Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Chinese Rites Controversy, 1715

Many of you have commented on my earlier post about the Chinese Rites controversy. I promised to follow-up, but nothing that I can write would as succinctly describe the issues as what Paul Halsall assembled in 1997--the year that I graduated from Middlebury College. 

Modern History Sourcebook:
The Chinese Rites Controversy, 1715

One of the religious debates in 18th century Catholicism focused on the issue of "Chinese rites." The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was successful in penetrating China and serving at the Imperial court. They impressed the Chinese with their knowledge of astronomy and mechanics, and in fact ran the Imperial Observatory. Other Jesuits functioned as court painters. The Jesuits in turn were impressed by the Chinese Confucian elite, and adapted to that lifestyle.
The primary goal of the Jesuits was to spread Catholicism, but here they had a problem. The Chinese elite were attached to Confucianism which provided the framework of both state and home life. Part of Confucian practice involved veneration of the ancestors. The Jesuits tried to argue, in Rome, that these "Chinese Rites" were social, not religious, ceremonies, and that converts should be allowed to continue to participate. [The debate was not, as is sometimes thought, about whether the liturgy could be in Chinese rather than Latin]. This claim by the Jesuits may have been disingenuous. Although in later European commentary on China it has continued to be claimed that Confucianism is a "philosophy" and not a "religion" - because it does not conform to the model of western religions, the pope was probably correct in his assessment that the Confucian rituals were indeed in conflict with Christian teaching. As a result, he gave up a very good opportunity to convert a significant part of the Chinese elite to Catholicism.

The Kangxi emperor, one of China's greatest, was at first friendly to the Jesuit Missionaries working in China. By the end of the seventeenth century they had made many converts.

From Decree of K'ang­hsi (1692)
The Europeans are very quiet; they do not excite any disturbances in the provinces, they do no harm to anyone, they commit no crimes, and their doctrine has nothing in common with that of the false sects in the empire, nor has it any tendency to excite sedition . . . We decide therefore that all temples dedicated to the Lord of heaven, in whatever place they may be found, ought to be preserved, and that it may be permitted to all who wish to worship this God to enter these temples, offer him incense, and perform the ceremonies practised according to ancient custom by the Christians. Therefore let no one henceforth offer them any opposition.

From S. Neill, A History of Christian Missions (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books ]964), pp. 189­l90.
From Decree of Pope Clement XI (1715)
The Jesuits claim Chinese terms could be used to designate the Christian God and that the Confucian ceremonies were merely civil rites that Christians could attend and that Chinese ancestor worship was compatible with Christianity was condemned by Pope Clement XI in 1715.

Pope Clement XI wishes to make the following facts permanently known to all the people in the world....
I. The West calls Deus [God] the creator of Heaven, Earth, and everything in the universe. Since the word Deus does not sound right in the Chinese language, the Westerners in China and Chinese converts to Catholicism have used the term "Heavenly Lord" for many years. From now on such terms as "Heaven" and "Shang­ti" should not be used: Deus should be addressed as the Lord of Heaven, Earth, and everything in the universe. The tablet that bears the Chinese words "Reverence for Heaven" should not be allowed to hang inside a Catholic church and should be immediately taken down if already there. 

II. The spring and autumn worship of Confucius, together with the worship of ancestors, is not allowed among Catholic converts. It is not allowed even though the converts appear in the ritual as bystanders, because to be a bystander in this ritual is as pagan as to participate in it actively. 

III. Chinese officials and successful candidates in the metropolitan, provincial, or prefectural examinations, if they have been converted to Roman Catholicism, are not allowed to worship in Confucian temples on the first and fifteenth days of each month. The same prohibition is applicable to all the Chinese Catholics who, as officials, have recently arrived at their posts or who, as students, have recently passed the metropolitan, provincial, or prefectural examinations. 

IV. No Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship ancestors in their familial temples. 

V. Whether at home, in the cemetery, or during the time of a funeral, a Chinese Catholic is not allowed to perform the ritual of ancestor worship. He is not allowed to do so even if he is in company with non­Christians. Such a ritual is heathen in nature regardless of the circumstances. 

Despite the above decisions, I have made it clear that other Chinese customs and traditions that can in no way be interpreted as heathen in nature should be allowed to continue among Chinese converts. The way the Chinese manage their households or govern their country should by no means be interfered with. As to exactly what customs should or should not be allowed to continue, the papal legate in China will make the necessary decisions. In the absence of the papal legate, the responsibility of making such decisions should rest with the head of the China mission and the Bishop of China. In short, customs and traditions that are not contradictory to Roman Catholicism will be allowed, while those that are clearly contradictory to it will not be tolerated under any circumstances. 

From China in Transition, 1517­1911, Dan. J. Li, trans. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1969), pp. 22­24 

From Decree of Kangxi (1721)
The Kangxi emperor was not happy with Clement's decree, and banned Christian missions in China.
Reading this proclamation, I have concluded that the Westerners are petty indeed. It is impossible to reason with them because they do not understand larger issues as we understand them in China. There is not a single Westerner versed in Chinese works, and their remarks are often incredible and ridiculous. To judge from this proclamation, their religion is no different from other small, bigoted sects of Buddhism or Taoism. I have never seen a document which contains so much nonsense. From now on, Westerners should not be allowed to preach in China, to avoid further trouble. 

From China in Transition, 1517­1911, Dan J. Li, trans. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1969), p. 22.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook. 

(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bury the Northern Pass: The Door Continues to Revolve at the PUC

Bury the Northern Pass: The Door Continues to Revolve at the PUC: Former PUC Chair Thomas Getz has moved on to a new job. Guess where. On April 20, 2012, the Concord NH law firm, Devine Millimet, anno...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jilin, Jilin on Children's Day

Changchun has put its flowers out.
The weather this weekend, though punctuated with some thunderstorms, was delightful. On Friday, I awoke at 5AM and got ready to board a train that brought me and my friend to Jilin, the former capital of Jilin Province and home to 1,975,803 people in its urban area. It is just 45 minutes from Changchun by high-speed train with one stop at the airport along the way.

The day was good, but we were both sleepy in the hot sun. There were lots of children everywhere as it was Children's Day, which is a big deal in China.

When we got off the train and exited the grand new station that Jilin has built, this was the square that we saw. I like this picture because it shows the way that most Chinese cities look--new construction, advertising everywhere (including Pepsi), and lots of public spaces for people to enjoy together.

 For Children's Day, there was dancing and the fire departments were out in full force.

Bill McKibben memorialized Jaime Lerner's brilliant move in Curtiba, Brazil, in his book, Hope, Human and Wild. You may remember that to close a dangerous street where people liked to drag race on the weekend, this architect-cum-mayor rolled out a piece of white paper and provided markers. It was so popular with parents and kids that they were able to close the road to traffic and turn the core area of downtown into a pedestrian area. While this was not the case here, it still made me smile to see these kids working together on this project.

Inside the local museum, there was a whole room of art made from the shaped roots of trees. The second photo is the most elaborate way to display calligraphy brushes that I have seen to date.

After we came back out from the museum, the majority of the crowd had dispersed and the firetrucks were getting ready to depart.Every city has to have a Mao Zedong statue; Jilin's is painted silver.

We crossed one of thee major bridges by foot and watched from the bridge with fascination as this heavy equipment worked to remove a road that had been built out into the Songhua River.

The river was being readied for Dragon Boat Festival later this month. These colorful rafts will be paddled in a race. The nickname of Jilin City is River City(江城), which was originated from one sentence "连樯接舰屯江城" of a poem written by Kangxi Emperor when he was visiting Jilin City in 1682.

The main square of Jilin has a sculpture of a man straining to row a boat upstream. 

The temple on the North Mountain was beautiful from a distance, though we decided not to climb up.  My friend, who knows a lot about history, told me that there were once nine dragon mountains here, but during the 18th Century some seer had told the emperor that a revolt would start from this place so he had most of them destroyed.

This is the main terminal of the Jilin train station, whose windows frame the painted smokestack of some industrial enterprise. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Own Art, etc.

It is terribly self-indulgent to blog in the first place, but when you start forcing people not only to look at your photographs, but your own amateurish artwork, it is positively annoying. Nevertheless, I am sharing the little piece of clay that I made some time ago (on Tomb-Sweeping Day) and painted a couple weeks ago. It is an incense burner even though I don't have any incense. Maybe some blog reader will send me gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I also want to share the really cool eggs I had for breakfast with a special shout-out to my twin sister:

These are my first attempts at Chinese painting, which I believe that I shared previously, and the first flowers that any boy ever bought for a certain, lovely girl. 

Finally, I want to share a couple pictures of my pets.

This is Maurice and Shel and the late Elbridge.
This is Chen, my blind turtle. He took the self-portrait, but I will be posting more handsome photos soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Distasteful Division

"Do not act with zeal, do not put forward any arguments to convince these peoples to change their rites, their customs or their usages, except if they are evidently contrary to the religion and morality. What would be more absurd than to bring France, Spain, Italy or any other European country to the Chinese? Do not bring to them our countries, but instead bring to them the Faith, a Faith that does not reject or hurt the rites, nor the usages of any people, provided that these are not distasteful, but that instead keeps and protects them."
- Extract from the 1659 Instructions, given to Monsignor François Pallu and Monsignor Lambert de la Motte of the Paris Foreign Missions Society by the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith

The Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History is a research arm of the Center for the Pacific Rim at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution in the American city that is home to the largest China Town outside of Asia. It is named for Matteo Ricci, SJ, one of the first Jesuit missionaries to China. There is also an adoring group of Italians who would like to venerate this Servant of God and they operate a website in Italian, Chinese, and English. In this brief post, I hope to introduce you to Ricci and some of the controversy that swirls around his work.

The Jesuits have a long history in China. The most interesting controversy to arise out of their presence there and, more specifically, Padres Matteo Ricci and Michele Ruggieri’s work in China was about “Chinese rites.” The Chinese Rites controversy was a dispute within the Catholic Church from the 1630s to the early 18th century about whether Chinese folk religion rites and offerings to the emperor constituted idolatry. It pitted Dominicans against Jesuits, but ultimately ended in a long-lasting rift between East and West.
Padre Ricci is loved and admired still by many Chinese Catholics and also appears in Chinese history textbooks of the post-1949 period for his intellectual and scientific achievements. Padre Ricci wrote critical treatises and translated Western cultural classics, such as the first six volumes of Elements of Euclid and the Handbook of Epictetus. It was, perhaps, his cooperation with Xu Guangqi, a famous intellectual of the late Ming and early Qing Dynasty, on the Euclidean translation and other notable projects that made him an indelible part of Chinese history.

Xú Guāngqǐ was born in Shanghai and having achieved the highest levels in the Imperial examinations focused on astronomy and mathematics. He was one of the scholars of the Imperial academy who studied with Matteo Ricci.

Although he was a mathematician, he was not familiar with and could not compute the higher level interpolations developed by Guo Shoujing or even those of earlier Chinese mathematicians. Scientific and mathematical knowledge had devolved during the Ming Dynasty to the point where little was required for the Imperial examinations. Many of the great works were lost or ignored. In this context, the feats of mathematics brought by Ricci, along with the ability to teach coherently, made the mathematics of Euclid seem like a revelation.

Xu Guangqi collaborated with Ricci to translate the first six books of Euclid's Elements in 1607. He worked with Ricci on studies of both hydraulics and geography. He was converted not only to Christianity but to western science and continued to work on the mathematics and astronomy after Ricci's death in 1610. The calendar he and Ricci had been working on successfully predicted an eclipse in 1610 after Ricci's death. In 1629, Xu Guangqi had another chance to prove the effectiveness of the new mathematics and calendar system. A competition was held by the court to see which of three schools could most accurately predict the expected eclipse. Both the traditional Chinese school and the Islamic school joined the competition, but it was Xu Guangqi and what was called the New Method School that won.

The emperor appointed Xu Guangqi to reform the calendar. He continued to work with a succession of Jesuits sent with additional materials and instruments. He was succeeded by Li Tangjing, who finished the calendar reform.[1]

Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci
The lives of Xu Guangqi and Ricci were intertwined tightly. Another Jesuit in China at that time, Padre Michele Ruggieri, also collaborated with Ricci.

In 1584, Ricci revised a short Catechism, which was the first book printed by foreigners in China. It was originally drafted by Padre Michele Ruggieri, who also assisted Ricci in producing the first European-Chinese dictionary. Scholars believe that between 1583 and 1588 Michele Ruggieri collaborated with Matteo Ricci in creating a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, for which they developed a consistent system for transcribing Chinese words into the Latin alphabet. While it would be several hundred years before Zhou Youguang introduced Pinyin, this was an early attempt to take the multiple syllables of Mandarin and fit them into a useable system. A Chinese Jesuit Lay Brother Sebastiano Fernandez, who had grown up and been trained in Macau, also assisted in this work. Unfortunately, the manuscript was misplaced in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, and re-discovered only in 1934, by Pasquale d'Elia. This dictionary was finally published in 2001.

The Map of All Countries by Ricci
This dictionary, several important translations, and a catechism behind him, Padre Ricci’s crowning achievement may well have been the great Map of the World, the sixth edition of which, in 1608, was wanted by the emperor. Popularly called "The Impossible Black Tulip," the six panels of Kunyu wanguo quantu, or Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the World, recently appeared at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.[2] An astounding piece of cartography, Ricci’s map, labeled in Chinese characters, preceded the journey of Captain Cook and came just over a century after Columbus landed in Hispaniola. Nevertheless, he drew something that we would all recognize today as a rough approximation of the planet’s major inhabited continents.

The Kangxi Emperor, at first, admired the Jesuits' respectful and unobtrusive manner; they took the time to learn the Chinese language well and they wore the customary silk robes of China’s elite.
In 1692, some 82 years after Ricci went to his great reward, when Padre Thomas Pereira requested tolerance for Christianity, Kangxi was willing to oblige, and issued the Edict of Toleration, which recognized Catholicism, barred attacks on their churches, and legalized their missions and the practice of Christianity by the Chinese people

However, on March 19, 1715, Pope Clement XI issued the papal bull Ex illa die, which officially condemned Chinese rites. The Dominicans and other itinerant orders had prevailed. To add force to his rulings, Clement XI attached the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae to their violations and required missionaries to take an oath on the Bible that they would observe his instructions “exactly, absolutely and inviolably...without any evasion.”

In return the Kangxi Emperor decreed in 1721:

Reading this proclamation, I have concluded that the Westerners are petty indeed. It is impossible to reason with them because they do not understand larger issues as we understand them in China. There is not a single Westerner versed in Chinese works, and their remarks are often incredible and ridiculous. To judge from this proclamation, their religion is no different from other small, bigoted sects of Buddhism or Taoism. I have never seen a document which contains so much nonsense. From now on, Westerners should not be allowed to preach in China, to avoid further trouble.

Unfortunately, the decree of China’s longest ruling and most enigmatic emperor was not the final word on the matter. A still more forceful condemnation of the Chinese rites occurred on July 11, 1742, with Pope Benedict XIV’s Apostolic Constitution Ex quo singulari. The document reviewed the history of the Chinese Rites Controversy from its beginning in 1645 and quoted in full the various papal statements against the Chinese Rites; reiterated the rejection of Mezzabarba’s “Eight Permissions” as “null, void, invalid, and completely futile and ineffective”; ordered Ex illa die to be observed “exactly, integrally, absolutely, inviolably, and strictly” under pain of automatic excommunication reserved to the pope; expanded the formula of the oath against the Chinese rites; and continued Ex illa die’s prohibition of further discussions of the issue, again under pain of automatic excommunication.

With such finality, the question was not re-opened by the Church until 1939, when Pius XII, in his Propaganda Fide, declared the Chinese rites practicable, under certain conditions.

We cannot understand the depth of the controversy without some examination of the actual Chinese rites that were, and continue to be, at issue. This will be the topic of a future post.

This is the first in a series.

Suggested Further Reading

Jihe yuanben, Chinese translation of the first six books of Elements in the edition and comment of C. Clavius, in collaboration with Xu Guangqi, Beijing 1607.

Arnold Horrex Rowbotham, Missionary and Mandarin: The Jesuits at the Court of China. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1942).

Pacific Rim Report No. 32, February 2004, The Chinese Rites Controversy: A Long Lasting Controversy in Sino-Western Cultural History by Paul Rule, Ph.D.

[1] See Last update: September 2007 by Marilyn Shea.

[2] See Last visited March 21, 2012.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Ode to Mudan

Mudan (Peony) Park in Changchun had a rough winter. When my friend called them, they said that more than half of the really beautiful peonies perished in March. Two weeks ago, we went to the park and there was nothing, but today it was like magic. There were also roses, bleeding hearts, and juniper. No bees. That was strange. No birds. That was also strange.

Xing Hu (Happiness)

That is the PA system, not a giant mushroom