Martino Martini was born at Trent, Italy on September 20, 1614. He entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on October 7, 1632, and studied at the Roman College. In 1637 he left Rome for Portugal, where he studied Theology. He celebrated his first mass in Lisbon.
On March 26, 1640 he set out for the East Indies with twenty-four other missionaries. After a voyage full of incident (there was a fever epidemic, and storms were frequent) he arrived at Goa on September19, 1640. After waiting a year in Macau for permission to enter China he arrived at the Jesuit residence in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, in 1642. During the period of the "Tartar War", 1643-1650 he devoted himself to apostolic work.
In 1651 he left for Europe. During the voyage he was captured by the Dutch and held prisoner in Java for more than a year. On his eventual arrival in Amsterdam on August 31, 1653 he began publishing his works on the history and geography of China.
While in Rome in 1655 he supported the practice of "Chinese rites", and was successful in obtaining a decree permitting this experiment in inculturation to continue for some further time.
He embarked for Lisbon at Genoa on January 8, 1656, but he was captured by pirates off the Balearic Islands and had to collect ransom for his companions and himself.
On April 4, 1657, he left Lisbon for China. Of the sixteen Jesuits who set out, only four arrived at their destination. After a stopover at Goa he set out for Macau in January 1658.
He died at Hangzhou on June 6, 1661, at the age of 47.
Martino Martini: Geographer, Cartographer, Historian, Theologian. International Congress, Trent, Italy. October 9-14, 1981.
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