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Forbidden City
故宫博物院
Rosary Bracelet

The rosary is a traditional Catholic object used to count prayers. This rosary bracelet has two sets of nine jadeite beads and the cross is of gold and pearls. The traditional Catholic rosary has sets of ten beads, but since the number nine is sacred in Chinese culture, an adaptation was made. This one was made during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) but there is no record of the owner. Jesuits had been a part of the imperial courts since the Ming Dynasty when Matteo Ricci was invited to discuss astronomy and mathematics.Other famous Jesuits who worked with either the Ming, Qing, or both courts were the German born Jesuits Johann Adam Schall von Bell, the Belgian Ferdinand Verbiest, and John Terrentius. The Qing court was Buddhist, but some conversions were made. The Jesuits who worked in the court worked primarily as mathematicians and astronomers. They fulfilled their mission by example rather than direct conversion. The respect they gained within the court aided the acceptance of missions and the founding of schools elsewhere in China.

One of the principles used by Matteo Ricci and followed by other Jesuits was to incorporate Chinese customs and beliefs into the Catholic practice. This had been done in other cultures and the Christmas tree, Easter egg, parts of the Mass, and other rituals were drawn from non-Christian religions. Note that there are nine beads separated by a marker. In the Western rosary there are ten beads or a decade separated by a marker. In China, the number 9 is the perfect number, not ten. So, to symbolize the same thing, there are nine beads rather than ten.












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Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009