The Catholic Encounter with Chinese Thought, Society and Politics in the Ming–Qing Dynasties

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2024 | Viewed by 12847

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
Interests: comparing Chinese and Western philosophy; confucian philosophy; Chinese Catholic

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Research on Chinese Catholicism in the Ming and Qing dynasties has grown steadily in the last three decades, spurred by the reprint of Catholic works of that period. Yet, the present research focuses on a limited number of works, especially by famous missionaries such as Matteo Ricci, Giulio Aleni, Ferdinand Verbiest or Adam Schall, while the works of other missionaries working in more remote areas are neglected. Additionally, the Chinese works of the Franciscan and Dominican friars in the provinces of Fujian, Shandong and Guangdong have not received enough scholarly attention; therefore, it is still difficult to evaluate how the friars adopted methods and ideas different from the ones of the Jesuit missionaries besides the question of the Chinese rites. Furthermore, we do not yet have a comprehensive picture of the works of Chinese Catholics and how they further developed the inculturation of Catholicism in China.

Besides the printed Chinese works, a great deal of Western manuscripts (letters, reports, etc.) are worthy of scholarly research. Those documents are written in Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian or French, and they are held in the archives of Rome, Paris, Madrid, etc. They contain important information often left out from the printed works, such as the inner conflicts among the members of a missionary group, or information about local Christian communities. This material may help us to gain a more refined understanding about the evolution of the Chinese communities at that time.

In terms of methodologies, we need to contextualize Chinese Catholicism within the larger spectrum of Chinese thought, society and politics, and show in which ways Catholicism has changed China, but also in which ways China has changed Catholicism, developing ideas, texts and rituals, enculturated in Chinese society and culture.

This Special Issue does not include the Late Qing (after the Opium wars) dynasty which shaped a new mode of presence of Catholicism under the colonial power.

We request that, prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 200-300 words summarizing their intended contribution. Papers should be original contributions, not previously published in another language nor under consideration in another journal.

Please send them to the Guest Editor, Prof. Thierry Meynard (meiqianl@mail.sysu.edu.cn), who will review them for the purpose of ensuring it properly fits within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer review.

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Prof. Dr. Thierry Meynard
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • late Ming and early/mid-Qing
  • Catholic studies
  • history of Chinese Catholicism
  • Western missionaries
  • Chinese Christians
  • global–local perspectives
  • Chinese–Western cultural exchange.

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 368 KiB  
Article
The First Latin Translation of Li 礼 from the Analects of Confucius: Roman Virtues or Religious Acts?
by Michele Ferrero
Religions 2024, 15(4), 505; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040505 - 19 Apr 2024
Viewed by 637
Abstract
This article centers around the early translation of the term Li 礼 in the Analects of Confucius (论语). This Latin translation shows that the interpretation of the Confucian term Li 礼 mostly did not include any religious meaning. This article also centers on [...] Read more.
This article centers around the early translation of the term Li 礼 in the Analects of Confucius (论语). This Latin translation shows that the interpretation of the Confucian term Li 礼 mostly did not include any religious meaning. This article also centers on the personal formation of the Jesuits of that time. Taking Michele Ruggieri as reference, this article details how studies based on the Latin Classics (especially Cicero) provided them with a reference to interpret this term as unrelated to religious worship. When the Jesuits arrived in China, at the end of the Ming dynasty, strong emphasis was given to the proper etiquette towards state officials. This in turn derived from the situation in the imperial court. In this historical environment, the Confucian rites (Li 礼) were interpreted as “good manners”. This article also presents briefly the question of whether for Christians, Li 礼 as a proper social behavior inspired by a particular cultural tradition has any connection with or can be a problem for the rituals of the Christian tradition instituted by Jesus as vehicles of divine grace. Full article
27 pages, 543 KiB  
Article
Building Communities through Rituals: Glimpses into the Life of Chinese Christian Communities in the 17th Century
by Valentina Lin Yang Yang
Religions 2024, 15(4), 444; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040444 - 31 Mar 2024
Viewed by 791
Abstract
As central agents in the cultural dialogue between China and Europe in the 17th century, Christian Chinese communities represent a rich and fascinating source, offering a unique intercultural perspective on the intellectual, cultural, and religious world of late Ming and early Qing China. [...] Read more.
As central agents in the cultural dialogue between China and Europe in the 17th century, Christian Chinese communities represent a rich and fascinating source, offering a unique intercultural perspective on the intellectual, cultural, and religious world of late Ming and early Qing China. What did these communities look like? How did they come into being and maintain their significance as a community? By utilising stories depicting scenes of Christian ritual practices in local Chinese contexts between the 1620s and 1640s, collected by a late Ming Christian convert from Fujian, this article delves into the life of Chinese Christian communities, specifically focusing on the dimension of ritual practice. It shows how rituals played a key role in the formation of these communities, not only in keeping them alive, but also in continually redefining their significance for their members. Full article
15 pages, 379 KiB  
Article
Theologizing the Aristotelian Soul in Early Modern China: The Influence of Dr Navarrus’ Enchiridion (1573) over Lingyan lishao (1624) by Francesco Sambiasi and Xu Guangqi
by Daniel Canaris
Religions 2024, 15(4), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040394 - 25 Mar 2024
Viewed by 651
Abstract
Lingyan lishao 靈言蠡勺 [LYLS] (Humble Attempt to Discuss the Soul, 1624) by the Calabrian Jesuit Francesco Sambiasi (1582–1649) and the Chinese mandarin Xu Guangqi 徐光啓 (1562–1633) was the first Chinese-language treatise on the scholastic Aristotelian soul and a pioneering work in [...] Read more.
Lingyan lishao 靈言蠡勺 [LYLS] (Humble Attempt to Discuss the Soul, 1624) by the Calabrian Jesuit Francesco Sambiasi (1582–1649) and the Chinese mandarin Xu Guangqi 徐光啓 (1562–1633) was the first Chinese-language treatise on the scholastic Aristotelian soul and a pioneering work in Sino–Western intellectual exchanges. Until now, the dominant assumption has been that the first volume (juan) of this work is simply an adaptation of the Coimbra commentaries on De Anima [DA] and Parva Naturalia [PN]. This article demonstrates, however, that while most of the first juan is based on these Coimbra commentaries, its treatise on the substance of the soul was likely derived from another source, namely the Enchiridion, a 16th century confessional manual by the Spanish Augustinian Martín de Azpilcueta (1492–1586), or Doctor Navarrus. Through a close textual comparison, this article shows how LYLS adopts the same structure, content, and citations of the Enchiridion to construct an accessible and concise theological definition of the soul that was better suited for the Chinese missionary context than the dense philosophic definitions of the Coimbra commentaries. Full article
16 pages, 322 KiB  
Article
Missionary Writings during the Canton Exile (1666–1671): Crisis in the Manchu-Christian Relationship
by Thierry Meynard
Religions 2024, 15(3), 295; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030295 - 27 Feb 2024
Viewed by 755
Abstract
During their Canton exile (1666–1671), European missionaries wrote an impressive number of reports and letters which have not been systematically studied until now. After presenting a detailed analysis of the institutional background of the 25 missionaries who arrived in Canton, we analyze the [...] Read more.
During their Canton exile (1666–1671), European missionaries wrote an impressive number of reports and letters which have not been systematically studied until now. After presenting a detailed analysis of the institutional background of the 25 missionaries who arrived in Canton, we analyze the first internal reports about the Calendar Case. Then, we discuss three important Jesuit works by Gabiani, Grelon and Rougemont, who attributed the crisis to the opposition of the Manchus to Christianity. The distrust of the Canton Jesuits towards the Manchus throws a new light into the approach of Christianity towards politics and religion in China. Full article
23 pages, 458 KiB  
Article
Between Spanish Franciscans and Chinese Literati in Late Ming and Early Qing: Modes of Interactions and Cultural Exchanges
by Junyang Ye
Religions 2024, 15(3), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030261 - 21 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 761
Abstract
The Franciscan Order was one of the most important missionary orders in China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. While rooted in the local communities, they also engaged in various forms of interactions with Chinese literati. This article will begin by briefly discussing [...] Read more.
The Franciscan Order was one of the most important missionary orders in China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. While rooted in the local communities, they also engaged in various forms of interactions with Chinese literati. This article will begin by briefly discussing the issue of the Franciscans changing from religious habit into Chinese dress as well as their evolving attitude towards Confucianism and Chinese rituals, aiming to illustrate the process of shaping their “Western Confucian” image and their adaptation to Chinese culture. Subsequently, the focus of this paper will be shifted to exploring the modes of interactions between the Spanish Franciscans and the Chinese literati. The author argues that the interactions between the two sides were primarily power-based. These power-based interactions entailed establishing connections with officials and leveraging their influence to safeguard missionary activities. It can be further categorized into three types. The first type involved socializing with officials, while the second type included interaction with Jesuit officials in court, and the third type was direct involvement in official positions. In their engagement with literati, the Franciscans demonstrated a thorough understanding of and adaptation to Chinese societal and cultural norms, thereby facilitating the development of their mission. Full article
15 pages, 429 KiB  
Article
Propagating the Rosary in the Early Qing—A Case Study of del Rosario’s Comprehensive Manuscript
by Hongfan Yang
Religions 2024, 15(2), 230; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020230 - 16 Feb 2024
Viewed by 928
Abstract
Studies on the Rosary in the late Ming and early Qing usually focus on works written by Jesuits and mostly stem from an artistic aspect. This article, however, shifts the focus to The True Peace of Humankind, a manuscript written by the [...] Read more.
Studies on the Rosary in the late Ming and early Qing usually focus on works written by Jesuits and mostly stem from an artistic aspect. This article, however, shifts the focus to The True Peace of Humankind, a manuscript written by the Dominican missionary Arcadio del Rosario in the seventeenth century, the first comprehensive book on the Rosary in Chinese. It first summarizes the early-stage propagation of the Rosary in China by the Jesuits and then examines the structure and content of The True Peace of Humankind. It is noteworthy that the manuscript repeatedly uses an analogy with flowers to highlight Mary’s intercession. Dating back to the Catholic tradition in Europe, the propagation of the Rosary through analogy with flowers resembles the propagation of reciting Buddhist prayers in Chinese society. This article applies contextual studies to explore two main questions: how is del Rosario’s manuscript different from the previous texts on the Rosary written by the Jesuits? What is the significance of the manuscript in the context of the Chinese Rites Controversy? Full article
15 pages, 430 KiB  
Article
One Hundred Years of Echoes: The Influence of the Jesuit Aleni on the Spiritual Life of the Manchu Prince Depei
by Dawei Pan
Religions 2024, 15(1), 138; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010138 - 22 Jan 2024
Viewed by 839
Abstract
This paper reveals the interweaving of three traditions—Christian, Manchu, and Han Chinese—in the work of an unduly neglected figure in early modern China, Aisin-Gioro Depei 愛新覺羅·德沛 (1688–1752), who was a Manchu prince, neo-Confucian philosopher, and likely, a hidden Christian. The analysis demonstrates that [...] Read more.
This paper reveals the interweaving of three traditions—Christian, Manchu, and Han Chinese—in the work of an unduly neglected figure in early modern China, Aisin-Gioro Depei 愛新覺羅·德沛 (1688–1752), who was a Manchu prince, neo-Confucian philosopher, and likely, a hidden Christian. The analysis demonstrates that Depei developed a particular syncretic philosophy based on the rational theology that he learned from the works of a significant Jesuit missionary, Giulio Aleni (1582–1649, 艾儒略), notably Aleni’s Xingxue cushu 性學觕述 (A Brief Introduction to the Study of Human Nature). Using resources from Christian and Confucian traditions, Depei puts forward an approach, which marks the continuation of the cross-cultural interpretation movement launched by the missionaries since the late Ming. Full article
11 pages, 1633 KiB  
Article
Developing Encounters between Chinese and Western Art: The Contribution of Two Jesuits in China in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
by Lisi Feng
Religions 2024, 15(1), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010129 - 19 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1298
Abstract
This article explores the introduction and influence of Western art in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties, focusing on the role of the Jesuits—especially Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), one of the founders of Catholic missionary work in China—and the most famous and influential [...] Read more.
This article explores the introduction and influence of Western art in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties, focusing on the role of the Jesuits—especially Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), one of the founders of Catholic missionary work in China—and the most famous and influential Western figure in China’s art history, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766). The Jesuits recognized art’s potential in their missionary efforts. The article examines the varied responses of Chinese literati to Western art theories in the 17th and 18th centuries, and how Jesuit-introduced artistic concepts were assimilated within different Chinese contexts. It also investigates how Western art merged into Chinese culture, noting the linguistic integration of concepts like chiaroscuro. In Ricci’s time, Western art intrigued the Chinese, but deep acceptance and conceptual transformation were limited. The assimilation of Western techniques was not as widespread as expected. In the 18th century, due to restrictions on Christianity, the religious role of painting diminished. Castiglione’s hybrid style, though influential in the Qing court, faced challenges in gaining cultural acceptance from the Han literati, leading to more criticism than in Ricci’s era. Despite these challenges and varying receptions, the contributions of Ricci and Castiglione to the Sino–Western art exchange are significant, reflecting the complex interplay of art, religion, and cultural dynamics across these periods. Full article
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15 pages, 388 KiB  
Article
Orthodoxy in China and the West: The Jesuit Interpretation of Analects 2.16
by Feizhi Qi
Religions 2024, 15(1), 128; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010128 - 19 Jan 2024
Viewed by 886
Abstract
The Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687) resulted from Jesuit research into Chinese classical texts. Upon its publication, the work conformed to the Jesuits’ accommodationist policy, facing challenges over its orthodoxy from both China and the West. The Latin translation and commentary on Analects 2.16 [...] Read more.
The Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687) resulted from Jesuit research into Chinese classical texts. Upon its publication, the work conformed to the Jesuits’ accommodationist policy, facing challenges over its orthodoxy from both China and the West. The Latin translation and commentary on Analects 2.16 mirror these challenges and the Jesuit rebuttal. Compared to earlier translations, this version adheres more closely to traditional Chinese exegesis and participates actively in historical debates over orthodoxy. The annotations also delineate the heterodox teachings of the Yang (楊), Mo (墨), Daoist, and Buddhist schools, juxtaposing them with Confucianism, which they portray as a natural law to be perfected. The inclusion of these four heterodoxies introduces a novel aspect to Christian heresiology, while the portrayal of Confucianism assimilates it into the Christian orthodox framework. This article contends that the translation and commentary exemplify the Jesuits’ efforts to establish orthodoxy within both Chinese and Western contexts. Full article
16 pages, 933 KiB  
Article
The Imagination of Alchemy: A Chinese Response to Catholicism in Late Ming and Early Qing
by Xiliang Wang
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1521; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121521 - 8 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1145
Abstract
As a common cultural phenomenon in China and the West, alchemy not only embodies the scientific spirit of people before modern times, but also contains certain religious beliefs, and even creates unrealistic secular imaginations. When Catholicism entered China during the Ming and Qing [...] Read more.
As a common cultural phenomenon in China and the West, alchemy not only embodies the scientific spirit of people before modern times, but also contains certain religious beliefs, and even creates unrealistic secular imaginations. When Catholicism entered China during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Chinese also projected this imagination of alchemy onto the missionaries. Behind this imagination actually lays the strong interest of Chinese people in the financial resources of the missionaries. On the one hand, there is the historical influence of traditional Chinese alchemy, and on the other hand, there is the curiosity caused by the lifestyle of missionaries in China. The imagination of alchemy not only reflects a historical aspect of the encounter between China and the West during the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also reflects a complex social psychology of mixed curiosity, panic, suspicion, and vigilance in pre-modern China. Full article
17 pages, 918 KiB  
Article
The Interaction and Clash of Ideas between Matteo Ricci and the Taizhou School
by Sijie Xie
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1512; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121512 - 7 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1018
Abstract
This article explores the interactions between the Taizhou school and Jesuit missionaries during the late Ming dynasty. It reveals the intellectual exchanges between these influential groups in fields such as philosophy and religion and their significance in spreading Western knowledge to the East. [...] Read more.
This article explores the interactions between the Taizhou school and Jesuit missionaries during the late Ming dynasty. It reveals the intellectual exchanges between these influential groups in fields such as philosophy and religion and their significance in spreading Western knowledge to the East. The article begins by introducing the complete process of exchanges between Taizhou school representatives like Jiao Hong, Li Zhi, Zhu Shilu, Tang Xianzu, Xu Guangqi, and Jesuit missionaries including Matteo Ricci. It delves into how these interactions influenced the development of their respective thoughts and academic theories. The exchange between the two groups was not a perfect fusion and was filled with contradictions, conflicts, and struggles, particularly on issues such as human nature and cosmology. By studying this process of exchange, we can understand how the intellectual elite of late Ming China accepted and reflected upon Western thought. It also reveals how Western intellectuals used this exchange to comprehend and appreciate Chinese philosophy and culture. Full article
14 pages, 910 KiB  
Article
Rethinking Ricci’s Missionary Strategy: The Disputes between Buglio and Schall
by Wenting Hu
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1122; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091122 - 31 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1231
Abstract
During the late Ming Dynasty period, the Jesuits carried out a cultural accommodation strategy in China, commonly known as Ricci’s Strategy, due to the significant role played by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) during this process. This strategy encompassed three elements: evangelizing through science and [...] Read more.
During the late Ming Dynasty period, the Jesuits carried out a cultural accommodation strategy in China, commonly known as Ricci’s Strategy, due to the significant role played by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) during this process. This strategy encompassed three elements: evangelizing through science and technology, establishing connections with the upper class, and compiling books to spread evangelism, all of which helped Catholicism to be promoted in China and be accepted by the Chinese people collectively. But the strategy also drew a lot of opposition within and outside of the Society of Jesus, some of which even led to the Rites Controversy. The extant literature primarily focuses on the conflicts that arose between the Society of Jesus and other religious orders, as well as the divergent viewpoints within the Society itself, like Niccolò Longobardo (1559–1654)’s well-documented anti-Riccian position. However, this approach largely ignored the disputes that arose within the Jesuit community in Beijing during the 17th century, mainly involving Ludovico Buglio (1606–1682) and Adam Schall (1592–1666) as two key figures on opposing sides. These disputes primarily centered around three points: the inclusion of superstitious elements in the calendar, the identities of the Jesuits in Early Qing, and the approach to inculturating theology. Although these historical events offered new perspectives and materials for the study of Ricci’s Strategy, they have received limited scholarly attention. This paper focuses on the disputes between Buglio and Schall, analyzing how Matteo Ricci’s Strategy was investigated during that time. Full article
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