Christianity in China

There are many articles on Christianity in the newspaper but these are the ones concerning Christianity in China and its dependencies.

For a review of the others it will be necessary for the reader to use the Find function on his browser, primarily in the Europe, Asia and Dissent chapters .

Christianity obtained access to China when the Caliph of Islam was persuaded that astronomy was contrary to the Prophet’s teaching in 1580. The Muslim observatories were closed and some dismantled. For China, the withdrawal of Muslim astronomers meant there was no-one to adjust the lunar calendar each year. Matteo Ricci and his colleagues, apparently fortuitously arrived in China in 1582 and took up the chore.

An important aspect of Chinese vassalship was the receipt each year of the new calendar fixing the days for planting and festivals. It was quite fundamental to existence and it was this service to Peking that assured the Christians of residence

The Christian missionaries supplemented this basic advantage with medical services to officials and royalty in Beijing and they used every opportunity created thereby to proselytise the residents.

Whilst occurring before these newspaper extracts, there is some evidence that advices to the international centre of Catholicism in Paris from the missionaries in China on the structure of Chinese government served to influence the philosophers, particularly Rousseau, and may thus be considered to have provided some direction to the form of the French Revolution and the subsequent changes in French government policy.

The Jesuits who voyaged from Lisbon to Macau to proselytise China had the intellectual insight to recognize they must clothe their message with the intellectual and emotional terms that might appeal to a prospective convert. In clearing the way for Chinese converts, the Jesuits became the victims of the jealousy of other Orders and the Vatican and it was the Pope himself who then lost China to Catholicism.

Sat 3rd Oct 1818

Lisbon, 20th March – a ship has arrived from Rio reporting the Chinese Emperor has permitted Christian worship in his empire. A Jesuit and a Franciscan priest were aboard the ship. They are bringing a letter from the Chinese Emperor to the Pope together with some presents.

When the ship reached Rio with its news, the town celebrated for three nights and all the public buildings were illuminated.

The Portuguese have determined that Peking will be a patriarchate of the Catholic Church and a Portuguese Franciscan priest from Macau will head it. Other priests from Goa will be sent to China to operate the Inquisition. Education of Chinese students will be organised by the Jesuits in consultation with Chinese officials. The Emperor’s confessor is a Portuguese Jesuit who, they say, will become second in command of the Empire.[1]

The Portuguese missionaries from China also brought a service of porcelain with them. The decorations purport to depict Amherst’s embassy in Peking and are outrageous.

Sat 24th June 1820

The Christian missionaries at Rangoon have taken the opportunity of the death of the old King to petition his replacement for leave to proselytise in his country.

He has told them they may follow their own religion whilst in Burma and may preach to their own people but should any Burmese Buddhists apostatise they will be beheaded.

Sat 27th July 1822

A report from Macau says the Chinese Emperor has banned the admission of Christian missionaries to China. Not long ago the Portuguese priests were expecting to be ruling the country.

Vol 1 No 27 – Sat 12th July 1828

A fire occurred in Canton on 24th day of 4th moon from the embers of a tea fire (a purportedly common cause of fires). The original house was burnt down and the ones at either side were pulled down to prevent spread.

We believe the Cantonese copied this creation of a fire break from us as they have also copied our fire engines, watches, telescopes and woollen clothes.

They will copy what they approve.

It is a fallacy to say, as is said in London, that they are not influenced by us. The Astronomical Board in Peking got Newton’s description of the universe from the Jesuits.

Vol 1 No 28 – Sat 10th July 1828

Letter to the editor – Brahmins in India study the principles of religion and are superior to kings. Their admonitions and censures must be received by all with submissive respect. They are considered the aristoi and optimi.

Robert do Nobili, the Italian Jesuit, claimed in India that he was a Brahmin of Rome, more ancient than an Indian Brahmin, and therefore worthy of more respect. I think Brahmins are like the mandarins of China.

Vol 3 No 25 – Sat 18th December 1830

The Jesuit Father Joseph Henri Marie de Prémare who came to China in 1698 wrote a book on Chinese language in Latin that contains a fund of information. The work remained in manuscript in the Paris Library until 1825 when Lord Kingsborough paid a Chinese immigrant £50 to make a copy which he then gave to the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca with sufficient funds to publish it. It has now been printed in 262 pages of quarto with the copyist’s index.

The oppressive Asian weather causes our sinologists to die young and books are essential to preserve their knowledge.

Prémare visited Macau and wrote of the Jesuit mission on Isla Verde. Now the island is a wilderness.

Vol 4 No 11 – Mon 6th June 1831

Monsieur M L’Amiot died at Macau on 5th June. He is the last member of the French (Jesuit) mission at Peking which was expelled in 1820 after a persecution that took the life of another French missionary.

Since then he lived in Macau endeavouring repeatedly but fruitlessly to return to the North.

He also sought to recover the value of French property in China that was under his charge and was confiscated after the expulsion. During his stay in Macau he always wore Chinese clothes and was an agreeable member of society.

Vol 7 No 16 – Tues 22nd April 1834

From the Jesuits we learned much of Chinese governmental theory and admired the system as a model of wisdom but we have since learned that the system on paper is not the system in practise.

When the Chinese are allowed to exercise their innate genius we will wonder at the great changes that take place and exult China as the first Empire in the world.

Under the present system they need a Kubilai or a Kang Hsi for, when the Emperor is weak, the whole country suffers.

It should not be the destiny of China to remain isolated and exclusive. At some future date she will have to run a different course.

Vol 7 No 20 – Tues 20th May 1834

Obituary – Abel Remusat.

He was born 5th September 1788 and died in 1832. He originally intended to be a doctor and completed the course of instruction but was at the same time fascinated by Oriental literature. He studied Chinese at a time when there were no vocabularies, grammars or dictionaries and succeeded to such an extent he was able to publish various essays on the language.

His skills were such he obtained a rare exemption from military conscription to further his work. He also studied Manchu and Tibetan. In 1814, when a chair of Chinese was founded at the Royal College of France, he was appointed to it and remained there for the rest of his life.

In 1820 he published his Researches into the Tartar Language. An expected sequel was never published. In 1822 he produced his Chinese Grammar. He produced a large number of papers and a few years back translated the Chinese novel Yu Kiao Li (Two Fair Cousins). He was completing two important works at the time of his death – the Dictionary of the Buddhist Religion and an English translation of the Travels of Huc and Gabot in Tartary.

He was President of the Asiatic Society at Paris. All his published works have a wonderful clarity. He cannot easily be replaced.

He developed a stomach disease and died.

Vol 7 No 25 – Tues 24th June 1834

First the Jesuits introduced China to the West. Then the India Company developed our knowledge of the country. Now the future is in the hands of the free traders (NB – The East India Company’s monopoly of trade with China has been ended). They will be at the interface of our relations, smooth the way, advance conciliation, suggest new modes of communication and unshackle the trade. They can do this only with the protection of the British government.

Vol 8 No 5 – Tues 3rd February 1835

The Church of St Pauls at Macau was destroyed on 26th January by fire which originated in the guard house occupied by soldiers. The church was built by Jesuits in 1602.

Vol 8 No 7 – 17th February 1835

Letter to the Editor – The recent fire at St Paul’s church destroyed a clock which had been donated to the Jesuits by Louis XIV. Sgd Delta (Delta is the pseudonym of Lawrence Dent)

Vol 8 No 42 – Tues 20th October 1835

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in China held its first AGM on 19th October. Present were W Jardine, R Inglis, W S Wetmore, J Innes, DWC Olyphant, Alex Matheson, GR Sampson, J Slade, A Johnstone, W MacKenzie, W McKilligan, W Bell, J Henry, R Turner, Framjee Pestonjee, SW Williams, and the Revs Hanson. Lockwood, P Parker and EC Bridgman. Wetmore was in the chair.

The Society was formed to provide Western science and technology to the Chinese. The wants and productions of China are great and have caused extensive commerce. This will likely long continue. We have not yet produced anything for the Chinese. The delay is due to the need to invent new characters to describe things and processes as yet unknown in China. For example, the explication of steam power and western laboratory procedure are particularly difficult. We need first to agree a standard nomenclature. Three works are in process of publication – a history of the World, a geography and a World map. The history is three volumes, the geography one. The map is 8’ x 4’ and projects a view of all the World’s nations. We expect to publish all in the coming year.

For the interim we will publish 1,000 copies of Gutzlaff’s Chinese Magazine in two volumes for Chinese in Batavia, Singapore, Malacca, Penang and India.

We have investigated the possibility of using metal type faces. M Pauthier in Paris and Rev Dyer in Penang are making metal type faces by using punches. This is inexpensive and produces a good likeness equal to the best Chinese publications.

Three works have been presented to us. James Matheson has provided a treatise on political economy translated by Gutzlaff; J R Morrison a geographical and astronomical work written by a Chinese student of the Jesuits and also the Four Books.

The committee wishes not to locate its press in China where it may be interrupted and will probably print in Malacca.

Jardine proposed, seconded by Innes, that ‘this meeting regrets the present abeyance of the Chinese press[2] and will secure publication at Malacca or Lintin.’ Innes said ‘the foreign-produced texts had moved the Emperor to attempt censorship. We should not be discouraged but contrarily recognise it as a sign of the power of the written word and proceed with printing at Malacca or Lintin.’

Inglis proposed that the Chinese printers at Malacca should be asked to print the Society’s standard texts – elementary works and Gutzlaff’s magazine. He noted that distribution in China would be hazardous to our Chinese employees and recalled the fate of Roman Catholic missionaries in both China and Japan. He recommended great caution.

Rev Parker, seconded by Jardine, noted that the Cantonese held Gutzlaff’s magazine in high esteem. He said some Chinese regretted our delayed progress. He thought that the overseas Chinese would become the main agency of getting books into China. He said it is necessary to print the author’s and publisher’s names, as anonymous books were suspected by Chinese. He recalled that we are all placed on Earth to carry out God’s work and we recognise this obligation and that every human being has a claim on God’s help through us. The effects of our work will ameliorate the oppression which Chinese endure and we should proceed quickly and efficiently. It was then unanimously resolved that the committee consider affixing the Society’s name to every work it published.

The incoming committee was then balloted. Jardine President, Russell Sturgis vice President, R Inglis Treasurer, Revs Bridgman and Gutzlaff Chinese secretaries, J R Morrison English secretary, plus J C Green and R Turner members.

Vol 8 No 51 – 22nd December 1835

Christianity in the East – French missionaries have ‘converted’ 140,000 Indians at Pondicherry. They are administered by a single French bishop and five missionaries. Tongking has 180,000 Catholics administered by two aged French priests. The only reported difference between these Christians and the rest of the population is that they have been baptised. In all other respects they are the same.

Cochin China has 80,000 Catholics managed by two bishops and two grand-vicars.

In Thailand the Jesuits induced the King to declare to Louis XIV that his people wished to be converted to Catholicism but today there is one French priest there.

In China there was a seminary for native Catholic priests but it was destroyed in 1817. In 1828 the most wealthy Chinese Christians were reduced to beggary, their chiefs executed and their children scattered without distinction of age.

In 1791 these eastern missions employed seventy missionaries; now they contain less than thirty, and most of those survivors are very elderly.

In four decades the Catholic effort in the East has been halved while in the same period Protestant missionaries have been sent all over the globe and Britain has permitted them to come to China.

Vol 9 No 24 – Tuesday 14th June 1836

Lo, the acting Nam Hoi magistrate, acting on instructions from the provincial treasurer and Judge, reiterates the strict prohibition on the discussion and practice of the Tien Chu (Catholic, lit. Sky Master) religion.

The Portuguese have taught and practised this religion. They have privately printed their sacred books from which they preach to the people and cause delusion. I have proof the doctrine is spread secretly. When the leaders are identified they will be strangled. They are not numerous. The followers will be banished as slaves to the Tartar army officers or to the Muslims (Wei Wei).

In the 59th year of the Kien Lung Emperor (1795) the Portuguese Lo Ma Tung secretly entered China and taught the doctrine. In 20th year of the Ka Hing Emperor (1816) the Portuguese Lan Yu Wang did the same. They were both soon seized and either strangled or expelled. Their followers were captured and punished and the teaching ceased.

But last year an English ship sailed along the coast and gave away books recommending people to follow Yair So (Jesus) which is the same as the Tien Chu religion. Many Portuguese live in Macau. Officers have been sent there and seized the book printer and the eight different books he produced. The Canton Governor has examined these books and reported to the Emperor. All the people, and particularly the book-shop owners, were told they had 6 months to surrender any foreign religious books. If after that time they are found to possess any, they will be severely punished.

This Tien Chu religion disables men’s minds. It is forbidden in China but the people are ignorant of the laws and easily deluded. They join the religion coveting personal profit or they believe the doctrine and help to spread it. If they would apply an active and enquiring mind they would recognise its principles are unreasonable and extraordinary. If they are deceived by it and I catch them they will be tortured. A period of grace is provided in consideration of popular ignorance. You have been deluded into crime and I pity you – the Emperor does not punish stupidity. You are all enjoined to walk the straight path. You must care for yourselves and your families. Study only those books that are useful. Your actions must always be pure and correct. Do not be misled by fabulous nonsense or you will bring death upon yourselves.

Those who deliver up their books and recant their crime will be forgiven. This religion is not an ancient philosophy, it is a path of vice and stupefaction. Change your minds and bitterly repent and reform. Do not delay or suspend judgment between two opinions. After the months of grace, if you still possess books or continue to practise or spread the religion, you will be examined and punished severely. Heaven shines on the world, transforming and vivifying it – how can this depraved doctrine be permitted? You people are lucky to live in peace and quietness. You should worship correctly and reject corrupt doctrine. Follow the ways of the ancients to promote harmony and virtue. Then the country will flourish. Do not oppose. 24th May 1836

Editorial – Ku Ah Chow, the Macanese who was arrested some months ago on suspicion of arranging the printing of Christian books, remains imprisoned.

The history of Europe provides abundant proof that religion is a matter of state and comprises part of the political control of the people. This is the invariable experience of humanity. The state religion of China is one of form and ceremony. So long as the people are content to burn paper and joss-sticks, beat gongs, and set off firecrackers, the government will protect their Customs.

The mind of the black-haired people is materialistic. The books on which the national philosophy is based contain no hint of spirituality. Instead they assert that beyond the world of form lies no hope for mankind. It is unsurprising that Christianity is opposed in China for it is a Republican religion and government is bound to seek to control it and its priesthood.

In the Chinese system the Emperor is both King and spiritual Lord.

Vol 9 No 24 – Tuesday 14th June 1836

Antananarivo 26th Feb 1835 – Edict of the Queen of Madagascar to the English, French, etc:

Whilst you foreigners reside in my country you may, amongst yourselves, observe the Customs of your ancestors. The disposition you have shown towards my people has been good. But if you break my laws you will be guilty the same as my own people. And you should know that the customs of my country and people are long established and cannot be changed.

I am neither ashamed nor afraid to maintain our traditions. If you have something better, something beneficial to my people, I might allow it but the customs of my people are immutable.

Specifically on the subject of your religion, you may practise it amongst yourselves, but it cannot be adopted by my people.

Sgd Ranavalomanjaka

Vol 10 No 4 – 24th January 1837

Peking Gazettes – People who assisted in fire-fighting at the Yuen Ming Yuen (the imperial summer palace, used when Peking got too hot) on 4th November 1836 are to be rewarded.

Vol 10 No 34 – 22nd August 1837

A report in the Atlas on 1st January 1837 contains both true and false information about Christianity.

It is true the Canton authorities banned the practise of Christianity last year. It is true the Catholics teach missionaries to read and write Chinese in Rome and send them to Macau from whence some few successfully enter China. It is true that there are Chinese Christians in most of the provinces of China. It is true that the Chinese government disapproves of Christianity and persecutes its practitioners, whether Chinese or foreign.

All the rest of this report is nonsense. For example, we believe it untrue that several thousand Christians in China have been martyred in the last 25 years; that one year, not long ago, 60,000 Chinese sealed their conversion to Christianity in their own blood; or that there are 11 million Christians in China.

The Rev J B Marchini presented a chart of Christian missions in China to the Bishop of Macau in 1810. That shows three bishoprics in Macau, Peking and Nanking with claimed congregations of respectively 7,000, 40,000 and 33,000 Chinese converts. There are three vicarages at Fukien, Szechuan and Shansi with 30,000, 70,000 and 35,000 Chinese converts claimed. This gives a total for China of 215,000 converts. And in Indochina there are four bishoprics at East Tongking, West Tongking, Cochin-China and Thailand claiming 132,000, 175,000, 60,000 and 30,000 converts respectively.

(These estimated figures pre-date the proscription of the 1820’s)

Vol 10 No 44 – 31st October 1837

Report on Jesuit activities in China, by Johan Laurenz de Mosheim, Gottingen, 6th April 1748:

On the death of the Shun Chih Emperor China entered the regency of Kang Hsi. The regents were opposed to Christianity and united with the nobles to extirpate it from China. Chinese converts were persecuted and the German Jesuit Schall, as head of the church, was imprisoned. Very soon the practise of Christianity had disappeared. In 1669 when the Kang Hsi Emperor came of age, the persecution stopped. This was the golden age for Christianity in China. The young Emperor esteemed the arts and this was an area in which the Jesuits were well versed, indeed it was the root of their power. Soon several French Jesuits arrived, all skilled in Chinese language and literature as well as the other arts and sciences, and they influenced the Emperor further. They soon discovered His inclinations and views and thus learned how to please Him. In return they provided instruction in medicine, in architecture, in foundry and ordnance arts, in painting and in astronomy. In 1692 the Emperor published the famous Edict permitting Chinese to practise Christianity. He sent an embassy to the Pope and allowed a church to be built within the Imperial palace. But the Jesuits were never able to have the Emperor himself embrace Christianity. He died in 1722.

The compromise the Jesuits had made to obtain this Imperial Edict of Tolerance had been their agreement for Chinese Christians to worship their ancestors and continue to practise the tenets of Confucianism. The Dominicans and the one or two of the other sects at Peking deplored this compromise religion and a schism arose in the nascent Christian community.

The Roman church then formed an institute in Paris in 1684 to propagate Christianity amongst the heathens. The institute taught young men volunteers to proselytise and it rapidly became a centre of zealous and faithful men, much celebrated by Rome. The institute sent some men to China the most distinguished of whom was Father Charles Maigrot, a doctor of the Sorbonne whom the Pope had made apostolical vicar and whom the Jesuits themselves recognised as a superior man. On the arrival of this mission the Dominicans protested the Jesuit compromise to it. Attacking the Jesuits was not a step to be taken lightly and Maigrot took several years to formulate a plan. He commenced with a complaint that the characters Tien and Shang Ti did not properly represent respectively Heaven and God. He secondly abhorred the ancestor-worship and Confucian ideals of the Jesuitical Christians. This is the basis to the schism in the Catholic church in China that has survived to the present.

There was only one way of practising the religion as a Catholic and that way could not be applied in China without modification. Thus the two sides could never agree. The arguments flowed back and forth. Eventually the Jesuits were unwisely persuaded to hint at Imperial and Papal displeasure. This challenge was taken up and removed the battlefield from China to Rome. In 1693 Maigrot, on his own authority, published a manifesto interdicting all the Jesuit compromises. He concurrently copied it to Rome asking if he had done right. In 1696 the arguments against the Jesuits were revived by Charmot, an associate of Maigrot at the Paris institute, and a representative of the nobility who generally opposed the Jesuits for the moral restraint they represented to their class. Then the matter again lapsed while Rome considered it. In 1699 Innocent XII appointed a committee to adjust the dispute but He died the following year. His successor Clement XI was more favourable to the Jesuits but He appears not to have interceded and the dispute was finally argued openly by able advocates on either side.

The Parisians complained of deception and corruption of the faith; the Jesuits argued more powerfully on the treatment of practicalities while en route to the ideal World state. They were supported by a testimony of the Kang Hsi Emperor in his own hand evidencing that the customs so abhorred by Maigrot were mere political ceremonies upon which the peace and welfare of China to some measure depended. And this was supported by a petition of a thousand Chinese Christians.

This caused Pope Clement XI to send a legate, the Frenchman Charles Thomas de Tournon, to Asia. He was consecrated Patriarch of Antioch for the service although he had no authority from that city. He arrived in Pondicherry in November 1703 and stayed until July 1704. He continued to China in 1705 and the Jesuits procured for him the honour of presentation at Court and an audience with the Emperor. This Christian charity only lasted until it was apparent Tournon was a rigid Catholic, quite deaf to compromise….

Vol 10 No 44 – 31st October 1837 continued …

… Meanwhile the matter had been judicially considered at Rome and judgment entered 20th November 1704:

  • The words Tien and Shang Ti are no longer to be used; they will be replaced by Tien Chu.
  • The tables in the churches on which were engraved the characters King Tien (honourable heaven) were to be removed.
  • The Spring and Autumn equinox festivals to ancestors and Confucius may not be celebrated in Roman Catholic churches in China.
  • Christians should not enter houses built in honour of Confucius or pay him the worship due from every literati.
  • Christians should cease honouring their ancestors in every way.
  • The ancestral tablets, on each of which is written “Home of the Soul of xxx”, must be removed from the houses of all Christians.

This was not merely a rebuff to the Jesuits and their Chinese congregation, it was an affront to the Emperor with whose views the compromise proposals accorded.

In the hope of forestalling the collapse of Christianity in China, the Inquisition permitted some indulgence. New converts might attend their ancestral halls and observe ceremonies. They might hang the ancestral tablets in their houses with the name affixed and a Christian declaration but nothing more. They might retain their traditional funeral rites so far as they were not superstitious and provided the form of funeral was approved by a Christian bishop.

While compromise was allowed, it was its extent that horrified the Inquisition. Had it not been so, it seems likely that the Catholic church would have operated two different standards and we might expect today to see Europeans giving thanks twice a year for ‘services rendered’ at their parents’ graves instead of thanking God for such services….

Vol 10 No 44 – 31st October 1837 continued …

… When news of this decision arrived in China the following year, Tournon revealed his position. In 1707 he recited the Papal decision, threatened excommunication of dissenters, and embittered the Jesuits who appealed to the Pope. They also told the Emperor that Tournon’s procedure violated His prerogative. Here was a European come to China to publicly oppose the Imperial will as evidenced in the Kang Hsi Emperor’s personal affidavit to Rome. The Emperor inevitably responded with an Edict forbidding all Catholics to teach in China or to promote any conduct contrary to the ancient traditions of the country. Most obeyed. Those few who were persuaded by Tournon were one by one banished. Tournon himself was immediately expelled after which it was realised he would return to Rome and make trouble. An Imperial edict was solicited and sent to Macau to detain him until two Jesuits who would soon depart for Rome could accompany him. Their departure was unaccountably delayed and Tournon spent four years as guest of the Bishop of Macau until he died there on 7th June 1711.

Clement XI was astonished to learn of the detention of his Legate. He had provided some recompense with a Cardinal’s hat but this had failed to improve Tournon’s reputation at Macau where the Portuguese remained bemused and doubtful. Tournon’s body was returned to Rome years after and a martyr’s funeral provided. As a result of this detention the Bishop of Macau was excommunicated by Pope Clement XI, who on 25th September 1710, rejected the Jesuit appeal and affirmed the 1704 decision. All books describing the Jesuit amendments were banned.

This decision was communicated to the Jesuits at the Imperial court in January 1714 by the Franciscan Charles Castorani who was told by them to keep the decision entirely secret from the Chinese. The affair concluded with the papal Bull Ex Illa Die which did for Asia what the Bull Unigenitus had done for Europe. It reviews the history of the controversy, the attempts of the Jesuits to achieve compromise with the Chinese, and asserts the propriety of Tournon’s ordinance with a threat of excommunication to transgressors. It required all clerics in Asia to take a written oath of obedience to the Bull Ex Illa Die which oaths were to be collected and returned to Rome. The form promised precise and absolute obedience and gave the deponent’s agreement to be punished if he was found to have acted in breach. An English ship brought the law to China where it was studied in Macau before the Jesuits saw it. A volunteer was required to deliver it to the Jesuits at Peking and Castorani undertook this chore arriving at the capital in November 1716.

He read the Bull in all three Christian churches in Peking before providing a copy to the Jesuits. On the third day after his arrival he was arrested, chained and imprisoned for introducing foreign law into China. From time to time he was allowed out but he was effectively a prisoner for 17 months until he agreed to keep the matter confidential and return the Bull to the bishop who wrote it.

The Emperor concurrently issued an Edict threatening banishment of foreign priests and death of Chinese Christians if they obeyed the Pope before Him.

The ability of the Jesuits to develop Christianity in China was hobbled by this Bull Ex Illa Die which they determined to get set aside. The means was found in its title – ‘Precepts’ – which does not constitute law. A Bull is law, this was a Precept. It did not implicitly require acquiescence but merely profound respect. The author of this construction is the present Pope Benedict XIV (1748) ….

Vol 11 No 2 – 9th January 1838 continued …

… Rome now understood that the Jesuits at Peking could not be overcome without first gaining the support of the Emperor. The Pope therefore sent a legate Carlos Antonio Mezzabarba from Lisbon to Macau arriving 1720. He stayed 15 months and took back Tournon’s body for burial. He was able to avoid a clash with the Jesuits by telling them the extent of his powers and he then received several Imperial audiences. Benedict XIV had permitted Mezzabarba some latitude in interpreting the Bull but subject always and expressly to ratification of amendments at Rome. The Kang Hsi Emperor often joked with Mezzabarba who had to take care not to offend. In spite of Mezzabarba’s best efforts, the Emperor concluded that the practise of Christianity was a European thing and nothing to do with China, as foreigners were prohibited from proselytising there. Mezzabarba thus left without progress with the Emperor. He was detained at Macau for 6 months during which time he wrote the pastoral letter to the priests at Peking which explained eight aspects of the Bull Ex Illa Die in terms of the latitude he was allowed by the Pope. This had been the deal for him to receive Imperial audiences. The letter was dated 4th November 1721 and listed the Chinese Christian customs that might be tolerated:

  • Chinese Christians may have ancestral tables in their houses with the ancestors’ names affixed and make use of them provided there was some declaration on the table against superstition.
  • All traditional funeral rites that are not superstitious are permitted.
  • Confucius may be honoured as a politician with offerings, joss-sticks and candles but the altar may show only Confucius’ name
  • Incense and lights may be used at funerals provided the person using them explains his intentions in an acceptable way.
  • Chinese Christians may prostrate themselves before the tablets to Confucius and their ancestors and before the coffins of their relatives.
  • Offerings may be made at the tablets of ancestors and their coffins, provided faith was not prejudiced.
  • Prostrations before the Ko Ten table are permitted.
  • Incense and lights are permitted before these tables
  • Offerings may be made at graves.

Mezzabarba made these indulgences secret. They were not to be translated into Chinese or Tartar nor communicated to anyone who was not a missionary at Peking. When Mezzabarba returned to Rome, Clement XI was dead and Innocent XIII had succeeded him. The new Pope was dissatisfied with Mezzabarba’s fruitless negotiation and his treatment by the Jesuits. He resolved to abolish the Society of Jesus. The Pope ordered the return of all Jesuits in China and banned the induction of new priests into the Order. When he was succeeded by Benedict XIV, conditions for the Jesuits improved and the matter of the China indulgences lapsed. Then the Kang Hsi Emperor died in 1722 and the Jesuits lost their protection.

Kang Hsi was followed by his fourth son, the Yung Ching Emperor, who was partial to the Jesuits but did not admit them to his thoughts or his friendship. The priests were tolerated solely for their scientific knowledge. This encouraged the anti-foreign clique at the capital, which suspected the foreigners of conspiring against the Emperor, and led to a reversal of Kang Hsi’s decree permitting Christianity to Chinese. The new Emperor seems to have been annoyed by the dispute between the Jesuits and Rome. Christians were prosecuted and their churches destroyed. All foreign priests were confined to Canton and Peking and, when it was thought they were continuing to proselytise, they were further restricted. Eventually all the Jesuits at Peking were banished to Macau.

Although the Jesuits welcomed the Papal indulgences given them by Mezzabarba, the other Catholic orders did not. The Jesuits responded by promoting the indulgences they had won amongst all the Christian Chinese, not only their own converts but those of the other orders, the Dominicans and Franciscans. For this they obtained a new bishop of Peking, Franciscus de Purificatione, in 1731. In 1733 the new bishop published two letters telling the Catholic clergy in China to attend as much to Mezzabarba’s indulgences as to the Papal Bull Ex Illa Die.

The Franciscan priest Castorani, who had spent 33 years in China, opposed the bishop’s directions and collected the dissidents to him. He returned to Rome in 1734 to influence Clement XII and eventually obtained a revocation of the bishop’s two letters. Castorani then obtained papal approval to have the Inquisition review Mezzabarba’s concessions.

The Jesuits then had less power over the Inquisition that the Dominicans. Clement XII wanted a full review. He insisted that all clergy in Rome who had been in China and all the Chinese novices who were studying in Rome be consulted. This was done under Benedict XIV who eventually issued the famous Bull of 1742. This does not mention the Jesuits by name but refers to a ‘disobedient, malicious and insidious group of men.’ All the indulgences of Mezzabarba were annulled and the Bull Ex Illa Die reinstated as the only authority. All priests to China must swear an oath of obedience and uphold the Bull. It concludes ‘the priests in China must abandon the belief that their work is retarded by strict compliance with our decrees. Christianity must be preached with boldness and purity.’

Thus Castorani, the mendicant friar whom the Jesuits had earlier fettered with nine chains, brought down the most powerful order in the church.

But the Jesuits were not about to surrender over a couple of Papal Bulls. They still allowed what had been forbidden. Recently another Papal legate, a Franciscan, arrived from China with evidence of their contumacy. Perhaps this will produce a third Bull. Meanwhile the Yung Ching Emperor died in 1737 and Kien Lung succeeded him. The Jesuits worked to re-establish themselves with this new Emperor. He seems amenable. He has already revoked his father’s order against the Christians and largely restored the Catholic church to its former position.

In 1745 the Jesuits commenced a campaign to get all the bishoprics in heathen countries under their control. They are using the Kings of Portugal to effect this as the Papal power to appoint in Asia was delegated to the House of Braganza. The Popes have all been opposed to this but in 1745 Benedict XIV could not avoid appointing Polycarp de Souza, a Portuguese Jesuit, to the See of Peking. Jesuit power is a fact.

Editor – in fact the Jesuits did not easily recover in China. They published six volumes of letters about their missions from which we can briefly indicate what occurred after Kien Lung assumed the throne:

Tom XXV of 1741 reveals a new persecution began in 1738 and Chinese were forbidden to depart from the traditional rites to their ancestors. At the same time many priests were ejected from their missions in the provinces although the astronomers etc., at Peking were unmolested. The Chinese government took pains to characterise its actions as aimed at upholding the existing law rather than persecuting the Christians.

Tom XXVI of 1743 describes the methods Jesuits use to conceal themselves from the magistrates in Chinese provinces. It notes that besides the three churches in Peking they have many missions around the capital supervised by five Chinese Jesuits and caring for 50,000 converts.

Tom XXVII of 1749 describes the persecution of converts of the Dominicans which commenced in Fukien and extended to Peking.

Tom XXVIII of 1758 notes the persecutions were abating after 4-5 Jesuits had been strangled in the provinces. Under Kien Lung we have been tolerated at Peking. There are many Christians here who freely attend any of our three churches. We hold separate services for men and women as required by Chinese law. The Emperor allows this worship as he can see the extent of it. He knows that we come to spread religion and, if we made no progress at all, we would go home. Some of the priests in the provinces receive protection because of our influence at Peking. Several are known to the officials but they take no action. The Society of Jesus has 22 members here. Ten are French and live in the French house. The remainder are Portuguese, Italian and German and live in another house. Of the twenty-two, only seven are employed by the Emperor and the remainder are simply priests. We have trained many Chinese to priesthood and they work in the provinces to which we cannot go. Our Portuguese priests, who are more numerous outside Peking than the French, are active in Tartary where they claim huge numbers of converts.

Vol 10 No 44 – 31st October 1837

The Imperial Edict of 1805 – European residents of Peking have instructed our Manchu subjects on Christianity. They have printed books in Chinese and Tartar. We now prohibit their instruction and order that their book translations be destroyed.

The contents of these books have been examined. In ‘The Useful Introduction to the Doctrine’ they say Tien Chu is the king of all nations; in ‘The Calendar of the Saints’ they say Jesus is the King of the Earth. Can these both be true?

It is said ‘all creatures are subordinate to the great master of Heaven and earth. Kings, literati and common people should renounce their errors. When the holy religion prevails it will produce order and tranquillity’. And again ‘The master whom I adore is the true master of Heaven and earth and all the creatures therein. Through Him is the way to the kingdom to come. The ways of this world are the ways of the flesh.’ Holy men wish to propagate this doctrine in China. In ‘Instructions concerning marriage’ it says ‘those who are not of the religion are no better than slaves of the devil’

These extravagant passages are absurd but the books become more irrational. The author makes light of the duty to parents saying ‘the highest degree of impiety is disobeying the will of Tien Chu’. In a biography of Saint Ursula (?) it is said she was killed by her father for refusing his instruction. Then Tien Chu was angered and struck her father dead with lightning. This is held up as warning to parents not to discipline their children. So it goes on.

All this is contrary to reason and social order.

Another book reports of an evil Manchu Prince who never listened to the advice of his wife and was eventually seized by devils and dragged to Hell whereupon Tien Chu told the wife that her husband had been thrown in the everlasting sea of fire. It may be inferred from this that those who neglect pious exhortations cannot escape Tien Chu’s punishment. We all know from our daily experience that this is absurd. This folk-tale must have been recited by Manchus to the foreigners and mindlessly published by them without evidence or any shadow of credibility. It has clearly been contrived by foreign ingenuity.

In short they will publish anything.

If we allow them to continue, the people will be burdened with more egregious falsehoods. To prevent this we have directed Loo Kang, the official responsible for supervising foreigners in China (Viceroy of the Two Kwong), to investigate thoroughly and devise a means of dealing with these people.

This Edict is preliminary, to provide the people with general information so they may exercise their judgement.

We exhort our Manchu subjects to attend to the language and culture of China, study the great works and observe their social duties. If Buddhism and Taoism are thought incredible, how much more so is this Christianity? Let them beware of adopting fallacious doctrines. Those who continue in delusion and neglect the truth are unworthy of the care we bestow on them. These are our sentiments. Let them be widely known. Respect this.

Canton Register Vol 10 No 37 – 12th September 1837

Imperial Edict of 1805 – The Cantonese Ching Yo Yang has been found guilty of receiving a map and letters from the Catholic astronomer Te Tien Tse who himself with others has been found guilty of propagating Christianity in China. Europeans are not prevented from following their religion in Peking. They come here to provide services in astronomy and all those who wish to come have been admitted. But they were never allowed to make connections with our people.

Te Tien Tse has not only proselytised amongst the simple Chinese but has influenced Manchus and 31 Christian books have been printed in Chinese. These western books have been translated into Chinese to inveigle our people.

We must be severe to stop the spread of this perverse religion. Two soldiers Cheu Ping Te and Vang Mue Te assisted by Lien Chao Tung, Siao Chin Ting and Chu Chang Tay have superintended congregations of Chinese Christian converts. Kien Hen distributed letters and the soldier Tung Ben Shen refused to renounce his religion. They will all wear the cangue for three months and be banished to Ili to become slaves to the Eleuths. The woman Chin Yang Shee who organised a female congregation is banished to Ili as a slave of the soldiers.

Vang Shy Ning, Ko Tun Fo, Ye Se King, Vu Se Man and the infantrymen Tung Ming, Tung Se and Chee Yung Tung all renounced their error and may be released from prison under probation. Those in jurisdiction over them should doubly punish them if they relapse.

Te Tien Tse forgot his duty. He printed books and disseminated his religion. He will be imprisoned at Jehol under careful supervision.

Vol 11 No 20 – 15th May 1838

Excerpt from Gernelli Coreri’s ‘Voyage Around the World, 1695’:

The first part of China I visited was Macau, also known as Ah Ma Gow, the name of an idol adored at this place. It is sited on the point of an island called Hoi Chu (Pearl of the Sea) in Canton Province. It is shaped like an arm surrounded by sea except at the shoulder. The land features hills, valleys and plains. The houses are in the European style. The churches are fine especially the Jesuit College (St Paul’s Cathedral) which has a noble front adorned with many pillars and contains a relic (a humerus) of St Francis Xavier. There are also churches of the Augustines, of St Francis, St Laurence, the Misericordia and the nuns, all well-built. There is plenty of stone and the streets are all paved. The city has over 5,000 Portuguese and over 15,000 Chinese residents. It was founded 110 years ago after Portuguese came from Malacca to China for trade but suffered from bad weather in which many of their ships sank and necessitated their request for a safe harbour. They asked for a place of safety until the wind permitted them to return and the Chinese, for their own advantage, gave them this peninsula, then inhabited by pirates, requiring them to expel the pirates before occupying the land. The Chinese permitted them to build thatched houses but by bribery the Portuguese were able to build substantial structures including forts. One is at the harbour mouth on Penha Hill below the hermitage of the Augustines. It is called the Bar Fort. The other is the Monte Fort, a bigger fort, and there is a third one named for our Lady of Guidance (Nossa Senhora da Guia).

Filippe Ferrarina was wrong to say Macau belonged to Portugal and was taken by China in 1668. It has never experienced revolution and remains a Portuguese colony by Imperial grant for which the Portuguese pay to China both a yearly tribute and taxes on ships visiting and goods landed. No ship can enter or leave without Chinese permission.

It is not a productive colony and all provisions are brought from the north. It is as though the Chinese had imprisoned the Portuguese here. The Chinese have secured the narrow neck of land linking Macau to the mainland with a wall and a gate which they can lock when they please and control the food supplies as necessary. Agricultural produce is so abundant in China that a silver dollar’s worth of bread will keep a man for half a year.

The Chinese allow the Portuguese the government of their city in respect of administration of justice for which the Portuguese pay 600 Taels a year plus the customs dues on the ships and trade. The charge on each ship entering is 1,000 Taels. The city chooses its own Judge who manages all criminal and civil disputes that do not involve Chinese. The political government is by a Captain-General appointed in Lisbon and the spiritual government by a bishop. All these officers are maintained by the city. The Captain-General gets a dollar a day and $3,000 every three years; the bishop gets $500 and army captains get $150 with proportionately less to the soldiers. These costs are met by a charge of 10% on Portuguese goods and 2% on money imported. The Portuguese government in Lisbon pays nothing towards the upkeep of Macau. (Unmentioned in the article is the Portuguese colony of Timor which Macau funds and from which it obtains slaves)

The city is also burdened by visits of mandarins who have to be lodged and entertained (one mandarin ordered a cow to be slaughtered on his arrival as he wanted some beef to ease an indisposition). All income depends on the sea. Everyone lives by trade. The gentry deal in money by loaning it locally or sending goods or gold to Goa. Although the city has no food production of its own I have never fed so well as at Macau. The women are excellent cooks.

When the trade with Japan flourished, this city could have paved its streets in silver but, after the slaughter of the Christians at Nagasaki, the trade was lost and the Macanese fell into poverty. They now have five ships but these never return the 300% profits that the Japan trade did. They are further threatened by the new English East India Company which prohibits their trade at some ports and in some commodities.

Vol 11 No 28 – 10th July 1838

It is anomalous that Britain takes a leading position in China trade but is the least informed western nation in studying Chinese language. France, Prussia and Bavaria teach Chinese in their universities, we do not.

Thirteen years ago Dr Morrison brought an extensive library of Chinese literature to London to establish a chair of Chinese in one of our universities. He died during the Napier crisis but his library remains and contains much useful information including the works of the Jesuits.

Now the Reverend Samuel Kidd, formerly principal at the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca has agreed to take up a professorship of Chinese at University College London. All that is required is £2,000 to pay Morrison’s dependents for the library.

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

Editorial – Chinese language has only 330 syllables but they are expressed in four tones to produce 1,320 meanings. Some sounds can have up to ten different meanings. In Les Lettres Edificantes et Curieuses, Father Bourgeois recalls trying, after ten months residence as a priest in Peking, to preach in Mandarin:

“God knows how much this first Chinese sermon cost me. This language resembles no other. Forget declensions and verb conjugations. Chinese words are substantive – adjective, verb, singular, plural, masculine and feminine – they are all the same. The hearer must consider the context to guess the intended meaning. The 300+ sounds may be spoken in so many different ways that they encompass the meaning of 80,000 words. There is no general rule for word-order. You must learn the stock phrases to get the common word-orders and, if you do not, not one man in four will understand you.

“I’ll give you an example. I was taught that shou means book. I assumed that whenever shou was said, ‘book’ was meant. Wrong. The next time I heard shou it was ‘tree’. I adjusted my understanding accordingly but it was unavailing. Shou was also used to express ‘great heat’, ‘to relate’, the ‘Aurora’, ‘to be accustomed’, ‘loss of a wager’ and many other less important meanings.

“I thought to clarify my confusion by reference to the printed word. Wrong again. The written language is quite different from the spoken language.

“A fundamental difficulty for the foreign student is the tones – each sound can be said in five different ways[3] but the distinctions between these tones are not rigorously fixed. They depend on the words temporarily juxtaposed. The language is spoken so quickly, the sounds commonly elided, that little meaning can be adduced. One is supposed to move fluently from an aspirated sound to an even one, from a whistling note to an indrawn one. Sometimes you speak from the palate, sometimes from the throat and more or less always through the nose.

“I practised my sermon some fifty times on my servant before I was sufficiently confident to preach it publicly. The congregation were wonderfully patient. Although they understood no more than 30% they congratulated me on the attempt.

“Satire is a popular Chinese entertainment. If you study the characters, the story has a pure and sublime meaning; if you attend solely to the tones, the meanings become ludicrous or obscene.”

Friend of China, 11.4.43 edition

The Augsburgh Gazette says the Pope is considering sending an apostolic vicar to China at the request of Catholic missionaries in Macau.

Friend of China, 11.4.43 edition

The missionary college (the Anglo-Chinese College) at Malacca is to immediately be transferred to Hong Kong (to the Morrison Institute). Since its misunderstandings with the Jesuits and Dominicans, the Chinese Government has been wary of missionaries. If it knew of the missionary zeal in Hong Kong and saw we did not attempt to stop it, it might be embarrassing for our relationship. We need to ensure that instruction in the arts, sciences and particularly medicine at the new school in Hong Kong is open to all, not just religious people.

Friend of China, 28.12.43 edition

In January 1843 Bishop Castro at Peking received word that at the end of 1839 Bishop Jinbert and Fathers Chastan and Mauban together with 70 converts were all beheaded in Korea. Another 180 Christians who belonged to a humbler class of people were strangled. Two French priests have been sent from China to Korea to replace the beheaded men. Three new priests have embarked from France as replacements, two for Cochin China and one for China.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. It seems the Catholic priests got this idea informally from Peking officials. Lo Shu Fu translated Imperial Edicts relative to foreigners in his ‘Documentary Chronicle of Sino-Western Relations, 1644 – 1820’ and the matter does not appear there, although his work seems to comprise a complete record of events involving foreigners both at Canton and along the land frontier. In fact during the Ka Hing (Kea King) Emperor’s reign, Catholics were generally disapproved. In Szechuan in 1815, 700+ Chinese Christians repudiated their religion whilst another 32 who did not were flogged and gaoled and their minister, the French Father Dufresse, was executed. The same year in Hunan the Italian Father Lantrua was strangled and his flock disbanded. Lantrua had been active for fifteen years in several provinces and was thought to be associated with the White Lotus Sect, a rebel group espousing Christian and Manichaeist beliefs. After these cases the Japanese practice of trampling the cross was introduced to deter back-sliding by reformed ex-Christians.

    In fact, the Pope’s haughty directions to the Hong Hei (Kang Hsi) Emperor, after he had agreed to permit Christian worship on terms, precluded any prospect of approval of Catholicism in China. This entire article may be a spoof. Nevertheless, there are several interesting documents on Catholic proselytisation in this Chapter.

  2. cf. the imperial edict banning foreign-produced Chinese books in the China chapter.
  3. Instructors of Cantonese (Buk Wah – plain language) distinguish many more tones. Father Bourgeois is referring to Mandarin.

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