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.
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