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Get A Copy. Kindle Edition. Published first published November 25th More Details Other Editions 1. On a daily basis it appears that we use our own brains for fewer and fewer daily tasks. We let the checker do that. We rely on a computer to do that. Now this is just one task. Before smartphones and tablets, we had calculators.
Most of mine is on my phone. Phone numbers? How many of those do you actually know by heart? The other day I was trying to recollect the name of a movie.
In itself, the incident was as meaningless as the piece of information I was trying to recall. This, in turn, got me enthusiastic for the prospect of revisiting a few memory techniques with which I have been cursorily familiar for several years. I thought that I would just sketch them out — for my benefit and for that of any interested readers. Many of the tried and true memory systems are certainly not recent inventions. They go back hundreds of years — if not millennia. The frustrating thing is that a lot of the details have been lost concerning how these systems worked.
Here are some notable exceptions. The 4 th -c. Another important early text is titled, in Latin, Rhetorica ad Herennium circa B.
But consider the case of one Simonides of Ceos. According to the tale, Simonides was invited to a great feast at which there were dozens of other attendees.
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Unfortunately for this article on the power of memory , I have forgotten the exact number of other guests — which is probably unknown in any case. At some point during the feast, Simonides was summoned out of the dining hall. No sooner had he left than the building collapsed with a great crash. Not only were the occupants killed, they were mangled beyond all recognition.
Bystanders, investigators, and would-be rescuers fretted over the seemingly futile task of identifying the victims. But, so the story continues, Simonides was able to recall each guest and his or her place at the great feasting tables. None of these surviving works is anything like a thoroughgoing teaching manual. The references mostly assume that readers are fully familiar with the methods under discussion. This means that interested persons today need to do a bit of sleuthing — and depend upon the reconstructions of various scholars.
For example, such techniques or something similar were apparently known to the Medievals. Or again, the relevant ancient memory techniques were apparently resurrected around the 16th century, during the Renaissance, by such authors as Johannes Romberch  and Giordano Bruno. Jonathan Spence's books are unique in their balance of learning and readability. That said, the organizing principle of this book the Jesuit Ricci's attempt to convert Ming Dynasty Chinese through a Christian mnemonic device for the Confucian examinations , tries patience.
Fortunately, Spence more than compensates with his habitual ease with the subject matter.letleasiliwa.ga
The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan D. Spence Summary & Study Guide
And in this book he is at home not only his usual territory of China but Ricci's youth in Italy, his long ocean voyage to China, and th Jonathan Spence's books are unique in their balance of learning and readability. And in this book he is at home not only his usual territory of China but Ricci's youth in Italy, his long ocean voyage to China, and the intricacies of Jesuit history and economics, such the import-export business that financed their missions to the East. In the end, Ricci mastered Chinese but made few converts, despite the occasional curiosity of the rulers. Fortunately, Spence has a keen eye for paradox: not only were the Jesuits dependent on trade, Ricci himself attempted to impress Chinese rulers with opulent Christian books.
Ricci attacked Buddhists, despite their superficial similarities to Christianity--fasting, works for the poor at a time when a large portion of the population was evidently starving, even homeless, a gift for theological argument--even siding with Confucians against them. Converts burned statues of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy because many Chinese confused her with the Virgin.
A tireless writer, Ricci made no mention of the large population of the poor. And, with ties to the Portuguese colony of Macao, which depended on slavery, he was active in returning fugitives who had escaped into China. Ricci was not above justifying the sale of Chinese into slavery because it might be one of God's tools for conversion. A brilliant man, no doubt, and a powerful writer, but for all that intellectual rigor, incapable of noticing his own preconceptions and blind spots.
Christian missionaries brought the instrument to China, and China fell in love with it.
Jun 14, Lynne-marie rated it really liked it. I first read this book when it came out in hardcover, in and just re-read the hardcover copy that the library still preserved. Aside from the point that Spence fixes on Ricci's memory images to organize his historical information, and that the tale of Ricci's life could not be told without reference to the "memory palace" system he taught, this book is not primarily about that mneumonic trick.
It is a historical tapestry of everything that touched on Ricci's life: his home of Macerata, Ital I first read this book when it came out in hardcover, in and just re-read the hardcover copy that the library still preserved. It is a historical tapestry of everything that touched on Ricci's life: his home of Macerata, Italy; his training in and much about the Jesuits; his posting to Goa and by some sidle-wise reasoning about Portugal and then Spain and then the state of sea travel.
Increasingly, the tapestry includes the politics of the Papacy and the international situation as well as the plight of the alien Jesuits in China, forbidden to ever leave, but ever suspected of sedition and treason. This is a masterly book not only for it's scholarship, but for the way the author draws its myriad threads into a coherent whole. Dec 11, Ensiform rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , china.
I must say that the non-chronological and continent-jumping style, while an admirable idea, is sometimes a bit difficult to follow; most themes and segues within themes work, while other passages seem to be simply a series of unrelated but always fascinating bits of information about the Eastern and Western century.
Sep 20, Philip rated it really liked it. This is a splendidly written account of Ricci's missionary voyage to China in the 16th century, but it is so much more. Ricci, a Jesuit priest, spent many years in China, and eventually became the first foreigner to be invited into the Forbidden City Spence, a historian, brings in fascinating information about Ricci's native Italy and China, and the growing trade between East and West during that time.
He builds the account around Ricci's use of memory devices that fascinated the Chinese, as did This is a splendidly written account of Ricci's missionary voyage to China in the 16th century, but it is so much more. He builds the account around Ricci's use of memory devices that fascinated the Chinese, as did his knowledge of astronomy, navigation and many other fields.
Spence weaves all of this into a highly readable narrative. I wish all historians were this interesting. Sep 25, Andrej Mrevlje rated it really liked it. It's the second time, after many years, that I am going through this book.
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Matteo Ricci was an unusual character, Spence is a complicated writer and beautiful mind. Nov 30, John David rated it liked it Shelves: medieval-or-renaissaice-history , history-of-ideas. Some lives, like those of Hong Xiuquan and Mao, naturally lend themselves to storytelling. The title of the current book led me a bit astray into thinking that this would detail the memory palace a sometimes tremendously complex, interwoven set mnemonic techniques that were first popularized in the ancient world and then had a fabulous re-birth in the Middle Ages and reached their height of popularity around the time Ricci was working.
The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
The practitioner would imagine putting each object or idea in one location in the memory palace - on the hat rack in the foyer, under the pillow in the fourth bedroom, et cetera — thereby creating an everlasting link between thing and place that would allow all the details about the idea to come flooding back once it was retrieved from the palace. For further information about the memory palace, please see the last paragraph of this review. Born and raised in Italy, Ricci headed off to China in and would remain there until his death 28 years later.
Much as the soldiers surrounding Macerata were armed with weapons, Ricci was armed with Catholicism. He was educated by a generation-old branch of the Catholic Church meant to provide a rigorous critique of the Reformation which would then send out thousands of its members to proselytize all over the world — the Jesuits, or the Society of Jesus.
In , he wrote his mnemonic treatise in Chinese a small sign of his dedication and perseverance , and presented it to the Governor of Jiangxi Province. Ricci died in without ever having seen much of the missionary progress that he invariably was hoping for.