Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Early Modern Jesuit Mission to China: A Marriage of Faith and Culture

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Comparative world and global history topics can add both vibrancy and genuine intellectual depth to secondary school and undergraduate courses. The story of how priests who embraced the concept of contemplatives in action encountered highly educated Chinese Confucian literati is an excellent example of cross-cultural contact. Even beginning to learn about these interactions should lead readers to some realization of the potential creativity, as well as intended and unintended consequences, that come into play when adherents of two different but venerable belief systems make mutual contact.

The Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests known as the Jesuits, launched foreign missions shortly after its founding in 1534 by Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish nobleman-turned-priest. The Jesuit Asian missions were some of the most thoughtful and creative Christian ventures, seeking to adapt Christian faith to local cultures. Jesuits embedded themselves in Asian societies in order to understand them more fully and thus equip themselves with a conceptual and terminological vocabulary necessary for rendering the gospel to native audiences. What followed was a complex, and often-controversial, methodology of missions focused on the engagement between Christianity and culture.



The China Christianity Studies Group (CCSG).

The Chinese Christian Texts Database (CCT Database).

The Portal to Jesuit Studies. Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies. Boston College.


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Hsia, Florence C. Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Hsia, Po-chia Ronnie. Matteo Ricci and the Catholic Mission to China, 1583-1610: A Short History with Documents. Passages: Key Moments in History. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2016.

—. A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci 1552-1610. Reprint edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Jami, Catherine. The Emperor’s New Mathematics: Western Learning and Imperial Authority During the Kangxi Reign (1662-1722). 1st edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Lach, Donald F., and Edwin J. Van Kley. Asia in the Making of Europe. Vol. III. Book 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Menegon, Eugenio. Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China. Harvard–Yenching Institute Monograph Series. Book 69. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010.

Ronan, Charles E., S. J., Bonnie B. C. Oh, eds. East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582–1773. 1st edition. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1988.

Ross, Andrew C. A Vision Betrayed: The Jesuits in Japan and China 1542–1742. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994.

Spence, Jonathan. The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. New York: Penguin Books, 1984.

Standaert, Nicolas. Methodology in View of Contact Between Cultures: The China Case in the 17th Century. Hong Kong: Centre for the Study of Religion and Chinese Society, Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2002.

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