The Elasticity of the Means: A Brief History of Christianity in China
The emerging field of Global History has explored the relationship between distinct local entities and the larger Global superstructures in which they are embedded. As of late, global scholars have begun to examine the contacts between the evangelical history of Christianity within the context of “Chinese culture” and the subsequent developments thereof. Although the thought of Christian missionaries in China conjures images of western supremacy, imperialism, and a century of tears and humiliation, the symbiosis between Christianity and Chinese thought has existed for the better part of the past 1400 years. Although these ideologies appear to be ostensibly derived from two radically distinct civilizations and world views, That is to say, the success of Christianity (and other foreign ideologies) in China has followed the adage of the pillow and the sword: an intrusion of foreign thought into Chinese society will inevitably cause the former to be shaped around the latter.
In the following, I will detail the history of Christianity within China. As I will show though the success of Nestorian Christianity, and the failure of the Franciscan monks, Christianity in China has experienced success when its rhetoric is supplementary and accommodating. Subsequently, I will correlate the success/failures of Matteo Ricci and the greater Jesuit missions with the fluctuations in church policy when confronted with situational difficulty. Looking at the Jesuit missions within the context of the Chinese cultural milieu, I will argue that the ultimate failure of Christianity in China is not the inherent contradiction between Christian and Chinese values, but rather the unfortunate bi-product of international trends dominant over Jesuit glocalization in China.
The earliest evidence of Christianity in the Sinic world heralds as far back as the Tang Dynasty with the Central Asian merchants following...