Friday, January 27, 2012

The Jesuit Mission in China (2005)

                              THE IMPACT OF THE WEST ON CHINA

                                                             Final Project

                                                                ISCL 742
                                                  The History of Christianity
                                                  in Missiological Perspective

                                                                   Presented to

 Dr. Donald E. Douglas, Ph.D.

School of Intercultural Studies
           Biola University

                                                         by Timothy P. Grove

                                                           20 December 2005

            There has been direct, though sporadic, contact between Europe and China since very early times.  The Greeks and Romans came to realize that another great empire existed far to the east, and referred to the Chinese as Seres (from this was derived the word serica, meaning silk garments).  There were several Roman embassies to China during the first and second centuries A.D.  These expeditions proceeded by way of the Red Sea to the eastern coast of India, and then passed overland through Burma into Yunnan and thence to China.  These embassies yielded little—apparently the Chinese viewed the Roman ambassadors as merely the representatives of one more petty western kingdom, failing to recognize the existence of a powerful western empire, or to realize the potential importance of cultivating ties with the West.  Meanwhile, the Silk Road developed as an important trade route between China and the Near East, and there is an account of an attempt by some Chinese silk-weavers to introduce silk cultivation in the Eastern Empire during the reign of Justinian (Leibniz).  Cosmas Indicopleustes, in his Topographia Christiana (c547) gave China the more correct name Tzin—clear evidence of some degree of actual communication with that distant empire (Leibniz).  Nothing further came of this, however, and there was no further direct contact between China and Europe until the 13th century, although Chinese goods continued to pass westward over the Silk Road.
Meanwhile, in 635 A.D., Nestorian missionaries led by A-lo-pen, a Syrian, established themselves in China.  This important mission had considerable success, as commemorated by the Nestorian Monument of 781 A.D.  The downfall of the Nestorian mission came swiftly, however, when in 845 the Taoist Emperor Wu Tsung proscribed Buddhism and Christianity as well, noting that there were then “3000 monks from Ta-ch’in [Syria] and Mu-hu-po” [Mesopotamia?] (Neill 1990: 96).  Christianity had virtually disappeared by the end of the 10th century, though some Nestorian Christians remained here and there, especially along the Silk Road. 
The Mongol Conquest of China brought Christianity again into prominence, since a number of the Mongol tribes and several important Mongol generals were Nestorian Christians.  Hearing of this, the Catholic church made its first attempts to extend its influence to China.  John of Monte Corvino, a Franciscan, arrived in Beijing in 1294 and served as Archbishop of Beijing from1308 until his death in 1328.  He had papal permission to celebrate mass and other sacraments in the Mongol language.  He claimed to have baptized 6,400 converts by 1305, though the progress of his work was slowed by conflict with the Nestorians (Camps 1995).  A number of friars from Europe visited Mongolia and China in those days, including William de Rubruquis and Odoric of Pordenone, both of whom left written accounts of their travels. 
John of Monte Corvino died without an immediate successor.  Eventually, in response to an embassy of Chinese Christians, at least two later archbishops were appointed:  Nicholas (1338) and William of Prato (1370).  Very little is known of these men, though Matteo Ricci found evidence that they had actually arrived in China.  With the overthrow of the Yuan dynasty (1368), the Ming rulers sought to eliminate all foreign influences, including Christianity.  A few Christians remained, but Christianity virtually disappeared, for the second time, from Chinese consciousness (Camps 1995).  Ricci came across a few Nestorian families in Nanjing and elsewhere in central China.  However, “the only traces of Christianity among most of them were that they seemed to have some knowledge of the psalter and they ate pork, over which they made the sign of the cross” (Spence 1984: 119).
            Travel between China and Europe was extremely difficult, dangerous, and expensive—the trip took two years, and may be compared to traveling to the Moon in our own day.  Because of the immense geographical separation between China and Europe, the two cultures developed in complete isolation from each other.  When contact between East and West became more frequent, the reports of travelers to China occasioned great excitement in Europe:  these were accounts of a highly developed yet completely alien civilization, amounting almost to news from another world.
            These contacts eventually had a number of important influences on European thought, including Christian theology, philosophy, linguistics, history, and political science.   Because of China’s cultural isolationism, the influence of Europe on China was less noticeable, though the importance of European technological advances was widely recognized in China before 1700.  By far the most important factor in the early cultural exchanges between China and the West was the Jesuit presence in China, beginning in 1554 and continuing until the suppression of the Order in 1773.
In 1567, the Jesuit Juan Bautista Ribeira had tried unsuccessfully to convert the Chinese in the region of Macao, and concluded that “there is no hope of converting them, unless one has recourse to force and unless they give way before the soldiers.” Another unsuccessful Jesuit missionary, Melchior Nunes Barreto, wrote a letter urging Christian rulers to “force the sovereign of China to grant to the missionaries the right to preach and to the natives the right to hear the truth.”   According to the Franciscan missionary Alfaro, “With or without soldiers, to wish to enter China is to attempt to reach the moon” (Dunne 1962: 16-17).
Alessandro Valignano, who arrived in Macao in 1577 as superior of all the Jesuit missions in the Far East, favored an entirely different approach:  “The only possible way to penetration will be utterly different from that which has been adopted up to now in all the other missions in these countries” (Dunne 1962: 17).  The new approach which Valignano advocated has generally been called accommodation, and this approach characterized the Jesuit mission in China for more than a century, until papal intervention put an end to it.  The Jesuit Michele Ruggeri expressed the Order’s willingness to adapt in a famous sentence:  “Siamo fatti Cini ut Christo Sinas lucrifaciamus” (“Let us become Chinese so that we may win the Chinese to Christ”) (Criveller 1997: 36).  The long-term results of this policy of cultural accommodation, and the degree to which the Jesuits might have succeeded in converting China to Christianity had they been allowed to pursue their policy without interference, will never be known.  Nevertheless, their work in China remains one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of Christian missions.

Ricci, Schall, and Verbiest

            The most famous of the Jesuit missionaries to China were Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1591-1666), and Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688).
Ricci, known in Chinese as Li Ma-tou, was a native of Macerata in the Papal States.  He arrived in Macao in 1582 and quickly set about mastering the Chinese language.  Ricci was a student of the Renaissance ars memorativa, the training of the memory through the use of mnemonic systems.  On one occasion in 1595, he demonstrated his ability by reading over a list of over 400 random Chinese characters, then repeating the list in reverse.  In this way, he succeeded in mastering the Chinese writing system and committing the Confucian Classics to memory.  Spence notes that Francesco Panigarola, who may have tutored Ricci in these methods, was able to remember 100,000 specific items of information (Spence 1984).
“After his entry into China, Ricci became a Chinese with the Chinese.  He adopted Chinese manners, diet, sleep patterns, and clothing, down to cuffs, belt, sash, hat, and colors.  He gave up grape wine for rice wine, no small matter for an Italian” (Sebes 1988:  42). The purpose of this quiet infiltration of Chinese society was to convert the ruling class, and ultimately the Chinese emperor.  Ricci felt that if this could be accomplished, the conversion of the entire Chinese nation was assured.  The open proclamation of the Gospel might jeopardize this plan.  "I do not think that we shall establish a church," Ricci wrote in 1596, "but instead a room for discussion and we will say Mass privately . . . because one proceeds more effectively and with greater fruit here through conversations than through formal sermons” (Dunne 1962: 46).  Again in 1598 he wrote, "The hour had not yet arrived to begin preaching here the holy Gospel” (Dunne 1962: 55).
In 1601, Ricci was finally successful in obtaining permission to live in Peking.  He presented two chiming clocks to the Chinese emperor, and was requested to adjust and maintain them in the future. He was well received because of his mastery of the Chinese language in both its spoken and written forms, so remarkable in a foreigner.  Ricci also impressed the Chinese with his knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and by displaying an accurate world-map, drawn with China in the center.  He succeeded in making several influential Chinese converts, including Xu Ganggi, the most powerful official at the Chinese court.  The Ming History states: "Those who came from the West were intelligent and were men of great capacity.  Their only purpose was to preach religion, with no desire for government honors or for material gain.  For this reason those who were given to novelties were greatly attracted to them” (Chan 1988: 160).
Ricci soon had to confront the problem of how to deal with the Confucianism which pervaded Chinese society from top to bottom.  Unlike Buddhism, which was early identified as fundamentally opposed to Christianity, Confucianism's specifically religious teachings were only implicit.  This made Confucianism less readily identifiable as a pagan religion, and suggested to Ricci and others that some kind of compromise might be workable.
Ricci believed that Christianity and Confucianism (in its "original", not its Neo-Confucian form) could be reconciled to stand against Buddhism and Taoism.   He obtained a good grasp of Neo-Confucian metaphysics so that he could argue for an interpretation of Confucianism which could be reconciled with Christianity.  Thus, he used passages in the Confucian classics to demonstrate the immortality of the soul and the existence of hell. 
In his approach to ethics, Ricci tried to show the parallels between Confucianism and Christianity.  For example, he related the concept of hsiao (filial piety) to the Ten Commandments, and noted the similarity between Confucius' version of the Golden Rule and Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7:12.  He also sought to show how the Confucian values of pao (reciprocity) and te (personal virtues) could be incorporated into Christianity.             Ricci believed there was no essential contradiction between the two systems of thought, but that the ethical teachings of Confucianism could be supplemented and perfected by those of Christianity.  Thus, while Confucius taught that the expression of love should be differentiated in accordance with its object, Christianity taught universal love for all men.
Ricci's understanding of and respect for Confucian ethical teachings won him many admirers among the educated Chinese.  At the same time, he did not hesitate to attack Chinese practices which could not be reconciled with Christian ethics.  He was outspoken in his condemnation of homosexuality (widely practiced among the educated elite in Ming times), and he insisted that converts dismiss their concubines before he would consent to baptize them.
            Ricci believed that he had found evidence in the Confucian classics that the ancient Chinese had once known and venerated the God of the Bible, to whom the classics referred as Shang-ti ("The Lord on High") or T'ien ("Heaven").  He claimed that the Chinese were a branch of the people of Judaea who had migrated to the East in ancient times.  Ricci assured the Chinese that all of their ancient sages had been believers in the One God and hence were in Heaven, but that subsequent generations had forgotten God's existence.
Ricci wrote numerous books in Chinese, including Ki ho yuen pen (“Principles of Geometry”), which was a translation of Euclid’s Elements, and Si kouo ki fa (“Art of Artificial Memory”), in which he presented his ars memorativa to the Chinese (Pfister).
Ricci was a real Renaissance Man.  His treatise De Amicitia (Chiao yu lun, 1601), which was modeled on a similar work of Cicero, proved extremely popular among the Chinese.  Ricci’s T’ien tchou che i (De Deo vera ratio), a treatise on metaphysics, and Ki jen che p’ien (“The ten paradoxes”), a set of dialogues, were widely read by the educated Chinese of his day  (Pfister).
Still, according to Jacques Gernet, Ricci’s philosophical assumptions ultimately worked against the success of the Jesuit mission, since his cosmology was “pre-Copernican and mediaeval,” and his Aristotelian and Ptolemaic view of the universe as closed and finite was at odds with Chinese cosmology (Mungello 1989: 66).  The form of learning which the Jesuits brought to China was thoroughly Aristotelian in its emphasis on systematization and logic and its dependence on authority and neglect of empirical investigation (Mungello 1989).
Ricci’s account of China, De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, was published in Europe in 1615.  This work was enormously influential, and had been translated into six European languages by 1625 (Mungello 1989).
Ricci and other Jesuits entered China with the intention of spending the rest of their lives there.  In many cases, they were profoundly changed by “the power of Chinese culture to sinify foreigners” (Mungello 1989: 49).  Ricci, for example, came to praise Chinese as more concise and elegant than Latin, and also developed great respect for Confucius.  “Indeed,” he wrote, “if we critically examine [Confucius’] actions and sayings as they are recorded in history, we shall be forced to admit that he was the equal of the pagan philosophers and superior to most of them” (Mungello 1989: 57).  In later years, the Confucian classics were routinely used by the Jesuits as a means of language acquisition.
            So great was Ricci's admiration for Confucianism that he came to believe that the teachings of Confucius should be incorporated into Christian ethics.  "Ricci's Chinese writings suggest he had become a convert to Confucianism in the process of teaching Christianity" (Young 1980: 43). 
The Jesuits adopted a policy of accommodation to the state cult of Confucianism, but of opposition to Buddhism, which was seen as incompatible with Christianity.  The Chinese phrase buru yifo (“supplement Confucianism, replace Buddhism”) was repeatedly used to summarize this strategy (Wills 1994).  In their learned discussions with Confucian intellectuals, Ricci and his successors proposed an approach to metaphysical inquiry through gewu (“investigation of things”—this was the mathematical, astronomical, geographical and engineering science which so impressed the Chinese), qiongli (“fathoming principles”), and finally zhitian (“knowing God”).  Thus, the success of the Jesuits in scientific pursuits would result in greater openness to the claims of Christianity (Standaert 1994).  By 1640, the Jesuits had converted fifty palace women, forty eunuchs, and over one hundred other members of the imperial court (Spence 1969).
Adam Schall (T’ang Jo-wang), a native of Cologne, arrived in Beijing in 1622, and soon distinguished himself by accurately predicting an eclipse of the moon on October 8, 1623 (Attwater 1963).  Schall and his assistants were placed in charge of a reform of the Chinese calendar.  They presented a telescope and an armillary sphere to the emperor, and were permitted to set these up in the Forbidden City.  They also impressed the emperor by their accurate prediction of eclipses of both the sun and moon in January 1638.
            The Manchu invasion and the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 could have jeopardized the success of the Jesuit mission, but Schall made a formal petition to the emperor, demonstrating the western method of calculating an eclipse of the sun for September 1st of that year (Spence 1969).  The details of Schall’s calculations were confirmed precisely when the eclipse occurred, and in the end Adam Schall became a close confidante of the new emperor, Shun-chih, who called him Ma-fa (“honorable father” in Manchu), granted him unlimited access to his presence, and allowed him to dispense with the k’ou-t’ou (Väth 1933). It is interesting to note that from this time on, the Jesuits faced the challenge of learning Manchu as well as Chinese!
In 1645, the emperor appointed Schall director of the Bureau of Astronomy.  Schall accepted this position with some reluctance, since the Bureau of Astronomy was a division of the Bureau of Rites and existed for the purpose of forecasting auspicious and inauspicious days and times.  In addition, its responsibilities included the publication not only of the official Calendar, but also the so-called “Yellow Calendar” (from the color of its covers) which purveyed information pertinent to Chinese astrology and superstitious beliefs, apportioning the days and months of the year to twenty good or evil spirits, and associating ten other spirits with their habitation of rooms in houses and parts of the body (Väth 1933). The Yellow Calendar was published with the signature of the director of the Bureau of Astronomy, and there was some question as to whether Schall ought to ascribe his name to such a document, in which superstition played so large a part.  In addition, Schall’s duties included astrological weather forecasting (in the tradition of the Farmer’s Almanac), and the practice of geomancy.  This ancient Chinese practice involved divining the hidden location of such things as “white tigers” and “green dragons” within the earth, with a view to choosing the best locations for buildings and tombs, as well as selecting the proper days to begin their construction (Väth 1933). 
Since Schall himself was not directly involved in any of these practices, he determined that scruples about them were of little weight when compared to the importance of his position for the continued success of the Jesuit mission in China.            However, in 1649 two of his assistants, Gabriel de Magalhães and Luigi Buglio, denounced him to his Jesuit superiors for his involvement in promoting superstitious practices.  Schall defended himself in a letter to the general of the Society (1652), in which he denied the charge that the Bureau of Astronomy was in effect practicing divination, although he admitted that “we do attribute to the stars a certain influence on human actions; we seek to expound celestial phenomena; we mention the names of spirits in the calendar, but in all this we pay every regard to God” (Attwater 1963: 137-138).  In his defense, Schall noted the example of the Magi who followed a star to find the infant Jesus and the eclipse which occurred when He was crucified; Schall also argued that the western use of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn to designate planets was just as much an “invocation of spirits” as the examples found in the Yellow Calendar. After much deliberation, the Society finally decided in Schall’s favor in 1664. 
Like most educated people of his time, including Galileo, Kepler, Melancthon, and Leibniz, Schall was a believer in astrology.  This belief was strongly supported by Aquinas himself, who wrote that “The stars influence the bodies of men and thus their temperaments, which are affected by their bodily constitution. … At the time of birth this influence is especially strong, which is why a largely accurate horoscope may then be cast of the course of this or that human life” (Attwater 1963: 138).  Schall was also a believer in mundane astrology, which seeks to associate signs in the heavens with political events.  He believed that the comets he had observed in Goa in 1618, on his way to China, had portended disaster for the German, Chinese, and Mogul empires, as well as the death of Gustavus Adolphus (Väth 1933).
Schall is frequently depicted in Chinese dress, with the emblem of a crane embroidered across the front of his tunic.  One of his most interesting innovations was to change the measurement of the ecliptic circle from 365 and a quarter degrees (the Chinese practice, corresponding to the length of the year) to 360 degrees (Väth 1933).
Ferdinand Verbiest (Nan Huai-ren), was born at Pitthem, a village near Courtrai. He arrived at Macao in 1659 at the age of 35. Verbiest was educated at the University of Louvain, where his course of study included astronomy and mathematics.  He arrived in Beijing in 1660 and soon became Schall’s assistant.  In competition with Chinese astronomers, he repeatedly demonstrated the superiority of western methods in predicting the time of eclipses.
The success of Schall and Verbiest in astronomy and in rectifying the calendar led to invidious attacks on him from other officials.  In 1664, in a report to the Board of Rites, one Yang Guangxian made serious charges against him:  “Adam Schall dodged and hid in the court for the purpose of stealing secret information under the cover of compiling the calendar.  The missionaries ganged up and were hatching a sinister plot.  That is why they are building churches in the capital and other important cities and promulgate their doctrines to tempt people.  Their activities have violated our law and must be condemned” (Xi Zezong 1994: 187).  “The Westerner Adam Schall was a posthumous follower of Jesus, who had been the ringleader of the treacherous bandits of the Kingdom of Judea.  In the Ming dynasty he came to Peking secretly, and posed as a calendar-maker in order to carry on the propagation of heresy.  He engaged in spying out the secrets of our court. … During the last twenty years [the Westerners] have won over one million disciples who have spread throughout the Empire. … If we do not eradicate them soon, then we ourselves rear a tiger that will lead us to future disaster” (Spence 1969: 21). 
Schall, Verbiest, and their Jesuit associates were imprisoned and placed on trial in 1665.  During one phase of the trial, Verbiest was ordered to predict the exact time of a coming eclipse, and Chinese and Muslim astronomers were ordered to do the same.  Verbiest, with help from Schall, was nearly precise in his prediction, while the others were off by thirty minutes or more (Spence 1969).  Although the official list of charges was patently ridiculous, including the failure of Schall’s Bureau of Astronomy to choose the correct day for a ceremony honoring the emperor’s youngest son, Schall and twelve Chinese officials of the Bureau of Astronomy were sentenced to death by dismemberment.  It was also decreed that all Christian missionaries should be deported from China and the Christian religion proscribed.  However, on the following day, a meeting of the regents to ratify this sentence was interrupted by a strong earthquake, and shortly thereafter a comet appeared in the sky.  The Chinese, perhaps correctly, interpreted this as a sign of divine displeasure, and although five of the Chinese officials were executed, Schall and the other missionaries were released.  Schall, already seriously ill, died in 1666.  His gravestone, still extant in 1900 but destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion, was inscribed in both Chinese and Manchu (Väth 1933).
Schall’s accuser, Yang Guangxian, was made head of the Bureau of Astronomy, but his incompetence soon became clear, and in 1669 the emperor released Ferdinand Verbiest from house arrest and placed him in charge (Xi Zezong 1994)  Verbiest was appointed a mandarin (scholar-official) in 1674. 
Verbiest personally tutored the emperor in western mathematics and astronomy for two years, and saw him make great progress.  Verbiest and the emperor became great friends, and he accompanied the emperor on two visits to Tartary (Mongolia and Manchuria) in 1682 and 1683 (Orléans 1854).  Verbiest also taught the emperor painting and music. 
During one of the expeditions to Tartary, Verbiest gave the emperor an astronomy lesson:  “As the night was fair, and the Heavens very clear, he willed me to name in the Chinese and European languages, all the constellations that then appeared above the horizon, and he himself first named all those he already knew” (Lach 1993: 1709).  The two had many conversations about Christianity, in which the emperor often asked difficult questions, such as why God had not simply forgiven the sins of the world, rather than having His Son die; or how the flood of Noah could have been universally destructive, when the Chinese account of the flood said that those on the plains drowned, while those who escaped to the mountains survived (Lin Jinshui 1994).
Verbiest distinguished himself above all as a mechanical engineer.  By 1673 he had completed six bronze astronomical instruments, which were installed in the Beijing observatory.  These included a celestial globe locating the positions of 1,888 individual stars, which was accompanied by a printed star catalogue, two armillary spheres (one ecliptic and one equatorial), a horizon circle, a quadrant, and a sextant (previously unknown in China) (Xi Zezong 1994).  He also prepared a Chinese version of a recent European map of the world, modified so as to place China in the middle (Foss1988).
In 1674, when the Sanfan Rebellion broke out, Verbiest was ordered to make cannons for the army.  He supervised the casting of nearly 500 of these, and held a public demonstration of their effectiveness.  When each gun was finished, it was engraved with the name of a Christian saint, and Verbiest would sprinkle it with holy water and pray for the success of the emperor’s army (Lin Jinshui 1994).  These cannons were later used against the Russian fortress of Albazin on the Amur (1685-86).
Perhaps most remarkable was Verbiest’s construction in 1665 of a steamboat and of a wooden “automotive machine” powered by a steam turbine.  He drove this machine around in circles inside the large rooms of the palace.  Although these experiments led to no widespread practical applications, they antedate the first European devices of their kind by more than 100 years! (Scheel 1994).
Verbiest also acted as a diplomat and interpreter in negotiations with the Russian embassy to Beijing in 1676.  Later generations of Chinese historians have portrayed him as a spy or double agent because of the information about China which he communicated to the Russian ambassador, N.G.M. Spathary.  Apparently Verbiest’s helpfulness to the Russians was motivated by his desire to secure an overland route through Russia for future Jesuit missionaries (Heyndrickx 1994).  Leibniz also dreamed of the opening of a land route to China, leading to more regular communication between learned men in China and Europe.  After the Sino-Russian treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), he had high hopes that this might actually occur, and in his Novissima Sinica (1697) Leibniz urged Protestants to dispatch missionaries to China (Wiener 1973).
In gratitude to Verbiest and at his request, Kangxi made a proclamation in 1687 guaranteeing the free exercise of the Christian religion throughout his empire, with priests being permitted to travel freely under Verbiest’s seal.  Verbiest died the following year, but after some negotiation the Jesuits were able to obtain a new edict of toleration (1692) (Lin Jinshui 1994).
            The details of Verbiest’s work in China were made known to Europeans through the publication of his Astronomia europaea sub imperatore tartaro-sinico Cam Hy apellato (1687).
“It was a star that long ago led the Three Kings to adore the True God,” Verbiest wrote, “In the same way the science of the stars will lead the rulers of the Orient, little by little, to know and to adore their Lord” (Spence 1969: 33).
Beginning with Ricci, the Jesuits had recognized the value of astronomy as a means of gaining the respect of the Chinese.  Rulings by the Church in 1616 and 1633 condemned heliocentrism as erroneous, despite the fact that the heliocentric view was becoming increasingly necessary to make sense of astronomical phenomena.  Thus, the Jesuits were forbidden by the Church to teach heliocentrism in China; as a compromise, they introduced the theory of Tycho Brahe, by which the sun is described as revolving around the earth, while the remaining planets are in orbit around the sun. 
The Copernican (heliocentric) view was finally introduced to China by the Jesuit Michel Benoist (Chiang Yu-jen) in 1760, three years after Copernicus’ De revolutionibus was removed from the Index (Mungello 1989). 
The Polish Jesuit Michael Boym devoted himself to botany and materia medica.  His botanical expeditions to various parts of China and Southeast Asia were reported in two important and influential works:  Flora sinensis (1656) and Specimen medicinae sinicae (1682).  One of his more interesting discoveries was that certain plants brought from the Americas during the 16th century had acclimated themselves to southern China and were flourishing there in his day (Lach 1993: 1681).
The Jesuits were guilty of a certain amount of deliberate misrepresentation, or propagandizing, in their presentation of the Christian West to the Chinese.  In their descriptions of Europe, they maintained that an ideal society had existed there since the beginning of the Christian era.  Giulio Aleni claimed that “All European states, large or small, from their kings to the common people, adhere to Catholicism, no heterodox doctrine being allowed in their midst” (Chen Minsun 1994: 131), and Ricci would have the Chinese believe that “there had been no war and no strife among the thirty states of Europe for one thousand six hundred years” (Chen Minsun 1994: 130).  Another example of this is the story Ricci told the Chinese in an effort to discredit Buddhism:  “When we examine Chinese history we find that Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty had heard of these events [the ministry and miracles of Christ] and sent ambassadors on a mission to the West to search for canonical writings.  Midway these ambassadors mistakenly took India to be their goal, and returned to China with Buddhist scriptures which were then circulated throughout the nation.  From then until now the people of your esteemed country have been deceived and misled” [!] (Criveller 1997: 111).
            Aleni’s Tianzhu Jiangsheng Yanxing Jilüe (the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ) was published in 1635, with an accompanying volume of pictures published two years later.  This work contains numerous interesting adaptations of the Gospel for a Chinese audience.  For example, when Jesus went out to pray, he was said to “practice the exercise of meditation” (Criveller 1997: 207).  In the account of the six brothers who married the same woman (Matthew 22), Aleni omits the fact that the men were brothers.  When Jesus is sent to Herod, Aleni says that the soldiers dressed Him in “a long white cloak,” white being the color of mourning in China (Criveller 1997: 208).  In Luke 9, in the case of the man who wanted to bury his father and the man who wanted to say goodbye to his parents, Aleni has “let me first go to bury my dead relative” and “let me first go home and finish my work” (Criveller 1997: 219).   This is a recognition of the importance of the concept of filial piety, which required a three-year period of mourning for one’s father, including retirement from all public activity.  On the same theme, Aleni gives an account of Jesus’ childhood:  “Afterwards for18 years, He lived in Nazareth.  He respected the Holy Mother and Joseph, establishing an example of filial piety for humankind” (Criveller 1997: 220).  Aleni also includes some Catholic legends:  a pagan temple in Rome is reported to have collapsed on the occasion of Jesus’ birth, and Calvary is identified as the same place where Abraham offered to sacrifice Isaac, as well as being the site of Adam’s tomb (Criveller 1997).

The Chinese Rites Controversy

The Chinese Rites controversy began in 1643, when the Dominican Juan Bautista Morales brought formal charges against the Jesuits, and concluded in 1742, when Benedict XIV issued the bull Ex quo singulari, prohibiting Christians from observing the Confucian rites, imposing an oath of observance on all missionaries in China, and forbidding all future discussion of the matter.
At issue was whether Confucianism was a pagan religion, a theistic moral philosophy compatible with Christianity, or an atheistic philosophy incompatible with Christianity (Lach 1993).  The first view was held by the Dominicans and Franciscans; the Jesuits held the second view of Confucianism as they supposed it to have existed in its original form, while admitting that the Neo-Confucian beliefs of the Chinese intelligentsia in later times were essentially atheistic.
The conflict between the Jesuits and the Mendicant Orders (Franciscans and Dominicans) had its basis in the orders’ conflicting approaches to ethical decisions, which had their origin in the casuistic approach to morality and the manuals of moal theology which arose during the 17th century.  The Jesuits espoused probabilism, “the doctrine that in matters of conscience where authorities differ, the opinion favoring greater liberty may be followed, provided it is solidly probable” (Criveller 1997: 18).  The Dominicans, on the other hand, espoused probabiliorism, which meant that in making ethical decisions it was best to err on the side of caution.  They accused the Jesuits of having created “a set of rules for evading the rules, and rejected anything which was founded on a probabilist basis, including the accommodationist approach of the Jesuit mission in China (Criveller 1997). 
Another important difference between the Jesuits and the Mendicant orders was that the Jesuits believed the best approach to the conversion of China would be conversion from the top.  Thus, it was always their goal to recommend themselves to the educated classes.  Adam Schall “endeavored to live like a Confucian official.  He worked hard at the Chinese language, studied the Confucian Classics, wore the long robes of the Chinese scholar, and lived in considerable style” (Spence 1969: 14).  The Franciscans and Dominicans, by contrast, directed their efforts toward the poor, in the belief that they were following the example of Christ in doing so.
A very important issue which arose in China was the question of the salvation or damnation of the ancient Chinese, including Confucius.  The Jesuits espoused the axiom of St. Thomas Aquinas that “to one who does what lies in his power, God does not deny grace” (Criveller 1997: 26).  The Franciscans, of course, did not hesitate to proclaim that Confucius and all others who had died without knowledge of Christianity were in hell.
Among the specific charges made against the Jesuits were that they refused to say that Confucius was in hell, that they hid the Crucifix from public view, and that they refrained from mentioning the Passion and death of Christ.  They were also criticized for their adoption of Chinese dress, permitting themselves to be carried about in sedan-chairs, making loans for interest, and engaging in scientific work (Criveller 1997).
Francesco Furtado, Vice Superior of the Jesuits in China, “admitted that the Jesuits did not give wide public display to the Crucifixion.  They wanted to avoid the danger of exposing the Christian doctrine of Crucifixion to ridicule, or letting the Cross be assimilated to a Taoist charm” (Criveller 1997: 82).  To this, Friar Domingo Navarrete responded that “we do not say that they do not preach the Crucified Christ, but that they reveal him very late” (Criveller 1997: 83).  This has to do with the Jesuit policy of arcana, by which various doctrines, sacraments, and other practices which might potentially give offense to the Chinese were deliberately concealed from the public and only gradually revealed to catechumens.  The Franciscans, by contrast, believed that all the doctrines of Christianity should be preached openly, without dissembling.  One friar customarily held up the crucifix during the preaching of the Gospel.
Origen (185-254) had taught that “each nation should call God by the name designated to its highest and most esteemed being” (Collani 1994: 461).  What this designation should be in Chinese was hotly debated among the Jesuits, beginning at a conference at Macao in 1621 (Attwater 1963).  Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Chinese Rites Controversy was that the needless dispute over names for God ultimately resulted in the loss of imperial favor. 
The emperor Kangxi had presented the Jesuits with tablets inscribed with the Chinese characters jing tian (“worship heaven”), and these were displayed in their church in Beijing.  However, despite the testimony of numerous Chinese scholars that jing tian and jing tianzhu (“worship the Lord of heaven”) were synonymous terms, Charles Maigrot, the Vicar Apostolicus of Fujian, believed that the emperor’s phrase referred to the material heavens and hence was an exhortation to idolatry.   Maigrot proceeded to remove the tablets, which had amounted to an edict of imperial toleration of Christianity, from their place in the church, causing “a great tumult among the Christians” (Collani 1994: 468). 
On August 2, 1706, the Emperor met personally with Maigrot, and asked him, “What are your objections to the characters jing tian?”  Maigrot replied, “Tian does not mean the Lord of Heaven.”  “I am very surprised at you,” said the emperor, “Did I not already state that tian is a much better expression for the Lord of Heaven than tianzhu?”  He went on to argue that “the true meaning of Chinese words does not always coincide with their literal meaning” (Collani 1994: 467). 
At one point, the emperor, disgusted by Maigrot's poor spoken Chinese, asked him to interpret four Chinese characters written on a scroll hanging behind the throne.  Maigrot was able to read only one of them; moreover, he was unable to recognize Matteo Ricci's Chinese name in written form, and admitted that he was unfamiliar with Ricci's T'ien-chu shih-i (which all educated Chinese had read).  The emperor warned Maigrot against any interference with the Chinese rites and dismissed him from court, expressing his astonishment "that such dunces should claim to decide the meaning of texts and ceremonies of several thousand years' antiquity" (Cronin 1955: 282). 
The emperor subsequently interviewed one of Maigrot’s teachers of Chinese, the Christian Jiang Weibiao (Xaverius), who stated, “I have been with Maigrot for two years and have explained Chinese books to him.  But he stubbornly stuck to a different European interpretation” (Collani 1994: 468). 
This stubbornness had its final consequence on March 19, 1715, when the papal bull Ex illa die forbade the practice of the Confucian rites by Christians, and specifically forbade the use of the phrase jing tian.  This effectively ended the successful Jesuit mission in China (Collani 1994).  Tianzhu, by the way, is still the designation for God used by Chinese Catholics. 
It should be noted that not all Chinese shared the emperor’s views on the interchangeability of these terms.  As one Chinese official wrote in 1620, [The missionaries] “take the Chinese ‘Heaven’ and misleadingly compare it with their ‘Lord of Heaven,’ who mysteriously dwelt in this world as an immortal and has published a sacred book, so wild is their imagining” (Criveller  1997: 376).
One consequence of the Church’s position on these matters was that the Jesuits were no longer permitted to accept the title of mandarin (scholar-official), as Schall, Verbiest, and several others had done.  By forbidding this, the Church dealt a very serious blow to the Jesuit strategy to convert the Chinese educated classes.
Five French Jesuits, Joachim Bouvet, Jean de Fontaney, Jean-Francois Gerbillon, Guy Tachard, and Claude de Visdelou, arrived in Beijing just ten days after Verbiest’s death (1688). Since they were trained in astronomy, they were able to continue his work (Witek 1994:18).  Bouvet later corresponded with Leibniz, providing him with much useful first-hand information.
            In 1709, in response to the emperor’s request to provide and accurate and detailed atlas of the Chinese empire, the Jesuits changed their emphasis from astronomy to cartography.  They began by surveying Manchuria, and the emperor was so impressed with the results that he employed three separate groups of Jesuit surveyors on the project.  Every province of China had been mapped by the end of 1715, and the completed atlas was presented to the emperor in 1718.  There were about 120 Jesuits working in China at that time, and an estimated 300,000 Chinese Catholics (Foss 1988).
Jesuits continued to hold the position of director of the Bureau of Astronomy until the suppression of the order in 1773 (Pfister).

The Influence of China on European Thought

The Chinese Rites controversy was an important factor in contributing to European consciousness of China, having “given rise in the minds of everyone to a desire to know China” (Etienne de Silhouette, Idée générale du gouvernement … des Chinois, 1729, quoted in Wiener 1973: 358).  The controversy, which lasted for a century, quickly spread from China to Europe, where the Chinese Rites were hotly debated in religious circles between the supporters of the Jesuits and the supporters of the Dominicans and Franciscans.  The controversy soon spread to the Sorbonne, and many European intellectuals became involved in it. Nicolas Malebranche, in his Entretien d'un philosophe chrétien et d'un philosophe chinois, sur l'existence et la nature de Dieu (1708), written with the support of Jesuits in China, argued that the Confucianism of the Chinese learned class amounted to atheism. 
Leibniz also wrote in support of the Jesuit cause:  “… even if [Confucianism] is regarded equivocally, it is advisable to give it the most favorable meaning—as the Apostle Paul is said to have done in taking the altar erected to an unknown god as having been instituted by the Athenians for rites which they ought to have celebrated rather than for those which they usually practiced” (Leibniz 1994: 63).  In all, Leibniz wrote four treatises on China—the Novissima Sinica, De Cultu Confucii civili (1700/01), Remarks on Chinese Rites and Religion (1708), and Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese (1716).  In all of these works, Leibniz took the side of the Jesuits in the Chinese Rites controversy.
            The occasional arrival of Jesuits from China, sometimes even with visiting Chinese converts, also aroused a great deal of interest.  During his visit to Europe from 1682-92, the Jesuit Philippe Couplet was received by Pope Alexander VII in Rome and Louis XIV at Versailles.  “With his Chinese companion, clothing, and accouterments, Couplet appears to have launched a rage for chinoiserie in France” (Mungello 1988: 262).  Couplet also supervised the publication in Paris of Confucius Sinarum philosophus (1687), a Latin translation of the Confucian classics which was to have a significant influence on European thought.  Over one-hundred Jesuits had contributed to the translation (Mungello 1988).
The materials on China published by the Jesuits had profound and far-reaching implications.  Ricci and others praised the Chinese system of government by scholar-officials as “government by philosophers,” and this parallel to Plato’s Republic did much to idealize China in the eyes of European thinkers, especially during the Enlightenment (Mungello 1989).  The Jesuit Athanasias Kircher, in his China illustrata (1667), portrayed China as a sort of utopia—a happy land characterized by industry and good social order, under the rule of a “philosopher king.” 
One of the earliest European philosophers to propagate the Jesuit view of the Chinese was Christian Wolff, who delivered an important lecture at Marburg in 1730, praising China as “the outstanding working example of an enlightened government” (Wiener 1973: 361).  This idea became a commonplace among 18th century writers and was repeated in various forms by Rousseau, Goldsmith (Chinese Letters, 1760-62), the Marquis d’Argens (Lettres chinoises, 1755), and many others.  Montesquieu, however, in his L’esprit des lois (1748) was more realistic in that he balanced the accounts of the Jesuits with those of European merchants, who unanimously condemned the Chinese for their “treachery, deceit, and dishonesty” (Wiener 1973: 361).
The eighteenth century reading public “wanted a culture idol and China presented itself as a likely candidate” (Mungello 1989: 125n).  For this reason, J-B Du Halde, in his editions of the massively influential Jesuit Lettres édifiantes et curieuses (34 volumes, 1702-1776) purposely omitted any material which appeared unsympathetic to the Chinese.  The Lettres were “particularly famous and highly appreciated reading-matter in the cultural salons of XVIII century France” (Criveller 1997:12). 
With the appearance in 18th century Europe of Chinese porcelain and other examples of Chinese visual arts, chinoiserie (pseudo-Chinese art, fashion, and décor) became all the rage.  The pastel colors and dreamy sensuality of Chinese porcelain offered relief from the monumentalism and geometric precision of baroque and neoclassical design.  This was expressed in wallpaper with Chinese designs, lacquer paneling, Chinese cabinets, screens, fans, and tapestries.  Imitation Chinese pagodas were erected on landed estates and in public gardens, and sedan chairs became the height of fashion.  China was popularly seen as “the home of an imaginary, happy people who came to life in the paintings on porcelain”  (Wiener 1973: 354). It is ironic that many of the motifs which appeared in wares imported from China were not authentically Chinese, but were mass-produced for the European market.  Thus, to appeal to European tastes, Europeans’ preconceptions about China were mirrored back to them! 
China became a popular subject of European writers. Voltaire, for example, wrote at least three works of this kind.  Voltaire’s Entretiens chinoises (1768) present an imaginary dialogue between a Jesuit and a Chinese mandarin who has visited Europe, on the subject of Natural Theology.  His play L’Orphelin de la Chine (1755) used as its basis an authentic Chinese drama which had been published by Du Halde.  De la gloire, ou entretien avec un Chinois (1738) records the imaginary conversation between a Chinese merchant and other patrons in a bookshop in Holland.  It soon appears that the visitor is completely unacquainted with the most important assumptions of European civilization, while the Europeans demonstrate their complete ignorance of China.  At the end, Voltaire exclaims, “Since Caesar and Jupiter are names unknown to the finest, most ancient, most extensive, most populous, and most civilized kingdom in the universe, it becomes ye well, O ye rulers of petty states!  Ye pulpit orators of a narrow parish, or a little town!  Ye doctors of Salamanca, or of Bourges!  Ye trifling authors, and ye heavy commentators!—it becomes you well, indeed, to aspire to fame and immortality” (Voltaire 1940: 274). 
In his attacks on the Catholic church, Voltaire “cleverly used the information about China provided by the Catholics … If the Chinese really were so moral, intelligent, ethical, and well governed and if this was largely attributable to the influence of Confucius, it followed that since Confucius had not been a Christian it was obviously possible for a country to get along admirably without the presence of Catholic clerical power” (Spence 1999: ¶3).  Voltaire’s Essai sur les Moeurs et l’esprit des nations began with a long section on China, which he portrayed as an ideal political system where government had fostered and protected the development of civilization.  In that work, Voltaire stated that “the great misunderstanding over Chinese rites sprang from our judging their practices in light of ours:  we carry the prejudices that spring from our contentious nature to the ends of the world” (Spence 1999: ¶4).
As an expression of the very high esteem in which Confucius was held, Leibniz’ statement in the Novissima Sinica (1697) is remarkable:  “We need missionaries from the Chinese who might teach us the use and practice of natural religion, just as we have sent them teachers of revealed theology” (Wiener 1973: 361).
Another important issue which arose was the chronology of ancient history.  The latest possible date accepted by Chinese scholars for the foundation of China was 2357 B.C. (others placed it as far back as 2952 B.C.).  The Vulgate dating of the Flood to 2349 B.C. would thus have been unacceptable to the Chinese, amounting to a flat contradiction of Chinese historical traditions.  For this reason, the Jesuits received permission in 1637 to teach the Septuagint chronology in China, which placed the Flood in 2957 B.C. (Mungello 1989). 
The problem of reconciling Biblical and Chinese chronology was of great significance from the European side as well.  If the Chinese records (as transmitted to European readers in Martino Martini’s Sinicae Historiae decas prima, 1658) were correct, then continued acceptance of the Vulgate chronology became problematical.  The Vulgate flood date of 2349 B.C. corresponded very closely with the Chinese account of a great flood during the reign of the emperor Yao (2357-2257 B.C.); yet this would imply that the destruction of mankind by the Flood was not universal and that the Chinese, at least, were not descendants of Noah (Mungello 1989).  It thus became a matter of necessity to adopt the Septuagint chronology in Europe as well. The third edition of Bossuet’s Discours sur l’histoire universelle was revised to incorporate the Septuagint chronology (in place of the Hebrew Old Testament chronology), which entailed less conflict with the received history of ancient China (Mungello 1989).
Even more revolutionary was the suggestion of Isaac Vossius that since China’s history clearly antedated the Flood, since the history of China was continuous, and since no universal deluge is mentioned in the Chinese annals, the Flood was therefore not universal but “simply an event in the history of the Jews”  Thus Vossius, “on the basis of his faith in the Chinese annals, … reduced the Bible to a book of local history” (Wiener 1973: 359)—a significant challenge to the doctrine of the inerrancy of the scriptures.
A subject to which information from China proved very important was the search by European scholars for a “universal language”.  Some scholars assumed that the archetype of all languages which had existed before the confusion of human speech at Babel must still exist, and the great antiquity of the Chinese language led some to investigate the possibility that Chinese was the original form of human speech, unchanged since the time of Noah.  This argument was proposed by John Webb in An historical essay endeavoring a probability that the language of the empire of China is the primitive language (1669).
Kircher believed that the Chinese writing system was originally pictographic, and sought to relate it to the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing (still undeciphered at that time).  Kircher concluded that the Chinese had migrated from Egypt, and that their writing system was invented 300 years after the Flood by Fu His, whom he identified as a counselor of the biblical Nimrod, thus making the Chinese of Hamitic descent (Mungello 1989).
According to Alvaro Semedo (Imperio de la China, 1642), Chinese was one of the 71 languages created at Babel.  He emphasized the monosyllabic nature of the Chinese language and its lack of inflectional features, and claimed (quite accurately, it now appears) that the written form of the language dates to around 2000 B.C.  Semedo explained how the 214 radicals were used to form more complex characters.  He demonstrated how the Chinese character meaning “precious stone” () was related to simpler characters meaning “king” and “earth,” and how in turn formed part of more complex characters designating various types of precious stones. He correctly stated that the total number of Chinese characters exceeded 60,000 (Mungello 1989).
Others, including Descartes, Leibniz, and Bishop John Wilkins, approached the problem from a different direction.  They sought to create a purely logical language of numbers or symbols, by which the meaning of any expression could be derived with mathematical precision.  Numerous schemes and proposals of this type appeared between 1650 and 1725. 
Newly available information about the Chinese language and writing system was examined by Leibniz and others with these ideas in mind.  Leibniz “hoped to use elements from Chinese in developing a philosophical language that would replace Latin and help to make direct communication possible among the intellectuals of the world” (Wiener 1973: 358).  “If we had some exact language (like the one called Adamitic by some) or at least a kind of truly philosophic writing, in which the ideas were reduced to a kind of alphabet of human thought, then all that follows rationally from what is given could be found by a kind of calculus, just as arithmetical or geometrical problems are solved” (Mungello 1989: 192). 
The representational system Leibniz had in mind is known as a Universal Characteristic, its elements as Real Characters.  He believed that there had been one or more primitive languages which had “perfectly captured the relationship between the thought and the thing,” but that “such languages had long since deteriorated” (Mungello 1989: 194). However, Jacob Gohl (Jacobus Golius), a Dutch scholar, believed that Chinese had been “invented all at once,” in other words, that it had been devised as a logical system.
The Jesuit Le Comte constructed a table of the 326 possible monosyllables which could occur in Mandarin; multiplying these by five tones, he concluded that only 1,665 spoken words were possible (Lach 1993).
Another argument for the universal logical and nature of the Chinese writing system was the fact that Chinese writing was used and understood in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand, although Chinese was not spoken in those countries.
Two German scholars at Berlin, Andreas Müller (1630?-1694) and Christian Mentzel (1622-1701), each claimed to have developed a Clavis Sinica—an algorithm by which the meaning of Chinese writing could be readily derived.  “This key was essentially a logical rather than a linguistic device and it emphasized classification”  (Mungello 1989: 36). 
Leibniz became extremely interested in this project, and wrote to Müller, addressing fourteen questions to him, such as “after practicing this Key, can I understand everything written in Chinese script, no matter what the subject may be?” and “if I had this Key, could I write something in Chinese script, and would it be comprehensible by a literate Chinese?” (Mungello 1989: 199).  However, Müller refused to reveal anything about his secret unless he received a substantial payment.  Unable to profit from his “discovery,” Müller burned his Clavis Sinica shortly before his death. Müller did produce a typographia, still extant at the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, comprising 3,284 small wooden printing blocks, each engraved with a Chinese character (Mungello 1989)
Mentzel’s Clavis Sinica, ad Chinensium Scripturam et Pronunciationem Mandarinicam was supposed to have contained 124 “tables of writing” which disclosed the evolving form of complex Chinese characters from simpler ones.  Mentzel made reference to the 214 radicals, divided into 17 categories according to the number of strokes their writing required.  “It is clear from the manner in which Mentzel treated the 17 categories that he regarded them as more than an artificial arrangement of the characters for the purpose of lexical efficiency” (Mungello 1989: 202). 
Mentzel’s claim that his Key could explain the Mandarin pronunciation and meaning of the characters is more mysterious; unfortunately his Clavis Sinica was never published, and no copy of it is known to exist.  When Leibniz wrote to him in 1698, Mentzel was too ill to reply, and died not long after.  It appears that Mentzel failed to publish his work because he was unaware of the Chinese typographia which Müller had already made and presented to the Elector’s library.
             A closely related subject, which greatly fascinated Leibniz, was the 64 hexagrams of the I ching.  The Jesuit missionary Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730) served as tutor of the Kang Xi emperor’s children.  He was in China from 1688-97, and met Leibniz during a visit to Europe.  They continued to correspond after Bouvet’s return to China in 1698.   Bouvet believed that Fu Hsi, the legendary writer of the I ching, was none other than the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, and that by producing the eight basic trigrams of the I ching, Fu Hsi had provided “a notation for experiment and observation in all of the sciences” (Leibniz 1994: 16).  Bouvet also claimed that the I ching contained prophetic anticipations of the Christian mysteries (Mungello).
Leibniz saw a remarkable correspondence between the hexagrams of the I ching and his own discovery of binary arithmetic.  In a letter to Bouvet (1703), Leibniz linked the eight basic trigrams to the numbers 0 to 7, so that (in binary notation), the 8th would be represented as 111, “the most perfect and the Sabbath, for in it everything has been made and fulfilled” (Leibniz 1994: 17). “I think the substance of the ancient theology of the Chinese is intact and, purged of additional errors, can be harnessed to the great truths of the Christian religion.  Fohi, the most ancient prince and philosopher of the Chinese, had understood the origin of things from unity and nothing, i.e., his mysterious figures reveal something of an analogy to Creation, containing the binary arithmetic (and yet hinting at greater things) that I rediscovered after so many thousands of years, where all numbers are written by only two notations, 0 and 1” (Leibniz 1994: 73). 
If the logical, binary system of the I ching was the actual basis of the Chinese writing system, then that system might actually prove to be the Universal Characteristic which Leibniz sought.  “If we Europeans were well enough informed concerning Chinese Literature, then, with the aid of logic, critical thinking, mathematics and our manner of expressing thought—more exacting than theirs—we could uncover in the Chinese writings of the remotest antiquity many things unknown to modern Chinese and even to other commentators thought to be classical.… Actually, the 64 figures [in the I ching] represent a Binary Arithmetic which apparently this great legislator possessed, and which I have rediscovered some thousands of years later. … This Arithmetic furnishes the simplest way of making changes, since there are only two components” (Leibniz 1994: 133).  Leibniz believed that the wholesale conversion of the Chinese would result once it was explained to them that later generations had simply lost the true meaning of the I ching (Leibniz 1994).
Much of this speculation sounds like nonsense to us today; of course, in the 17th century when the Chinese language and writing system were an entirely novel discovery, all of these suggestions were exciting possibilities.  Some of them would have to be discarded in the light of subsequent investigation, while others might still yield something if pursued further.  Leibniz was one of the most creative minds of his day, and even today very little that he said can be readily discounted.
            The Jesuit accounts of China had some impact on Protestant Christian thought, as may be seen in several quotations from the writings of Jonathan Edwards:
We see, that those who live at the greatest distance from revelation, are far the most brutish.  The Heathens in America, and in some of the utmost parts of Asia and Africa, are far more barbarous than those who formerly lived in Rome, Greece, Egypt, Syria, and Chaldea.   Their traditions are more worn out, and they are more distant from places enlightened with revelation.  The Chinese, descended probably from the subjects of Noah, that holy man, have held more by tradition from him, than other nations, and so have been a more civilized people” (Edwards 1817: ¶17).
“The [Native] Americans, the Africans, the Tartars, and the ingenious Chinese, have had time enough, one would think, to find out the true and right idea of God; and yet, after above five thousand years' improvements, and the full exercise of reason, they have, at this day, got no farther in their progress towards the true religion, than to the worship of stocks and stones and devils.  How many thousand years must be allowed to these nations, to reason themselves into the true religion?  What the light of nature and reason could do to investigate the knowledge of God, is best seen by what they have already done. (Edwards 1817: ¶35)
            Such statements stand in sharp contrast to the Enlightenment’s idealization of Confucius and the Chinese “natural theology.”
It was Hegel who gave currency to the idea that Chinese civilization was static and unprogressive.  Thus, in marked contrast to what earlier philosophers had written, he placed China at the bottom of his linear scheme of historical development, a stagnant antithesis to the “self-realization” which characterized Europe (Wiener 1973: 366).  As Nicolas Boulanger had written, somewhat prophetically, in 1763: “All the remains of her ancient institutions, which China now possesses, will necessarily be lost; they will disappear in the future revolutions; as what she hath already lost of them vanished in former ones; and finally, as she acquires nothing new, she will always be on the losing side” (Spence 1999: ¶6).

The Influence of Europe on Chinese Thought

While most learned Chinese remained skeptical of the Jesuits’ accounts of the West, there were a few who recognized the significance of this cultural interchange.  Xu Erjue, in a preface written for one of Verbiest’s works (1676) wrote that “The Chinese remain in a corner, just like the frogs living in the bottom of a well, without knowing the immensity of the great rivers. … They know only the domain of China, the capital, and the provinces, but nothing special outside China” (Lin Tongyang 1994: 159).
During the early stages of contact with the Jesuits, many educated Chinese responded with great interest to the Jesuit program of gewu qiongli zhitian (“investigation of things, fathoming principles, knowing God”).
In terms of the investigation of things, in the judgment of the Chinese scholar Liang Qichao (1872-1927), the Jesuit introduction of European astronomy and mathematics entailed a Chinese accommodation of foreign ideas comparable in magnitude and importance to the introduction of Buddhism to China (Xi Zezong 1994).  The numerous technical innovations of Verbiest and others had a great impact on Chinese thought. However, by the end of the 17th century, “Chinese scholars who continued to be interested in the westerners’ investigation of things were no longer interested in their way of fathoming principles” (Standaert 1994: 419).
Some of the Chinese scholars reacted to Christian ideas with great hostility, as expressed by the official Xu Ruke in 1620:  “They do not give due reverence to Shang-di but say that he was born of a barbarian woman and according to a picture of him they have brought, he really looked like a doll. … They take our incomparable China and oppose it to their Great Western Land, as if there were two countries in the world” (Criveller 1997: 376).  Clearly it was seen by the Chinese as insulting to be asked to adopt a foreign religion.
Chinese objections to the deity of Christ demonstrate the great gulf which separated eastern and western thinking:  “He is just a barbarian of the Western seas.  They also say that he died nailed, by evil administrators, to a structure in the form of a character that denotes ‘ten.’  So he is just a barbarian convict condemned to death.  How could an executed barbarian convict be called the Lord of Heaven?” (Criveller 1997: 376).  “Was the Heaven empty during the thirty-three years of Incarnation?  Or are there two Gods?  Why did he come personally to save humankind, why did he not create a good person to do this for Him, since the history of China has plenty of good sages adapted for the purpose?” (Criveller 1997: 387).  “Although he is said to have redeemed all crimes, the fact that there are still people who are cast into hell proves that the Redemption was incomplete” [!] (Criveller 1997: 392).
Even those who were attracted to Christianity were dismayed by the apparent exclusion of China from the plan of salvation.  The discovery in 1625 of the Nestorian Monument was of great help to the Jesuits in answering these questions, since it demonstrated the ancient presence of Christianity in China (Criveller 1997).  Back in Europe, however, many (including Voltaire) believed that the Nestorian Monument was a Jesuit fabrication intended to reinforce their position of power and influence in China (Mungello 1989).
            The fact remains that after the first wave of influential converts to Christianity under Ricci’s influence, there was a gradual turning away and loss of interest in the Christian message by the emperor and the ruling class.  It seems likely that Rome’s inflexibility and cultural insensitivity helped bring this about.  At the same time, it may be that Matteo Ricci was unique and irreplaceable—that none of the later Jesuits, however talented, could have hoped to match his success in understanding and being understood by the Chinese.

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