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of Nicholas (i 333-1 342). It is a significant thing
that the official Mongol history mentions in 1342
the arrival of a man from Fuh-lang country (its
first mention in that form) with the present of a fine
horse. In 1362 Jacques de Florence, fifth Bishop
of Zaitun, was massacred, and soon after that the
whole Mongol empire in China began to fall in

However unconnected and incomplete the
above mass of information may be — and it is by
no means all that is available — it is abundantly
plain that, during the whole of the Mongol dynasty
(1206- 1 368), both Nestorianism and the Church of
Rome were steadily represented in the Far East.
Although nothing definite is recorded of the former
during the three centuries of time China was ruled
by Cathayans and Nuchens in the north and the
Sung dynasty in the south, it seems impossible to
doubt that many foreign religions must have
flourished, or at least existed, peacefully and
unobtrusively, under the negative protection of
the indulgent and highly literary house of Sung ;
if not, indeed, also among the rough Tartars of


Tangut, Cathay, and what we now call Manchuria.
Another complete eclipse of three hundred years
was now about to take place. During four-fifths
of the native Ming dynasty (1368- 1644), it is scarcely
an exaggeration to say that the very idea of
" Christian," not to say the word, or any word
for it, does not once occur in the Chinese annals.
On the accession of the Ming dynasty, a Fuh-
lin man named Nie-ku-lun was discovered in
China ; he had come to trade, and the new
emperor conceived the idea in 1371 of sending
him back home with letters announcing the
conquest of China by a native house. It is
scarcely fair to assume from such slender testimony
that this man was Archbishop Nicholas ; yet it
is a fact that in 1370 Urban V. appointed a new
archbishop in the person of William de Prato,
who was accompanied by twelve Franciscans.
Nothing further is known of either event. The
Manchus, in publishing the history of the Ming
house, seem to have most scrupulously expunged
every scrap of information touching Russia and
Europe, at least until Western events touched them-
selves, and therefore had to be noticed. In 15 17 the
first Ftih-lang-ki ships appeared at Canton ; these
were the Portuguese, who had just asserted their
power over Malacca, and had now for the first
time discovered plainly that the China they were
menacing by sea was the Cathay of Marco Polo
and other Western writers as observed by land.
What most impressed the Chinese were the


formidable guns of the strangers, which in some
parts of China still retain the name " Frank,"
given to them at the time ; the exclusive use of the
word "Frank" for "French" and for Spaniards as
well, suggests that this generic term was obtained
through the Arab and Persian traders of old
standing. Meanwhile St. Francis Xavier had
discovered in Japan how many of the educated
people then studied Chinese ideas, and he there-
fore determined in 1552 to proceed to the larger
empire ; but he died at a small island off the
Canton coast, very shortly after his arrival. A
Portuguese Dominican, named Gaspard a Cruce,
had some temporary success ; but the violence of
the Frank traders had by this time alarmed the
government, which was moreover by no means
favourably impressed by the specimens of Western
civilisation sent by the Portuguese from Canton
to negotiate terms at Peking. Whilst on the
one hand the trading ships were attempting to
*share the flourishing trade of Ningpo, Amoy, and
other ports along the coast, their ecclesiastical
colleagues in the south had established an
episcopal See at Macao, where by some underhand
dealings with the Portuguese commanders the
corrupt mandarins had been bribed into allowing
them to create a military base. The possession of
Macao has only been legalised within the past
few years, and ecclesiastically all China {in
partibus) is supposed to fall under this ancient


The first missionaries to obtain a real foothold
in China were the Jesuits P.P. Ruggieri and Pasio,
who were all the better qualified for their work in
that they had undergone a course of Chinese study
at Macao; in the year 1582 they succeeded, by
offering judicious gifts at Canton, in ingratiating
themselves with the Chinese Viceroy, and at last
obtained permission from him to settle much
further up the river at Shiu-hing (Chao-k'ing), then
the official capital of the "Two Kwang" provinces.
Matthew Ricci followed them in 1583. Being a
profound mathematician, very erudite, and also
patient and courteous to boot, he greatly impressed
the educated natives, many of whom placed them-
selves under the training of the missionaries ; he
occupies an imperishable place in official Chinese
history. Ruggieri and two new arrivals managed
to extend operations to Hangchow^ and also to
one or two places in Central China ; but mean-
while suspicions as to their motives had been
aroused, and the missionaries had very soon to
quit Shiu-hing. Ricci, observing that the con-
tinued success of his mission was at the mercy of
local mandarin caprice, set out in 1595 for Peking:
on his way, beset by numerous obstacles and
incredible troubles, he founded a mission under
P. Cataneo at Nanking, and it was only after six
years of finesse, difficulty, and interruption that
he at last arrived with P. Didaco in Peking ;
whither, indeed, the Emperor had ordered him
to be sent, in order that he might better under-


stand the meaning of the reports on Ricci's
movements which kept arriving at the metropolis.
The story of his brilHant success at the Chinese
capital has often been told in detail ; even the
(later) Prime Minister Sii Kwang-k'i, usually
known as Paul Sii (local Zi), was among his
supporters and converts. Ricci was made Superior
of all the Jesuits in China, established a Noviciate
for Chinese at Peking, and also a clerical seminary
at Macao ; besides — through judiciously worked
influences — securing the success of the Nanking,
Ch'ao-chou (Swatow) and Nan-ch'ang (Kiang Si)
missions under PP. Pantoja, Longobardi, and
Soerius. Meanwhile he had not been idle in
the direction of Chinese studies ; and in preparing
for the high officials, so ignorant of geography
and science in general, some explanatory maps
of the Five Continents, he was able to make
clear to them that J u-te-ya (Judaea), where the
Lord of Heaven preached by him was born, was
no other than the Ta-ts'in of ancient Han history.
There were not wanting opponents of Ricci in the
Board of Rites and other conservative quarters ;
the old denunciations of Buddhism by Han Yii
were quoted as apt applications to Ricci's relics
of the saints, and his strange doctrine of the
" Lord of Heaven's Mother," the Incarnation,
and the Resurrection: the "intellectuals" were of
course acquainted with the historical religious
disputes touching the Manicheans, Buddhists,
Nestorians, and Taoists. Meanwhile occurred the


episode of the visit to Peking of one of the
K'ai-feng Jews, which, though interesting enough
to Ricci as a historical reminiscence, would naturally
not be noised abroad by a highly educated French
Jesuit, who, it may be presumed, was in no hurry
to proclaim to the Chinese his spiritual relation-
ship with the Persian or Syrian Jews whose
hierarchical ancestors had crucified his Master.

Ricci died in 16 10, some years before the dis-
covery of the Nestorian stone, which places the
Ta-ts'in question, the birth of Christ, and the
connection with Persia, on a comparatively secure
Chinese basis, and which therefore would have
greatly rejoiced his heart. His successor was
Longobardi ; but in 16 16 the ill-will of a high
official named Shen K'ioh brought about the
expulsion of the missionaries from Peking and
Nanking, whence they were dismissed to Macao.
When the "White Lily" rebellion of 1622 broke
out, this same malicious persecutor endeavoured
to identify the teaching of the Christians with the
tenets of that subversive Buddhist sect ; orders
were sent to the provinces, and a general persecu-
tion took place all over the empire. The Manchus
in the meantime were now beginning to threaten
the northern frontiers ; this alarming state of affairs
induced the Emperor to hearken to the advice of
some watchful political Christians, who represented
to him the military advantages likely to follow
from the employment of those formidable Frank
guns. In consequence of this agreeable turn of



fortune's wheel, PP. de la Roque, Diaz, and
Longobardi once more entered Peking in com-
parative triumph. It was in 1625 that the first
distinct news reached the Jesuits at Hangchow
about the discovery of the Nestorian stone. This
event, speedily bruited about, was of no small
assistance in the propagation of the Gospel,
although (in the words of the missionaries them-
selves) :

"It is redolent of the heretical doctrine, notably
as touching the Incarnation, and also because the
missionaries of whom it speaks were natives of
Syria and Persia, which states were infected at
that time with the errors of the Nestorians."

By 1627 there were 13,000 Christians in seven
Chinese provinces, including in that total a large
number of imperial princes, high officials, and even
forty palace eunuchs ; in fact it was the eunuch
Ma T'ang who had originally obtained for Ricci
the reception of his "tribute" as a "West Ocean
man." Shen K'ioh had now collapsed, and Paul
Sii was Premier.

The next great question was the reform of the
Calendar, and in order to accomplish this James
Rho and Adam Schall, Jesuits stationed at Si-an
Fu, were summoned to Peking and appointed to the
Astronomical Board.^ This action led to serious
disputes with the rival Mussulman astronomers,

^ Schall was a German, and possibly this fact may have induced
the Germans to make off in the year 1900 with his astronomical
instruments, which now occupy a prominent position on the terrace
of Potsdam park.


whose Calendar had been in part use since the
year 1382, and was practically the same as the
one prepared in 1267 for the Mongols by Djamal-
uddin ; as this again was like that from " West
Asia" used in the T'ang dynasty (seventh
century), it seems not unlikely that scientific
Mussulmans had continuously been employed in
China ; certainly ever since Kublai Khan sent
for them to make artillery. Adam Schall was
able to render further valuable assistance in
casting bronze cannon for use against the Tartars
and the rebels : meanwhile Paul Sii and James
Rho had both died. We have seen how in 1642
the rebel leader and the imperial troops between
them caused the destruction of the Jewish
synagogue at K'ai-feng Fu ; two years later the
same rebel took Peking, and the last Ming emperor
hanged himself. Probably the rebels, who were
fighting against tyranny and oppression, were
not so bad as official history makes them out to
be, for it seems they spared Adam Schall and
all the Christians, who had taken refuge in their
church ; (it was just 900 years since the Ouigours
had butchered the Chinese who took refuge in a
Buddhist temple at another Chinese capital). The
Manchu Tartars, having been called in to drive
the rebels away, and seeing that the de jure
emperor was now dead, not unnaturally took
possession of Peking for themselves ; and thus
the Ming dynasty came suddenly to an end.
The first Manchu emperor, on Schall's respect-


ful submission to the new dynasty, not only showed
him every consideration, but at his intercession
ordered that Christians throughout the empire
should be free from molestation ; besides this, a
magnificent church or cathedral was contructed
at the capital. The Emperor was on quite
familiar terms with Schall, whom he used to call
his Maffa (a Manchu term for "old man"); and
the young emperor even submitted to instruction
in the Christian Faith; however, he died in 1661
unbaptized, and even unconverted, at the early
age of twenty-four. The second emperor being
young. Regents governed the empire on his behalf.
Besides the Jesuits at Peking, there were the
missions of the Spanish Franciscans and Domini-
cans (from Manila) in Fuh Kien. Spanish and
Portuguese commercial jealousy led to religious
obstruction also being placed in the way of
Spaniards at Macao; still, by the year 1665 they
had as many as 14,000 Christians in the three
coast provinces. The Mussulman astronomer,
Yang Kwang - sien, in his disappointment and
chagrin, was for a time successful under the
Regents in engineering a very active anti-Chris-
tian campaign at Peking ; he secured the dismissal
of Adam Schall, and for himself the coveted
Astronomical Presidency. The Board of Rites,
always on the look-out in the interests of Con-
fucianism, joined in the hue and cry ; Christianity
was prohibited, and Schall was even sentenced
to death ; all the other missionaries (except four


who remained in hiding) were sent away to Canton.
Through the influence of the Emperor's grandmother
(a Mongol Tartar) Schall's sentence of death was
cancelled ; but the old man's health had broken down
under the weight of all these tribulations, and he died
in 1665 at the age of seventy-six. When K'ang-hi,
a prince of enquiring and scientific mind, himself
assumed independent control of the Empire in 1666,
one of his first steps was to question the accuracy
of the Calendar, and to unearth Ferdinand Verbiest
and the other three missionaries who had lain in
close concealment. Verbiest took the opportunity,
while reforming the Calendar, to plead for and
secure better treatment of the Christians throuo^h-
out the empire ; he was all the more able to obtain
good terms by his readiness to cast brass guns of
large calibre for the Tartar wars in which the
Manchus were now engaged, and by his handiness
in arranging diplomatic difficulties with the Russians.
Louis XIV. of France in 1685 sent out a band of
very distinguished Jesuits to reinforce Verbiest at
the court of K'ang-hi ; this was done in the very
nick of time, for Verbiest had died a few days
before their arrival in Peking in March 1688; two
of the new missionaries PP. Gerbillon and Bouvet,
were attached as general advisers to the Emperor's
person, and Gerbillon was of great assistance in
concluding with Russia the celebrated peace of
1689. He thus secured the patronage of the
Czar for his mission.

In the provinces there were various ups and


downs, but on the whole things progressed fairly
well, and there were by this time 300,000 Christians
in various parts of China. The Emperor even
allowed a magnificent new cathedral church to be
built in the palace grounds ; this was done partly
at his own expense, King Louis XIV. also
contributing. Unfortunately, however, the great
question of "rites" arose, which practically decided
adversely and for ever the then moot point, " Shall
China become officially Christian?" In 1698 the
Jesuits begged the Apostolic See to allow those
ancestral rites the practice of which was agreeable
to the Chinese system of ethics ; also to permit the
use of the Chinese tongue in the celebration of
the liturgy. Both requests were refused, as had
previously been the case in 1606 with the Malabar^
rites in India, when referred to the Holy See for
consideration : at that time the Jewish inscriptions
in K'ai-feng Fu had not yet been translated, or
even perhaps read ; but the example of the
Nestorians at any rate was before the prudent
Jesuits, who probably judged rightly that it was
necessary to compound for a little time with
dogma if success in China was to be general :
the Chinese literates are past masters in the art
of diluting statements of positive belief or positive
fact, as is evidenced by the way in which Taoism
and Confucianism are ingeniously blended with
the Western relig"ions.

1 Mention has already been made of missions from the Erkuns
or Arkons of Quilon. However, the further question of Malabar
Christians does not fall within the scope of this Chinese enquiry.

Su'ipa ;U Tcking, near the old Kdiiian Catholic Cathedral
in the I'alace (irounds.

[To face p. 198.


Ricci had been of opinion that these ancestral
functions, which our first chapter shows to have
been from all time of the essence of State teaching,
were merely civil rites, and should therefore be
allowed to such as abandoned the worship of "idols"
and embraced the Christian religion. Longobardi,
however, considered that such rites could in no
way be permitted without serious injury to religion.
Thus the Jesuits themselves had not by any
means been at one on this important subject ; yet
it is probable that their Italian suppleness would
have discovered a suitable formula had it not
been for the hot and uncompromising zeal of
the Spanish Dominicans and Franciscans, who
unanimously condemned the rites. After his
expulsion from Fuh Kien in 1643, P- John
Baptist Morales hastened home to represent these
rites to the Pope as tainted with superstition ;
Innocent X. accepted this view, and ordered all
missionaries also to observe and accept it until it
should otherwise appear good to himself and to
the Apostolic See. The Jesuits, considering that
the Pope had not had the full arguments fairly
laid before him, despatched P. Martini to convince
the Propaganda that these rites were really mere
civil forms, as originally defined by Ricci.
Alexander VII. now allowed this contrary view.
As the dispute still went on, it was decided by
Clement IX. in 1669 that both the decrees held
good, but that their application must be regulated
according to specific circumstances. As things were


still uncomfortable, Innocent XI. and Innocent XII.
sent out Bishop Charles Maigrot of the Missions
Etrangeres to try and restore peace amongst the
rival missionaries; in 1693 1^^ ordered that the
term Lord of Heaven should be exclusively used
for " God " to the exclusion of the (more ancient)
terms " Emperor-of- Above " and "Heaven"; that
the tablets inscribed "in veneration of Heaven"
should be removed from churches : he laid down
that some of the arguments submitted to Alexander
VII. were untrue; and that his decree must not
be taken to allow to Christians ancestral or
Confucian worship, or the half-yearly official
ceremonies in connection therewith.

Thus the grround was once more shifted, and
"discretion" had little chance to compromise. In
reply to the fresh Jesuit appeal of 1698, Innocent
XII. had remitted the matter to the Inquisition:
meanwhile, to strengthen their position, the Peking
Jesuits adopted the serious political step of inviting
the Emperor K'ang-hi to state his royal views.
These were that the rites in question were
free from all superstition and idolatry. In 1704
Bishop Tournon was sent to Peking as Special
Legate, but the Emperor having meanwhile learnt
that the decision was likely to go against him,
and having found Maigrot, whom he summoned
before him, too independent for his taste, and too
exigent in the Pope's interest, grew exasperated ;
after some angry recriminations he drove him
out of China (1706). The disappointed Legate on


his part also left Peking, and proclaimed the same
year at Nanking the final constitution of Clement
XL, ordering the universal obedience of all mission-
aries and Christians under pain of excommunication ;
and their submission to the new apostolic constitu-
tion issued in accordance with the spirit of Maigrot's
mandate. On this the Emperor ordered him to
be delivered into the custody of the Portuguese
at Macao, where he was treated with such indignity
that he ultimately died there in 17 10. Visdelou,
the next Vicar- Apostolic, had to repair to India,
and was unable to live in China at all ; for the
Emperor had resolved that no one in future should
preach the Gospel without his licence, which again
would not be granted to any one who should either
disapprove the ancestral rites or ever contemplate
leaving China for Europe. The Jesuits were
the only missionaries who applied for licences ;
but, on the other hand, after some further protests,
they accepted with full submission the decrees of
the Apostolic See {17 10). In 1721 the Legate
Mezzobarba arrived in Peking, and endeavoured by
arguments to induce the triumphant Emperor to
allow Chinese Christians to obey the pontifical
decrees ; but as Maigrot had already in 1 706
made the fatal mistake of telling the Emperor that
he was "no judge in the cause, the solution of
which lay solely with the Pope," he had no success
in his attempt to veer the irate monarch. From
Macao h3 issued the same year a pastoral letter
"conceding certain points"; but this vacillation


and arrogation of power to himself only aroused
further dissension among the missionaries, and
was besides disavowed by Clement XII. in
1735. At last his successor, Benedict XIV., by
his Bull Ex quo singulari reviewed and clinched
the whole unfortunate business by prescribing an
oath for all at any time engaged in the China
mission work ; demanding the most complete and
absolute observance, under the severest spiritual
penalties, of everything contained in that his
constitution, prohibiting the rites in every sense
without qualification or concession of any kind.

War was now declared with a vengeance against
the Church; the old Emperor had died in 1721,
and his son, who was a good man, but personally
rather inclined towards Taoist mysticism, initiated
a steady persecution of the Christians ; he wrote
several "orders" directly to Pope Benedict XIII.,
making it quite plain that he intended to be sole
master in his own empire ; he was all the more
embittered against religion in that his own brother
was caught intriguing with one John Morao, and
"disobeying national custom in order to follow
the teaching of outlandish bonzes " — exactly what
had happened, as already related, when the first
Buddhists came in a.d. 67. Over 300 churches
were either promptly destroyed or converted into
pagan temples ; it was only their mathematical
science and general usefulness that exempted a
handful of missionaries from exile. Persecutions
continued under the reign of the next emperor,


K'ien-lung, perhaps the cleverest man who ever
reigned over China ; he was not disposed to
tolerate the intermeddling of any priests — Taoists,
Buddhists, or otherwise — in the affairs of his State.
In the year 1773 the Society of Jesus was abolished
altogether by Clement XIV., and the members of
their China Mission were now compelled to bend
the neck and work as secular priests under ordinary
episcopal jurisdiction. Two years later the splendid
Peking cathedral was destroyed by fire ; but
K'ien-lung was sufficiently broad-mindeci to sub-
scribe towards a new one ; in fact he, like his
predecessors and successors, would have ''lived
and let live," had the missionaries been content
to respect the law of China. The first Lazarist
bishop, Mgr. Raux, arrived there in 1784, and
ever since that the Peking cure has been in the
hands of the Mission Congregation, as the Lazarists
are officially termed.

The rest of the history of Catholic Missions
in China down to the English war of 1842 and
the opening of five treaty ports is a somewhat
monotonous though, of course, sad repetition of
" martyrdoms " (being caught), " persecutions "
(enforcement of the law), and hide-and-seek. The
French Revolution did not improve matters for
them, as may be supposed, and the missions were
reduced to great extremities. Louis XVIII.
revived the abolished societies of the Missions
Etrangeres, St. Lazare, and the St. Esprit
(1815-1816); and in 1842 the Jesuits, whose


Society had been restored by Pius VII. in 1814,
were entrusted with the Nanking mission, where
they still are at work. Gregory XVI. divided
China, including Manchuria and Mongolia, into a
number of Vicariats-Apostolic, over which he placed
bishops in partibus, nominally under the real See of
Macao. After the English war, Louis Philippe sent
an envoy to China, and an edict favourable to
Christianity was obtained ; but the unsatisfactory

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Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 14 of 23)