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Encyclopedia > Jesuit China missions

The history of the missions of the Jesuits in China in the early modern era stands as one of the notable events in the early history of relations between China and the Western world, as well as a prominent example of relations between two cultures and belief systems in the pre-modern age. The missionary efforts and other work of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits between the 16th and 17th century played a significant role in introducing Western knowledge, science, and culture to China. Their work laid much of the foundation for much of Christian culture in Chinese society today. Members of the Jesuit delegation to China were perhaps the most influential Christian missionaries in that country between the earliest period of the religion up until the 19th century, when significant numbers of Catholic and Protestant missions developed. The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu), commonly known as the Jesuits, is a Roman Catholic religious order. ... The term Western World or the West can have multiple meanings depending on its context. ... (15th century - 16th century - 17th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century was that century which lasted from 1501 to 1600. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ... The term Western World or the West can have multiple meanings depending on its context. ... Christianity in China has developed since at least the 7th century AD. The introduction of Nestorianism, a Christian sect, around 635 is considered by some to be the first entry of the Christian religion into China. ... This article is becoming very long. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Protestantism is one of three main groups currently within Christianity. ...


The first attempt by Jesuits to reach China was made in 1552 by St. Francis Xavier, Spanish priest and missionary and founding member of the Society. Xavier, however, died the same year on the Chinese island of Shangchuan, without having reached the mainland. Three decades later, in 1582, led by several figures including the prominent Italian Matteo Ricci, Jesuits once again initiated mission work in China, ultimately introducing Western science, mathematics, astronomy, and visual arts to the imperial court, and carrying on significant inter-cultural and philosophical dialogue with Chinese scholars, particularly representatives of Confucianism. At the time of their peak influence, members of the Jesuit delegation were considered some of the emperor's most valued and trusted advisors, holding numerous prestigious posts in the imperial government. Many Chinese, including notable former Confucian scholars, adopted Christianity and became priests and members of the Society of Jesus. Between the 18th and mid-19th century, nearly all Western missionaries in China were forced to conduct their teaching and other activities covertly. The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu), commonly known as the Jesuits, is a Roman Catholic religious order. ... Events April - War between Henry II of France and Emperor Charles V. Henry invades Lorraine and captures Toul, Metz, and Verdun. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Shangchuan Island (上川镇, Schangschwan, Sancian, Chang-Chuang, St. ... Events January 15 - Russia cedes Livonia and Estonia to Poland February 24 - Pope Gregory XIII implements the Gregorian Calendar. ... Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (Macerata, October 6, 1552 - Peking, May 11, 1610) (Chinese: 利瑪竇; pinyin: Lì MÇŽdòu) was an Italian Jesuit priest whose missionary activity in China during the Ming Dynasty marked the beginning of modern Chinese Christianity. ... A Christian mission has been widely defined, since the Lausanne Congress of 1974, as that which is designed to form a viable indigenous church-planting movement. ... The Emperor of China (Chinese: ; pinyin: Huángdì) was the title given to the rulers of China from the founding of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. ... The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787) depicts the philosopher Socrates carrying out his own execution. ... This article belongs in one or more categories. ... Confucian temple in Jiading district, Shanghai. ... The Emperor of China (Chinese: ; pinyin: Huángdì) was the title given to the rulers of China from the founding of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. ... (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Many Jesuit priests, both Western-born and Chinese, are buried in the cemetery located in what is now the School of the Beijing Municipal Committee. [1]

Contents

The Jesuits in China

The Jesuits first arrived in China in 1574. The Jesuits were men whose vision went far beyond the Macao status quo, priests serving churches on the fringes of a pagan society. They were possessed by a dream - the creation of a Sino-Christian civilization that would match the Roman-Christian civilization of the West. Although lacking a fully developed plan of action, their objective was: The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu), commonly known as the Jesuits, is a Roman Catholic religious order. ... Events April 14 - Battle of Mookerheyde. ...

...that Christianity enter as deeply possible into the streams of Chinese life; that through a gradual diffusion of Christian ideals and ideas, minds [would] be acclimated to the Christian message[2].

This unique approach was largely the outworking of two Italian Jesuits, Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607) and Matteo Ricci (1552-1610). Both were determined to adapt to the religious qualities of the Chinese: Ruggieri to the common people, in whom Buddhist and Taoist elements predominated, and Ricci to the educated classes, where Confucianism prevailed. Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607) was an Italian Jesuit, and a missionary to China. ... // Events February 21 - Battle of Wayna Daga - A combined army of Ethiopian and Portuguese troops defeat the armies of Adal led by Ahmed Gragn. ... Events January 20 - Tidal wave swept along the Bristol Channel, killing 2000 people. ... Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (Macerata, October 6, 1552 - Peking, May 11, 1610) (Chinese: 利瑪竇; pinyin: Lì Mǎdòu) was an Italian Jesuit priest whose missionary activity in China during the Ming Dynasty marked the beginning of modern Chinese Christianity. ... Events April - War between Henry II of France and Emperor Charles V. Henry invades Lorraine and captures Toul, Metz, and Verdun. ... // Events January 7 - Galileo Galilei discovers the Galilean moons of Jupiter. ... A replica of an ancient statue found among the ruins of a temple at Sarnath Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, a prince of the Shakyas, whose lifetime is traditionally given as 566 to 486 BCE. It had subsequently been accepted by... For other uses of the words tao and dao, see Dao (disambiguation). ... Confucian temple in Jiading district, Shanghai. ...


This policy was largely devised by the scholarly Ricci. Earlier he had discovered through his studies of Confucius that the Chinese originally had a monotheistic concept of a Supreme Being. He reasoned, Why not use this as the basis for presenting the Christian gospel to them? Ricci sought out friend among Chinese scholars and shared his enthusiasm for Confucius. The more he conversed with them, however, the more aware he became of the need for a special type of missionary to implement his methodology. Furthermore, he saw that this new type of approach would require a special dispensation from the pope. This was granted. Ricci then wrote to the Jesuit houses in Europe and called for priests - men who would not only be“good,”but also “men of talent, since we are dealing here with a people both intelligent and learned[3]. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... The current Pope is Benedict XVI (born Joseph Alois Ratzinger), who was elected at the age of 78 on 19 April 2005. ... World map showing Europe A satellite composite image of Europe Europe is one of the seven continents of the Earth. ...


A few reponded, and Ricci began to train them so that they might approach the Chinese authorities, offering the court scholarly and scientific assistance with the deliberate intention of making a Confucian adaptation of their style of life, patterns of thought, preaching and worship.They were determined to completely dewesternize themselves. Both Ricci and Ruggieri felt that it would be possible to “prove that the Christian doctrines were already laid down in the classical works of the Chinese people, albeit in disguise”. Indeed, they and their followers were convinced that “the day would come when with one accord all missionaries in China would look in the ancient texts for traces of primal revelation”[4].


Unfortunately, tension developed between Ricci and his followers and those of Ruggieri. This was inevitable, since both were exploring different segments of the Chinese intellectual tradition. Ricci's thoroughgoing adaptation to Confucianism and his radical rejection of Taoism could not but conflict with Ruggieri's thesis that there was a closer affinity between the Tao of Chinese thought and the incarnate Logos of the New Testament. Taoism (sometimes written as and actually pronounced as Daoism (dow-ism)) is the English name for: Dao Jia [philosophical tao] philosophical school based on the texts the Tao Te Ching (ascribed to Laozi [Lao Tzu] and alternately spelled Dào Dé Jīng) and the Zhuangzi; a family of organized...


Actually, in their deliberate and arduous efforts to restate the Christian gospelin Chinese thought-forms, they were not innovators. They were merely adopting the same approach toward Chinese thought that the early church fathers had adopted toward Greek Philosophy. Their objective was to identify all the elements of truth which the Chinese literary heritage had contained, to supplement them with the insights of the Western understanding of the natural order, and then to introduce the wholly distinctive truths of the Christian gospel. Classical (or early) Greek philosophy focused on the role of reason and inquiry. ... Common dictionary definitions of truth mention some form of accord with fact or reality. ...


In 1584 Ricci published his first Chinese book: Tien Zhu Shi-lu (天主實錄 The True Account of God). In it he discussed the existence and attributes of God, as well as his providence. He explained how a man might know God through the natural law, the Mosaic law, and the Christian law. He wrote of the incarnation of Christ the Word and discussed the sacraments. In his diary, he wrote: “From morning to night, I am kept busy discussing the doctrines of our faith. many desire to forsake their idols and become Christians”[5]. 1584 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. ...


His missionary directives were explicit:

The work of evangelization, of making Christians, should be carried on both in Peking and in the provinces...following the methods of pacific penetration and cultural adaptation. Europeanism is to be shunned. Contact with Europeans, specifically with the Portuguese in Macao, should be reduced to a minimum. Strive to make good Christians rather than multitudes of indifferent Christians...Eventually when we have a goodly number of Christians, then perhaps it would not be impossible to present some memorial to the Emperor asking that the right of Christians to practice their religion be accorded, inasmuch as is not contrary to the laws of China. Our Lord will make known and discover to us little by little the appropriate means for bringing about in this matter His holy will[6].

When Ricci died (1610) more than two thousand Chinese from all levels of society had confessed their faith in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, however, Ricci's Jesuits were largely men of their times, firmly convinced that they should also promote Western objectives while planting the Roman Catholic Church in China. As a result, they became involved with the colonial and imperialistic designs of Portugal. // Events January 7 - Galileo Galilei discovers the Galilean moons of Jupiter. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ...


Chinese Rites Controversy

In the early 18th century, a dispute within the Catholic Church, arose over whether Chinese folk religion rituals and offerings to the emperor constituted paganism or idolatry. This tension was led to what became known as the "Rites Controversy," a bitter struggle that broke out after Ricci's death and lasted for over a hundred years. The Chinese Rites controversy was a dispute within the Catholic Church in the early 18th century about whether Chinese folk religion rites and offerings to the emperor constituted idolatry or not. ...


At first the focal point of dissension was Ricci's contention that the ceremonial rites of Confucianism and ancestor worship were primarily social and political in nature and could be practised by converts. The Dominicans charged that they were idolatrous; all acts of respect to the sage and one's ancestors were nothing less than the worship of demons. A Dominican carried the case to Rome, where it dragged on and on, largely because no one in the Vatican knew Chinese culture sufficiently to provide the pope with a ruling. Naturally, the Jesuits appealed to the Chinese emperor, who endorsed Ricci's position. Understandably, he was confused: missionaries attacked missionaries in his very capital! Should he expel them all? Confucian temple in Jiading district, Shanghai. ... Ancestor worship, also ancestor veneration, is a religious practice based on the belief that ones ancestors possess supernatural powers. ... Nickname: The Eternal City Motto: SPQR: Senatus PopulusQue Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Mayor Walter Veltroni Area    - City 1,285 km²  (496. ... The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu), commonly known as the Jesuits, is a Roman Catholic religious order. ...


The timely discovery of the Nestorian monument in 1623 enabled the Jesuits to strengthen their position with the court by meeting an objection the Chinese often expressed - that Christianity was a new religion. They could now point to concrete evidence that a thousand years earlier the Christian gospel had been proclaimed in China; it was not a new but an old faith. The emperor then decided to expel all missionaries who failed to support Ricci's position. Detail of the stele The Nestorian Stele, Nestorian Stone, formally the Memorial of the Propagation in China of the Luminous Religion from Daqin (大秦景教流行中國碑; pinyin: Dàqín Jǐngjiào liúxíng Zhōngguó béi, abbreviated 大秦景教碑), and also known as the Hsi-an Monument, is a Tang Chinese... Events August 6 - Pope Urban VIII is elected to the Papacy. ...


The Spanish Franciscans, however, did not retreat without further struggle. This was the age of inquisition, when the charge of heresy meant the dungeon and the sword. Eventually they persuaded Pope Clement XI that the Jesuits were making dangerous accommodations to Chinese sensibilities. In 1704 they proscribed against the ancient use of the words Shang Di (supreme emperor) and Tien (heaven) for God. Naturally the Jesuits appealed this decision. Franciscans is the common name used to designate a variety of mendicant religious orders of men or women tracing their origin to Francis of Assisi and following the Rule of St. ... Inquisition (capitalized I) is broadly used, to refer to things related to judgment of heresy by the Catholic Church. ... Heresy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the Catholic or Orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox. ... Clement XI, né Giovanni Francesco Albani (July 23, 1649 – March 19, 1721) was pope from 1700 to 1721. ... Events Building of the Students Monument in Aiud, Romania. ...


The controversy raged on. In 1742 Pope Benedict XIV officially opposed the Jesuits, forbade all worship of ancestors, and terminated further discussion of the issue. This decree was repealed in 1938. But the methodology of Matteo Ricci remained suspect until 1958, when Pope John XXIII, by decree in his encyclical Princeps Pastorum, proposed that Ricci become “the model of missionaries.” // Events January 24 - Charles VII Albert becomes Holy Roman Emperor. ... Benedict XIV, born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini (Bologna, March 31, 1675 – May 3, 1758 in Rome), was Pope from 17 August 1740 to 3 May 1758. ... Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (Macerata, October 6, 1552 - Peking, May 11, 1610) (Chinese: 利瑪竇; pinyin: Lì MÇŽdòu) was an Italian Jesuit priest whose missionary activity in China during the Ming Dynasty marked the beginning of modern Chinese Christianity. ... Blessed Pope John XXIII (Latin: ), (Italian: Giovanni XXIII), born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (November 25, 1881 – June 3, 1963), was elected as the 261st Pope of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City on October 28, 1958. ...


In the intervening years the Ming Dynasty collapsed (1644), to be replaced by the “non-scholarly” and foreign Manchus. The influence of the various Catholic missionary orders began to wane. Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1733. The withdrawal from China of this dynamic segment of the missionary force exposed the church to successive waves of persecution. Although many Chinese Christians were put to death and the congregation scattered, the church continued to manifest a “tough inward vitality” and kept growing. Clark has well summarized: For other uses, see Ming. ... // Events February to August - Explorer Abel Tasmans second expedition for the Dutch East India Company maps the north coast of Australia. ... The Manchu (manju in Manchu; 滿族 (pinyin: mǎnzú) in Chinese, often shortened to 滿 (pinyin: mǎn) are an ethnic group who originated in northeastern Manchuria. ... Pope Clement XIV, born Giovanni Vincenzo Antonio Ganganelli (Sant Arcangelo di Romagna, 31 October 1705 – 22 September 1774 in Rome), was Pope from 1769 to 1774. ... Seal of the Society of Jesus. ... Events February 12 - British colonist James Oglethorpe founds Savannah, Georgia. ...

When all is said and done, one must recognize gladly that the jesuits made a shining contribution to mission outreach and policy in China. They made no fatal compromises, and where they skirted this in their guarded accommodation to the Chinese reverence for ancestors, their major thrust was both Christian and wise. They succeded in rendering Christianity at least respectable and even credible to the sophisticated Chinese, no mean accomplishment[7].

One should commend the jesuits for planting a Chinese church that has stood the test of time.“By 1844, Roman Catholics may have totalled 240,000; in 1901 the figure reached 720,490”[8]. However, one should not overlook the fact that the Jesuit financial policy grievously aggravated the difficulties of that church. Their missionaries involved themselves in business ventures of various sorts; they became the landlords of income-producing properties, developed the silk industry for Western trade, and organized money-lending operations on a large scale. All these eventually generated misunderstanding and tension between the foreign community and the Chinese people. The Communists held this against them as late as the mid-twentieth century. 1844 was a leap year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ...


Jesuits missionaries in China include

Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (Macerata, October 6, 1552 - Peking, May 11, 1610) (Chinese: 利瑪竇; pinyin: Lì MÇŽdòu) was an Italian Jesuit priest whose missionary activity in China during the Ming Dynasty marked the beginning of modern Chinese Christianity. ... Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607) was an Italian Jesuit, and a missionary to China. ... Jean Joseph Marie Amiot (1718 - 1793), a French Jesuit missionary, was born at Toulon in February 1718. ... Michel Benoist (Chinese: 蔣友仁; pinyin: , October 8, 1715 in Autun or Dijon, France – October 23, 1774 in Beijing, China of a stroke) was a Jesuit scientist, who stood in the service of the Chinese Qianlong Emperor for thirty years and is most noted for the waterworks he constructed for the emperor. ... Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世宁 1688-1766) was a Jesuit missionary to China. ... Father Armand David (September 27, 1826 near Bayonne –November 10, 1900 in Paris) was a Lazarist missionary Catholic priest as well as a zoologist and a botanist. ... Alessandro Valignano, circa 1600. ... Father Ferdinand Verbiest (October 9, 1623-January 28, 1688) was a Belgian Jesuit missionary in China. ... Johann Adam Schall von Bell (Chinese: 湯若望) (1591 - 15 August 1666) was a German Jesuit missionary to China. ... Imperial Observatory in Beijing Wenceslas Pantaleon Kirwitzer (1588, Kadaň - 1626, Macao) was an astronomer and a Jesuit missionary. ... Rev. ... Alexandre de Rhodes (March 15, 1591 - November 5, 1660) was a French Jesuit missionary. ...

See also

The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order, have had a long history of missions in East and South Asia almost since their very foundation in the 16th century under St. ... Jingan Temple in downtown Shanghai. ... Jews in China have historically been divided into several populations of Chinese Jews. ... Catholicism in China has a long and complicated history. ... Christianity in China has developed since at least the 7th century AD. The introduction of Nestorianism, a Christian sect, around 635 is considered by some to be the first entry of the Christian religion into China. ... Franciscans is the common name used to designate a variety of mendicant religious orders of men or women tracing their origin to Francis of Assisi and following the Rule of St. ... Façade of the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Macau. ...

Notes and Further Reading

  •   George H. Dunne, Generation of Giants, p.28
  •   Leonard M. Outerbride, The Lost Churches of China, p.85
  •   Johannes Beckmann, Dialogue with Chinese Religion, p.124-130
  •   George H. Dunne, Generation of Giants, p.44
  •   Ibid, p.86-88
  •   Clark, p.32
  •   Kenneth Scott, Christian Missions in China, p.83

External link


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