became entirely negative. Once Ricci understood the nature of Chinese society and became first an admirer, then a scholar of the Confucian classics, he saw the Christian future in China as one of interaction with Confucianism. From 1595, Jesuits in China discarded Buddhist-type robes and dressed in the manner of the literati or scholar/administrators of the empire. The majority of this powerful group scorned Buddhism as idolatrous superstition and this had a powerful effect on the attitude to Buddhism adopted by Ricci and the Jesuit mission. Further, on this subject at least, all the other Catholic orders that arrived in China subsequently agreed with the Jesuits.

This antagonism between Christianity and Buddhism was repeated in IndoChina where again the Christian church was much more sympathetic to Confucianism, which, as in China, was the faith or philosophy of the intellectual and political elite. Despite the existence of some creative elements in the encounter with Buddhism in Japan, then, Christian relations with Buddhism were entirely negative throughout the eighteenth century. The coming into being of Protestant outreach did not change this situation before 1815.

The one positive note that the Catholic missionaries struck was their admiration for the devotion and piety of so many of the Buddhist laity. This links directly with what might be seen as incongruous by some - that is, the number of missionaries in Indo-China and Japan who reported that many of the most devoted new Christians had been devout Buddhists. The reason might lie in the fact that the various Chinese, Japanese and northern Indo-Chinese Buddhist sects were derived from the Mahayana tradition, and had become varieties of a religion of personal salvation, most unambiguously the very popular schools of Chan (in Japan, Zen) and Jing-tu (Pure Land). Thus the Christian encounter was with a form of Buddhism that was much closer to Christianity in its understanding of the human predicament than was Theravada Buddhism, the older and original Buddhist tradition which Catholic missionaries encountered only briefly in Ceylon and later in eighteenth-century Burma and Siam.

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