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of Christianity among Han subjects. In 1671, the suppression of the Catholic mission was partially lifted, but with the qualification that the missionaries could not make new converts or build new churches. The Kangxi emperor again bestowed personal favours on the court missionaries, including a tablet with the text Jingtian (Revere Heaven) to be distributed to all churches. This apparent imperial protection, on the one hand, and the prohibition of further propagation, on the other, led to an ambiguous situation between 1671 and 1691 which Ad Dudink has called 'tacit toleration'.15

The same ambiguity characterized the so-called Edict of Toleration of 1692, which the missionaries obtained as a reward for their casting of cannon and their help in the negotiations with Russia (Treaty of Nerchinsk, 1689). The edict confirmed that the Christian religion had not proven to be seditious and therefore did not need to be proscribed. Christians were placed on the same level as Buddhists and Daoists who were allowed to have temples and offer incense. As long as Christians remained subordinated to Confucian state orthodoxy and did not create trouble, they were to be allowed to practise their rituals in their places of worship. However the edict did not mention further Christian religious propaganda or the building of new churches. In light of subsequent events, the Edict of Toleration was 'a fleeting moment..., an ideal that was immediately surrounded with controversy and constant disappointment, claims and counter-claims'.16

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