds' beaks and throat are heavy with fish, they are pulled back and they throw up their catch. Thusm it continues until the fishermen have caught their fill. The life of other Chinese is spent in different ways: some plough the land; others become professional soldiers; others export their own goods and import others from abroad; nobody lazes about, and there are no beggars; they are mainly industrious, and they are also moderately profitable in moral disciplinesn and the study of law; some are devoted to sacred things, others to wisdom. As for religion and culture, the following can be said: they have a god for whom they have three names: Nanuu, Homitofe3 and Sciechia, and their god is depicted with three faces. There is also a divinity of the daughter of a certain king who was also unique to her father; she could not be moved by prayers or fear, and could only give herself over to penance; after many years they erected a statue in her honour and it is called Cuon in. ·4 Here amongst the Chinese there are those who worship Christ, and even the virgin, who is given with a moon over her and a dragon under her feet, is invoked. They also worship as many gods and lares for their own pleasure.

Translated from the Italian by: Salvatore Mele

For the original source of the English revised translation see: RUGGIERI, Michele, CAMPANINO, Vittorio, transcript., Trascrizioni delle tavole descrittive di Michele Ruggieri, in SARDO, Eugenio Lo, ed., "Atlante della Cina di Michelle Ruggieri, S. I.", Roma, Archivio di Stato di Roma - Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato - Libreria dello Stato, 1993, pp.61-120, pp.65-66 and T.3.

Tavola /Plate 4


SARDO, Eugenio Lo, ed., Atlante della Cina di Michele Ruggieri, S. I., Roma, Archivio di Stato di Roma-Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello stato-Libreria dello Stato, 1993.

* Italian editor's general note: Transcriptions of Michele Ruggieri's Descriptive Tables.

The following criteria have been followed in editing the texts. Orthographic variants have been respected; the distinction between 'i' and 'j'in the original has been maintained; the diphthong 'ae' has been conserved. Much more complex is the rendering of the distinction between 'u' and 'v' in the original. For this latter point we have followed modem usage, according to which the two sounds are distinct, except in the transcription of the toponyms that begin with the letter 'v', which has been uniformly given as 'u' (i. e., "vu ceu" has been given as "uu ceu"). Marginal corrections, where possible, have been inserted in the text in italics.

Quite a few problems were posed by the diacritical marker ''', as the author uses it indistinctly to indicate both the presence of a nasal and an accent on the final syllable of a word. We have therefore decided to leave the diacritical marker in the toponyms, except in those cases in which the author has transcribed the same toponym elsewhere (in the geographical maps or in the text) with a nasal in final position in a word, and where the identification of the location has allowed for a more certain interpretation.

** Pompilio Michele Ruggieri (°1543 Spinazzola/ Venosa, Puglia-† 1607 Salerno), Italian by birth, joined the Society of Jesus, in Rome, on the 28th of October 1572. In November 1577. left Italy to Lisbon and sailed together with Matteo Ricci to Goa, where they arrived of the 13th of September 1578. After his stay in Malabar he left for Macao in 1579 with the intention to join the China mission. After a brief stay in Guangzhou accompanying Portuguese traders he was received by the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi and in 1582 settled in Zhaoqing. He was a precursor in China of the evangelizing work developed by Matteo Ricci. In 1588 he was sent to Rome to organise a papal embassy to the Emperor of China, a plan never materialized. He is the co-author with Francesco Pasio, S. J., of the first catechism in Chinese:

*** Italian editor's note: There is no title in Michele Ruggieri's original manuscript for these introductory notes on China.

**** Translator's note: This text relates to an untitled map in the list of reproductions of Michele Ruggieri's original manuscript inserted in Eugenio Lo Sardo's edition of the Atlante della Cina di Michele Ruggieri, I. S., Tavola/ Plate 4. The romanisation of Chinese names and sites was left as in Michele Ruggieri's original manuscript according to Vittorio Campanino's transcription in Eugenio Lo Sardo's edition of the Atlante della Cina di Michele Ruggieri.


1 ARSI, Jap. -Sin., 101, II fols. 296ro-298 — Where many of the themes dealt with here are given by the author using similar expressions.

2 The Yuan· dynasty ruled China from 1277 to 1367.

3 Michele Ruggieri seems to be confusing the Buddhist invocation 'namah Amitabha' with two different divinities.

See: BOXER, Charles Ralph, South China in the sixteenth Century: Being the narratives of Galeote Pereira /Fr. Gaspar da Cruz, O. P. /Fr. Martin de Rada, O. E. S. A. (1555-1640), London, Hakluyt Society, 1953, [second series, no. CVI], p.214, note 1 — The author says that "Amituofo " is the abbreviation for 'namah Amitabha', which is virtually the equivalent of the Catholic 'Ave'. GERNET, Jacques, Chine et Christianisme. Action et réaction, Paris, Gallimard, 1982., p. 104 — according to the author Ricci also sees many points in common between Buddhism and Christianity, such as: the existence of a sort of Trinity, Heaven and Hell, the use of penance, celibacy, etc.

Also see: F. R., I, p.121 — "The second sect is that of Sciechia and Homitofe, · which in Japan are written with the same letters but pronounced Shakka and Amidabu, and call the law of the Fatochei. · This law came to China from the East, from the kingdom they call Thiencio· or Shinto, · which is what they now call our Hindustanis."

4 The Bodhisattva Guanyin, · often called the Goddess of Mercy. She was the third daughter of a prince in the kingdom of the North, now identified as Zhong Wang (°696-†81BC) in the Zhou· dynasty.

See: WERNER, E. T. C., A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology, Shanghai, 1932, pp.225-227; BOXER, Charles Ralph, op. cit., p.305, note 4.

Idem, pp. [?] — Martin de Rada also briefly mentions the story of the Chinese female divinity and maintained that the Chinese worshipped a sort of Trinity.

a "terra" (lit. trans.: "land") is implied here.

b A stain on the manuscript makes the reading of the first three letters of the word impossible.

c "fortissimis" (lit. trans.: "very thick") has been written over a crossed out word.

d More than half the line has been crossed out by the author.

e "regem" (lit. trans.: "king") has been written over two crossed-out words.

f A word has been crossed out.

g A stain on the manuscript makes the reading of the last three letters of the word impossible.

h A stain on the manuscript makes the reading of the central part of this word impossible.

i A stain on the manuscript makes the reading of a word ending with "usque " impossible.

j Another stain on the manuscript.

k A word has been crossed out.

l Two words have been crossed out.

m The author has corrected his original "donec" with "ita ".

n In this sentence, the two words "moralibus" and "propriis" have been interlined.

Here there are a few signatures resembling that of the provincial visitor Alessandro Valignano; the conversion of 34 degrees into 595 leagues; and the drawing of a palace with three small towers.

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