Vasileios Syros
The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Heavens in Cathay: 
China as a Mercantilist Utopia and Jesuit Political Thought

4:00 PM, Friday, October 13, 2017 Adorjan Hall 142 
Reception to follow

The aim of this presentation will be to shed new light on early modern perceptions of China and Jesuit debates on the interface of efficient government and trade. The principal focus of the talk will be the discussion of the political organization of Ming China, included in the Relazioni universali (Universal Relations, 1591–98), a comprehensive account of the social conditions, cultures, mores, and religious practices of various polities around the world, produced by the seminal Jesuit political writer Giovanni Botero (ca. 1540–1617). I will show that Botero’s narrative encapsulates an ideal vision of the political order of the Ming dynasty that can, in many ways, be construed as an alternative to Thomas More’s Utopia. I also argue that the ultimate goal of Botero’s deployment of the example of China is to alert to the challenges associated with imperial expansion and to foreground the importance of trade for domestic stability and the conservation of the state. The paper will relate Botero’s ideas about China to the major principles of his political theory, articulated in his Della ragion di stato (On the Reason of State, 1589) and Delle cause della grandezza delle città (On the Causes of the Greatness of Cities, 1588), as well as to early modern discourse on the Roman paradigm and imperial conquest (Machiavelli) and the establishment of colonies (Claude de Seyssel). Additionally, I will examine Botero’s use of Jesuit sources about inter-cultural encounters with China and I will explore the reception of his ideas in the Jesuit “great century” in the 17th century and in the broader context of the evolution of Sinophilia in Europe. Finally, I will investigate how his insights predate current debates on the non-expansionist character of China’s foreign policy and the configuration of the Chinese state during the Ming period (e.g. Francis Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order).

Vasileios Syros  is a Fellow at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. His teaching and research interests converge at the intersection of the history of Christian/Latin, Jewish, and Islamic political thought and Comparative Political Theory. Syros has published Marsilius of Padua at the Intersection of Ancient and Medieval Cultures and Traditions of Learning (University of Toronto Press, 2012); Die Rezeption der aristotelischen politischen Philosophie bei Marsilius von Padua (Brill, 2007); and Well Begun is Only Half Done: Tracing Aristotle’s Political Ideas in Medieval Arabic, Syriac, Byzantine, and Jewish Sources (ACMRS, 2011). His work has appeared in a number of international peer-reviewed journals, including Viator, Journal of Early Modern History, Medieval Encounters, Journal of World History, Philosophy East & West, History of Political Thought, and Revue des Études Juives. Syros is the Principal Investigator for the research project “Political Power in the European and Islamic Worlds” (2014–18). He has taught previously at Stanford University, McGill University, The University of Chicago, and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris). Syros has received fellowships from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 





The cultural and missionary work inaugurated by Matteo Ricci, SJ (1552-1610) in Ming China (1368-1644) offered the hope of a brand of intercultural dialogue founded on the belief of the universality of the human experience and possibility of mutual understanding between cultures.  In this spirit, the “Matteo Ricci Speaker Series," extending from 2014-2018, invites leading international scholars to speak on the subject of Chinese-Christian intercultural dialogue.  Our Speaker Series celebrates both the bicentenaries of the restoration of the Society of Jesus (1814) and the Foundation of Saint Louis University (1818).

馬泰奧·裡奇(漢名利瑪竇耶穌會, 1552-1610) 在明代中國所作之開創性的文化及傳教活動為跨文化對話帶來了希望人類經驗普世性之信念和異域文化可交融乃是跨文化對話之源頭“馬泰奧·裡奇講座系列” 扱取在聖路易大學中世紀暨文藝復興研究中心神學,哲學及歷史學系跨文化研究中心以及國際研究中心的學術活動探索中國研究中的重要課題該講座系列始於2014 止於 2018,旨在慶賀耶穌會復會二百年 (1814) 暨聖路易大學建校二百週年 (1818).

Subpages (1): Ricci Pluralism