Matteo Ricci was born in
Macerata, Italy in 1550. He entered the Jesuits and in 1883 he arrived
in China. He became fluent in the Chinese language, and adoped Chinese
dress and a Chinese name, Li Ma-teu. He studied Chinese science and
mathematics, and made western science and mathematics available to
When he arrived in China he began to prepare a "Great
Map of Ten Thousand Countries," a world map for China. In 1601 he
moved to Beijing, and attended the court of Wan Li, and became the
court mathematician. He published drafts of his map in 1584 and in
1600. The final version was made public in 1602.
The map on the Italian stamp is not identified as
Ricci's map, but it is based on the map of 1529 that is attributed to him.
The southern continent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is
rectangular as on that map, and the string of islands across
the bottom of the map appears on it.
The image of Ricci on the
stamp is that of a Chinese scholar, and also appears on a Chinese
stamp with an armillary sphere. The stamp commemorates the 400th
anniversary of Ricci's arrival in China in September 1583.