Info

and rejected the use of the Chinese terms shangdi ( 'lord on high') and tian ( 'heaven') for God. After lengthy deliberations in Rome, the pope issued the anti-rites decree Cum Deus optimus of 20 November 1704. It forbade the use of tian and shangdi, while approving tianzhu ( 'Lord of Heaven'). At the same time, Christians were forbidden to take part in sacrifices to Confucius or to ancestors. Rome's decisions were taken to China by the papal legate Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon. However, his audience with the Kangxi emperor in July 1706 went rather badly, and in response, the irritated Kangxi emperor issued an order that all missionaries, in order to obtain an imperial permit (piao) to stay in China, would have to declare that they would follow 'the rules of Matteo Ricci'. De Tournon, for his part, countered with a set of rules on precisely how the missionaries were to answer the emperor's questions, threatening the disobedient with excommunication and leaving no room for interpretation. Finally, the apostolic constitution Ex illa die (1715) reiterated the papal pronouncements of the 1704 bull.

The conflict became more complicated when in 1721 the papal legate Carlo Ambrogio Mezzabarba approved eight 'concessions' proposed by those opposed to the papal decrees. These concessions were, however, later annulled by Rome. The apostolic constitution Ex quo Singulari (1742) reinforced the papal decrees with sanctions and included an obligatory oath of observance to be taken by all priests leaving for the China mission. This constitution ruled conclusively against the Chinese Rites and effectively closed the controversy. Because it fundamentally challenged Chinese beliefs and was perceived as a threat to the Chinese social order, this decision has often been considered as one of the main causes for the 'failure' of Christianity in China. The dissolution of the Society of Jesus by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, promulgated in China in 1775, can be seen as an epilogue to this long affair.

As David Mungello has remarked, 'interpretations of the Rites Controversy can be placed on a spectrum between two extremes. One extreme regards the Rites Controversy as a watershed in the early modern history of Sino-western cultural relations while the other extreme views the Controversy as a purely European affair which can be easily omitted when attempting to understand the history of Christianity in China from a Chinese perspective.'17 Whereas from a missionary perspective the focus is on the sharp demarcation between the so-called Jesuit' and Dominican' positions, the role ofthe Chinese converts has been largely ignored.' Their involvement in the controversy through books, pamphlets, letters of protest etc. shows that they were truly imbedded in a Chinese society in which rites occupied an important place.'18

0 0

Post a comment