Confucianism and Christianity

Confucianism and Christianity: The First Encounter

Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 196
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  • Book Info
    Confucianism and Christianity
    Book Description:

    This is a pioneer study of the Christian missionaries in late Ming and early Ch'ing China - in the sense that it draws upon source-materials hitherto neglected to give an entirely new perspective on the history of the first meeting between East and West. The book centres around a major theme: the first 'confrontation' between the Supreme Ultimate (or T'ien) of the Confucian cosmological order and the Christian anthropomorphic God as conveyed to the Chinese literati by the Western missionaries. This encounter, which is of an historical as well as metaphysical nature, also involves a conflict between two diametrically opposed value systems of human socio-ethical obligations. This study begins by examining the genesis of the Jesuit policy of accommodation and how the missionaries developed their particular approach. But the author probes beyond traditional scholarship and argues that Matteo Ricci was successful in convincing some Confucianists, notably Hsü Kuang-ch'i, of the universality of Christianity; On the other hand, the majority of the literati felt threatened by the 'heterodox' teaching and argued against it. Finally, the K'ang-hsi Emperor had to mediate, and the result was the end of the first phase of Western activities in the Middle Kingdom. Throughout, the major emphasis is on how one idea-namely, the idea of GOd-was viewed by the 'barbarians' from the West and by the Confucian I iterati.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-085-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  5. The Cross-Cultural Perspective
    (pp. 1-8)

    Marco Polo (1254–1324) is actually a rather poor source for studying the Yüan dynasty. True, he lived in China for almost two decades, worked for the Mongol court, and perhaps even had a Chinese family. But more often than not, Polo’s reports on the land of Cathay were hyperbolic and written in a metaphorical style. He described Hangchou as a city of ‘twelve thousand bridges of stone, for the most part so lofty that a great fleet could pass beneath them’. He talked about stories of ‘dog-headed men’ and claimed that each year ten thousand infants were disposed of...

  6. CHAPTER I The Policy of Accommodation
    (pp. 9-24)

    When the men of the Renaissance ventured beyond the sea frontiers of Europe, they hardly realized that their explorations would lead to unprecedented changes in human civilization. In our century, no longer is one society able to stand by itself. The realization and consciousness of other cultures have made man aware of the difficulties involved in living with people of other countries.¹ Be it in political , social or economic spheres, the day-to-day affairs of one nation seriously affect individuals of other countries.

    There may be justifiable doubt as to the actual blessings of this great encounter between the East...

  7. CHAPTER II Matteo Ricci’s ‘Original Confucianism’
    (pp. 25-40)

    Matteo Ricci was born on 6 October 1552 in Macerata, Italy.¹ His family belonged to the nobility of the city, and his father, a pharmacist, had held civil office in the Papal States and elsewhere. At the age of nine Ricci was enrolled in a Jesuit college. He joined the Society of Jesus after leaving the college, and in 1573 entered the Collegio Romano in Rome, where he spent years studying philosophy and mathematics under the renowned mathematician Christopher Klau (Latinized Clavius). Although there is less information on Ricci’s early impulses to missionary work than on St. Francis Xavier’s, it...

  8. CHAPTER III Hsü Kuang-ch’i’s Conversion
    (pp. 41-58)

    Political chaos and intellectual dynamism went hand in hand during the late Ming period. In spite of administrative corruption, eunuch intrigues and Manchu disturbances, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were one of the most vigorous periods in the history of Chinese thought. The T’ai-chou school’s ideal of ‘the streets full of sages’ was the quixotic banner of such thinkers as Wang Ken (1483–1540) and Ho Hsin-Yin (1517–1579). Li Chih’s (1527–1602) individualism epitomized the tension involved in the search for humanitarianism within an elitist tradition. Many schools cried out for a new synthesis of the ‘Three Teachings’ —...

  9. CHAPTER IV The First Anti-Christian Incident
    (pp. 59-76)

    The Chinese response to the Jesuit message took many forms. In 1616, only six years after Ricci’s death, China experienced its first anti-Christian movement. Shen Ch’ueh (d.1624), Vice-President of the Nanking Board of Rites, wrote three memorials to the throne, denouncing the Jesuits and requesting their expulsion.¹ What resulted was a short-lived, systematic effort by the Chinese court to wipe out the so-called heterodox elements. This chapter in the history of Christianity in China has attracted considerable attention from missionary historians. There are many Western sources written by those who were involved in this persecution known popularly as the Nan-ching...

  10. CHAPTER V Yang Kuang-hsien’s Attack
    (pp. 77-96)

    Historians of Sino-Western relations, when writing on the intellectual outlook inherited by the anti-Christian literati of the nineteenth century, often mention a fiery figure named Yang Kuang-hsien who made the strongest attack upon the Jesuits of the early Ch’ing period.¹ It has often been assumed that Yang Kuang-hsien had in some way shaped the Chinese literati’s attitude towards the West in the succeeding centuries.² One historian has gone so far as to say that Yang’s writings, collected in the Pu-te-i (1 Could Not Do Otherwise), constituted one of the major causes of antiforeign movements in late Ch’ing China.³ Yet little...

  11. CHAPTER VI In Defence of ‘Christianity-in-China’
    (pp. 97-108)

    St. Francis Xavier’s observation that science was a necessary component of the Jesuit accommodation policy proved well-founded. The Jesuit expertise in astronomy not only helped them to establish their mission in China, but also saved them in a time of crisis. If Yang Kuang-hsien had been a more capable astronomer, the total Jesuit effort would have failed in 1669. As illustrated by Yang Kuang-hsien’s dispute with Adam Schall, scientific knowledge seemed to play an important role in the outcome of the controversy.

    The K’ang-hsi Emperor’s impartiality in handling the incident was also part of the reason for the Jesuit triumph....

  12. CHAPTER VII The K’ang-hsi Emperor and Christianity
    (pp. 109-124)

    The second phase of Jesuit activity in China began in 1669, when Yang Kuang-hsien was sent into exile and Ferdinand Verbiest gained the directorship of the Imperial Astronomical Bureau. At least temporarily, the Jesuit controversy with the Neo-Confucianists seemed to have been concluded in the Jesuits’ favour. In 1692, the K’ang-hsi Emperor officially sanctioned a place for Christianity in the Chinese society. He issued the following edict:

    Earlier the Board [of Rites] decided that the various Catholic churches should be preserved. However, we allow only Westerners [not Chinese] to practice Christianity. This has been already approved. At the present time...

  13. Towards an East-West Dialogue
    (pp. 125-128)

    In spite of his skepticism, the K’ang-hsi Emperor continued to allow the Jesuit missionaries to reside in China, but in this his influence was short-lived. A year after his death in 1722, his successor put an end to Christian activity in China. This time, the new emperor’s religious persuasion seemed to lean towards the side of Shen Ch’ueh , Yang Kuang-hsien and other anti-Christian Neo-Confucian scholars. In 1727, the Yung-cheng Emperor decreed:

    Hitherto the Buddhists and Taoists have maligned the religion of the West, and the Westerners have heaped discredit upon the falsehoods of Taoism and Buddhism. Each has slandered...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 129-148)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 149-166)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 167-176)
  17. Index
    (pp. 177-182)