Even the term from the Classics settled upon, tianzhu ('lord of heaven') was considered doubtful by some, but in the end missionaries of all the orders accepted it.

The general acceptance by the missionaries in China of the Riccian tradition enabled the Kangxi emperor, seen by some as the greatest of the emperors of the Qing dynasty, to issue his edict on Christianity on 22 March 1692. This edict, in effect, recognized Christianity, as understood and practised according to the Confucianist pattern established by Ricci, as a licit religion in the empire. Indeed the emperor specifically compared the new status of Christianity with that of Buddhism, also a religion of foreign origin but now accepted as licit by the imperial authorities.

At the same time, attacks were again being mounted in Europe against the 'Mandarin Rites'. What some saw as a creative encounter between Christianity and Confucianism was decried by many others as a betrayal of Christianity at worst or the laying of a superficial veneer of Christianity upon Confucianism at best. Unlike the conflicts of the mid-seventeenth century, the beginning of the eighteenth century saw clergy other than Jesuits now emerging as leading apologists for what might be termed 'Confucian Christianity'. These were the Dominican, Lo Wenzao, the first Chinese to be consecrated a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Augustinian, Alvaro Benevente, Vicar Apostolic of Guangxi. The Jesuits in China attempted to end the problem once and for all by having their interpretation of the nature of the familial rites, the rites in honour of Confucius, and their general understanding of ru-jiao confirmed as accurate by the source of correctness in these matters, the emperor. They appealed to the Kangxi emperor, who issued an imperial rescript on 30 November 1700. This unambiguously endorsed Ricci's understanding of this tradition. The result, however, was the opposite of what the missionaries in China had hoped for. Not only in Rome, but also across Christian Europe, Catholic and Protestant, the missionaries' action was interpreted as appealing to a pagan ruler to settle a church dispute. This was, in truth, a total misrepresentation of what the missionaries had done: they had asked for a ruling about a non-Christian tradition from the official source of that tradition in order to help the church make a decision about the appropriate relationship of Christianity to it. In the climate of the time, the misrepresentation of their action is understandable. What is bewildering is the number of twentieth-century historians who have misrepresented it in the same way.

As we already noted in our discussion of Hinduism, Pope Clement XI appointed Charles de Tournon as a papal legate to go to both India and China to deal with the problems presented by the controversies over the Malabar

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