The Great Encounter of China and the West

Topics: Confucianism, China, Han Chinese Pages: 5 (1524 words) Published: December 2, 2006
The Great Encounter of China and the West

When the Chinese and Europeans first came into contact with each other, there was a mutual fascination for the other's culture, or way of life. The Chinese began to look at the European culture. They became interested in Western thinking. They were also beginning to look at the religion that the European missionaries were preaching about, Christianity. On the other end, the Europeans who came in contact with the Chinese were fascinated by their culture and their philosophy, mainly the philosophy of Confucius. While the two cultures seemed to be a good match, each respecting and admiring the other, it came to an abrupt halt. The end result was China and Europe both rejecting the other culture.

During the 1500-1800s many of the Western religions sent over many missionaries to reach out to the Chinese people. The religion credited with the biggest response and following was the Jesuits. The Jesuits had a different way of approaching religion in China. They decided to blend their religion, Christianity with the Chinese philosophy of Confucianism. This new "mixed" religion criticized Buddhism and Daoism. Furthermore, the Jesuits had innate understanding and reverence for the Chinese culture, so much so that it willingly collaborated with Chinese literati. Chinese literati were the intellectuals of China that were in the educated class. The Jesuits tolerated many indigenous Chinese cultural elements. This produced a negative affect within the European Christians.

Other forms of religion included the Franciscans, who emphasized submission and martyrdom and The Confraternity of the Passion, which focused on the pain that Christ underwent during his time of crucifixion. These groups began to have secret meetings, which turned out to be a dangerous idea due to the fact that they became linked with the White Lotus Society. The White Lotus Society was a group of peasants who got together to engage in illegal activities and shared a quasi-Buddhist teaching. Secret meetings were also linked with up rises.

Over the course of time, the literati's interest in Christianity weakened. But in contrast, the anti-Christian movement grew rapidly in China during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There were many reasons the Chinese began to reject Christianity and the Western way of thinking. Skepticism, ethnocentrism, fear of subversion, concern for the harmony of nature, fear of seduction of women, and even the belief that the European missionaries were practicing some form of alchemy.

In China, there was a feeling of skepticism and agnosticism based on the blending of the Christian and Confucian religions. Unfortunately for the Jesuits, there was a lot of religious skepticism in Confucianism that caused many literati to reject the supernatural elements of Christianity such as the many miracles preformed by Christ and his disciples, the virgin birth, the resurrection and others.

Ethnocentrism, or the belief that the Chinese culture was superior to other cultures, also caused a clash among the civilizations. They believed that in order for something to be true, it must be passed down from their ancestors. For something to be factual, it had to have a sense of tradition behind it.

The Chinese lived in a constant state of fear that their government would be undermined or overthrown. The local missionaries were foreign to the Chinese, and already the missionaries had a connection with the Portuguese and Dutch traders on the southeast coast of China. The damage to China's shipping trade was a sizeable amount. This is yet another reason why the Chinese began to distance themselves from the European culture.

The Chinese also believed in fengshui, or the balance and harmony based on how buildings were built, and where they were placed. If a building was built in such a way that it was in balance with nature, then everything would be peaceful. But if a building was out of place or...
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