A “Fruitful Meeting” Between Civilizations – Part 2/2

May 12, 2011

Y Chan’s comment continued with, “In the English language, the word “Christianity” usually refers to the hundreds of religions (some estimate the total number of Christian sects to be about 38,000 worldwide) that are based on Jesus as their Savior… However, to the Chinese people, the words “Catholicism” and “Christianity” seem to refer to two different religions, which is wrong. The translation got lost somewhere.”

“In fact,” Chan wrote, “different Christian sects came to China at different times with different techniques. The Catholics first came to China under Father Matteo Ricci around 1582 “WITHOUT” weapons or gunboats.

“All Ricci brought was the Bible and scientific knowledge and thus gained the respect of the Chinese people [even today the Chinese respect him].

“Actually, the religious exchange went both ways. Whilst the Jesuits brought Christianity to China, they also introduced Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism to Europe, because Father Ricci studied and translated many Chinese texts and sent them back to the Vatican.

“On the other hand, the Protestants arrived in China [in the 19th century] with the assistance of Western gunboats and opium. The first Protestant missionary was Robert Morrison of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. He pioneered the translation of the Bible into Chinese. He actually was hired by the notorious British East India Company that sold opium in China.

“Therefore, Chinese historians usually give a much higher respect to Father Matteo Ricci than to Rev. Robert Morrison. Today, Morrison has largely been forgotten by most Chinese.

“Father Matteo Ricci was an Italian, came to China 400 years ago, arrived in Macao and learned to speak fluent Cantonese rather than Mandarin.

“He studied Buddhism, dressed as a Buddhist monk and talked as if he were one when he tried to introduce Christianity to the Chinese people. However, Ricci discovered to gain the trust of the Chinese Emperor, he had to understand Confucianism.

“Through the study of Confucianism, he was accepted into the Imperial Court and was the first Westerner to hold a high position in the Chinese Government.

“Father Ricci treated Chinese culture and religions “EQUALLY” as he introduced Christianity to China, whilst the British missionaries [Robert Morrison and the Protestants] looked down on China as a land of barbarians [heathens] to be “saved” as they came ashore supported by gunboats and opium.

Return to A “Fruitful Meeting” Between Civilizations – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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