(This is a slightly expanded version of a book review on Amazon.com)
Matteo Ricci's and Nicolas Trigault's "De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas", translated by Gallagher as "China in the Sixteenth Century", is, arguably, one of the most important books of the 17th century. (Look up that title on Wikipedia: it was me who wrote the article there). A fruit of Matteo Ricci's pioneering experience as a Jesuit missionary in China (1582-1610) it both provided Europe with its best "standard reference" on China for a the next several decades, and articulated Ricci's [[ASIN:0824812190 "accommodationist"]] strategy, which Jesuits were to follow for the next century in their attempts to make Christianity acceptable to the Chinese literati, and Chinese Confucian world view, to Europe's ecclesiastical and intellectual elites.
Matteo Ricci was not the first Catholic missionary to work in China, and not even the first one to write a book about the country. (The Portuguese Dominican friar Gaspar da Cruz, who spent a few months in Canton in 1556, and published his book in 1569, may be the one to claim the honor, if we ignore the Papal envoys who had been active in the Mongol-dominated China ca. 1300). However, what he (and his lesser known older comrade, Michele Ruggieri) did was cardinally different from what the previous generation of missionaries did. Da Cruz, or the Spaniard Martin de Rada (an Augustinian who entered Fujian from the Philippines for a few months in 1575) were utterly dependent on their interpreters, and were not all that "nuanced" about the "pagan" rites and beliefs to be condemned and exterminated. No wonder that they did not get all that far in their abortive attempts to get established in the Ming China.
In contrast, Ruggieri and Ricci, in the best Jesuit tradition, painstakingly worked on learning the spoken and written language of the country and trying to figure out what beliefs and principles guided the people of this land in their actions. All the same time, the two Jesuits plotted how they could get themselves closer to the Ming Empire's centers of power; much of the book thus is the story of their progress (taking almost two decades) from the Portuguese base in Macao to inland Guangdong's Zhaoqing and Shaoguan to more central Nanchang to the empire's "backup capital" Nanjing and, finally, to the Emperor's court in Beijing.
As a result of this enormous effort, Ricci was able to create an encyclopedic book that represented a much higher level of understanding of China than did Europe's previous "standard reference", [[ASIN:1108008194 History of the Great and Mighty Kingdome of China]] (which was written by a Spanish-Mexican Augustinian who had been appointed by the Spanish court as its envoy to China, but, alas, never got beyond Mexico). More importantly, he armed the Jesuits with a "modus operandi" that viewed Confucianism as a generally "positive" a-religious ideology, which could be used as an ally against the competing religious faiths (Buddhism and Taoism). While a modern academic study such as David E. Mungello's [[ASIN:0824812190 "Curious Land"]] may be a better way to learn about the Jesuits' approach (and the opposition to it from some of Europe's Catholic hierarchy), nothing replaces reading Ricci's original work for the sheer feeling of amazement at what Ricci and his colleagues did trying to understand the very different civilization from what they had left behind in Europe.
Well, how *can* you read Ricci's original work? His original "journals" were, naturally enough, in Italian, and not even published until the 20th century. (The work, "Fonti ricciane", with comments by Pasquale d'Elia, is not even on Amazon; see the Wikipedia article for the bibliographic information). Ricci's younger colleague, Nicolas Trigault, posthumously edited his work and turned it into Latin, and had it published in 1615; it quickly became a Pan-European bestseller, translated into Europe's most major languages; that all can be found on Google Books and/or in archive.org. The most recent English translation is apparently by the American Jesuit Louis J. Gallagher's, first published as "The China That Was" in 1942, and then (with a Chinese-words index based on d'Elia) in 1953, as "China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci: 1583-1610".
So the second edition must have been timed for the 400th anniversary of Ricci's birth; what surprises me is that such an important book has not been reprinted, say, in 2002 (for Ricci's 450th anniversary), or in 2010 (for the 400th anniversary of his death). But here we are: one of the most important documents of the Christian missionary history - if you want a complete English translation - is only available as an out-of-print book. Fortunately, most university libraries still would have a copy...
I must have been to the US perhaps a hundred times, but the last Saturday I had the strangest entry experience so far. I am presently working in the US in a TN-1 (NAFTA professional) status, and as my current admission period is coming to a close, I decided to combine a vacation with a "border run", to obtain a new permit upon re-entry. People usually do at at border crossings or airports, but this time I was to go overseas (well, to Mexico) by boat! Carnival runs weekly cruises ships out of New Orleans to Mexican ports, the weather is nice, and, hey, we have long wanted to see some Mayan ruins.
The trip was much as expected (I will write about the Dzibilchaltún visit some time later), but re-entry was a surprise. The US Code of Federal Regulation states (CFR 214.6 (d) (2)) that eligible individuals can apply for the TN-1 status at any Class A point of entry, and CBP lists the Port of New Orleans (and in fact, quite a few smaller sea ports in Louisiana) as a Class A port of entry. (They definition they give is that a Class A facility can process all kinds of aliens, while a Class B one is only set up to deal with permanent residents, and Class C, with foreign sailors. Of course US citizens can enter their country through a port of any class).
This being said (and written), I naturally expected the entry facility (Erato Street Cruise Terminal, to be precise) to look much like a similar facility at any international airport - a row of immigration check points, with a "secondary inspection" area in the back for the cases that need more paperwork, the baggage claim area, and then the customs check. Or it could be like one of the smaller land border crossings, with inspectors combining both roles, but, presumably, still with their bookcases of immigration manuals, drawers full of ink stamps and tables with printers. Well... when our beautiful Panamanian ship (without a single Panamanian on board, methinks) was tied up at the quay, and after a couple hours of waiting on the deck and in lines we finally reached the immigration checkpoint, I indeed had a surprise: not only were the immigration/customs roles combined, but after a brief conversation it transpired that they pretty much don't do any serious immigration work other than simple passport / I-94 checks.
I reckon that the focus there is mostly on customs checks, and not on immigration. This, I guess, is entirely justified from the pragmatic point of view, as it is expected that everyone who's coming to New Orleans on a cruise boat have left the same Port of New Orlean on the same boat a few days prior, and was either a US citizen or a properly admitted (and re-admissible) foreigner. So when coming back, s/he presumably would be readmitted in whatever status, and for the remainder of the same admission period, that he had before departure, thanks to the doctrine of the automatic revalidation.
Still... it is the cruise line personnel, not the CBP who checks the validity of the departing passengers's documents before they board. (This, of course, is much like what happens when passengers board an international flight: the airline is responsible for ensuring that the boarding passengers have the proper documents to at least "make an application for admission" at the port of entry of the destination country; otherwise, the airline is liable for transporting them back, and additional fines.) Surely there would be occasions when the passenger was generally admissible but still would need a new I-94 on re-entry? A somewhat far-fetched example is a foreigner with a valid visitor visa whose current I-94 is still valid on the day of departure, but is expiring during his cruise? A more realistic situation would be a cruise going from New Orlean to a Caribbean country other than Mexico. For travel to Caribbean islands, automatic visa revalidation only applies to aliens on student visas. Which means that all other foreigners with valid visas and I-94s, or on visa waivers, will have their Forms I-94 or I-94W invalidated once their ship stops at a place like Cayman Islands - won't they need new I-94 or I-94W issued once back in a US port? How would CBP at Erato Street deal with this?
On a more practical note, it seems to me that there are many people who consider the typical cruise travel mode (a 5 day trip, with only 16 hours in foreign ports) a waste of time, but would love to travel by boat if it were possible to schedule it in the same way you do airline flights. That is, if you could spend 2 nights and one day relaxing on a boat from a US port to Mexico, disembark there and have your week or two sitting in a Cancun hotel or hiking through the jungle, and then hop on a boat again for another 36 hour trip back to the States, it could attract a whole new set of customers to the cruise boat business. But for this to work, the boat companies would have to work with the government to set up full-service immigration processing at their US terminals.