A Reflection of the Interactions between Christianity and China

Wednesday
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised by Marco Lazzarotti
  • Marco Lazzarotti, “Rituals Encounters and Cultural Dialogue: Two Taiwanese Case Studies”
  • Nikolay Samoylov, “Models of Transmission: Unique Example of Cooperation and Interaction of Various Christian Denominations in Evangelisation of China”
  • Raissa De Gruttola, “Transmitting Christianity in China through Written Texts: History and Linguistic Features of the Sigao shengjing 思高聖經”
  • Magdaléna Rychetská, “Cooperation or Resistance? Christian Mission in Authoritarian Chinese Societies”

The history of evangelisation in China has witnessed divergent developments according to the approaches used by the different Churches and, within the same Church, by different religious orders. Despite this difference, all the missionaries who have worked—and are working—in China have clashed with what Eric Zurcher defined as the “Cultural Imperative” of Chinese Culture. To deal with this Cultural Imperative, the missionaries have constantly sought the best way to transmit the Gospel by adapting it to the local culture without distorting it. Transmission is here conceived with a broad meaning, considering that this concept can be declined as cultural transmission, as well as historical or linguistic transmission. Moreover, the panel will try to place the transmission model in a wider and more complex context, namely the dialogic one. Within the dialogic approach, the papers will try to answer the following questions: How has the message been preserved in the transition from one culture to another? How much have loyalty and the effort to preserve the integrity of the message influenced its reception by the Chinese people? This Panel aims to present some examples of how the transmission of the Christian message has adapted in China during different historical periods and according to the reactions of the local people and the political situation.

Marco Lazzarotti, “Rituals Encounters and Cultural Dialogue: Two Taiwanese Case Studies”

This paper looks at two case studies of the way in which the Catholic Church in Taiwan has adapted to the local culture. The author describes two funerals set in the same parish in Taipei but performed very differently to meet the needs of the participants. The author analyses these funeral ceremonies as an encounter between cultures that he looks at the exchange of religions. Culture is analysed according to the anthropology of Clifford Geertz, whilst religious dialogue is presented according to two documents issued by the Vatican in 1984 (Dialogue and Mission) and 1991 (Dialogue and Proclamation). Particular attention is drawn to the role of a third party in any dialogue, in the case here, those non-Catholics who did not accept Catholicism.  The person as the place where dialogue is carried out is very important. The paper concludes that in Taiwan there is reciprocal interpretation of two cultural systems. In dialogue, people find the symbols which give meaning to their everyday life. The symbols of one cultural system slowly penetrate and root themselves in another, and vice versa. It is this endless (re)interpretation, negotiation, and accommodation that is called cultural dialogue.

Nikolay Samoylov, “Models of Transmission: Unique Example of Cooperation and Interaction of Various Christian Denominations in Evangelisation of China”

Different translations of the Bible played a great role in the history of Evangelisation in China. The main task of translators was to transmit the Gospel by adapting it to the traditional Chinese culture without distorting it.
The paper focuses on the translation of Gospel of St. Matthew made in 1822 and printed 1833–1835 by Stepan Lipovtsov, who before that was a member of the staff of the 8th Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Beijing (1794–1807), together with George Henry Borrow, an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, who for that purpose came to St. Petersburg. In their work, Lipovtsov and Borrow also used a translation of the Old Testament made by a French Catholic missionary Louis Antoine de Poirot in the late 18th century. While working on the translation they took into consideration the understanding of Chinese culture accumulated by Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic missionaries and the experience of the previous translations, thereby being able to adapt the Holy Writ to the traditional Chinese and Manchu realities. In the second half of the 19th-century, translations of the Gospel by Stepan Lipovtsov were actively used in Evangelisation of the peoples in the North-Eastern part of the Qing Empire
The paper is based on unique documents found in Russian archives and libraries revealing new data for the reconstruction of the joint work of Lipovtsov and Borrow and the adaptation of the text of the Gospel to the realities of the 19th century Qing Empire.

Raissa De Gruttola, “Transmitting Christianity in China through Written Texts: History and Linguistic Features of the Sigao shengjing 思高聖經”

Despite the presence of Christian missionaries in China dates back to the end of the thirteenth century, at the beginning of the twenty-first century the Chinese Catholics did not have a complete translation of the Bible in the Chinese language. Up to the end of the nineteenth century, the role of the Bible in the evangelisation methods of the Catholics was not central while, on the contrary, when Protestant missionaries arrived in China, their main task was that of translating the Bible in Chinese. On the Catholic side, notwithstanding the precious and copious writing and translating activity of the Jesuits who published and distributed many books in Chinese in the seventeenth century, particular relevance was given to oral preaching and to the use of texts as catechisms, collections of biblical episodes, lives of saints, and prayer books.
In 1931 the Franciscan missionary Gabriele Allegra arrived in China and decided to translate the complete Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek texts into the Chinese language. Eleven volumes were published between 1946 and 1961, and the single volume was published in 1968. This version, known as the Sigao shengjing, is the one still used today in the Catholic liturgy.
The aim of this proposal is to analyse the features of this first complete Catholic Bible version in Chinese and to present the translating solutions of some peculiar words and key concepts. The study will give an outline of the linguistic choices made to transmit the Catholic doctrine to Chinese people from the second half of the twenty-first century.

Magdaléna Rychetská, “Cooperation or Resistance? Christian Mission in Authoritarian Chinese Societies”

In Chinese societies, Christianity is a foreign religious system that historically came to these Chinese societies together with colonial rules. Even today, some Chinese refer to Christianity as yangjiao 洋教, a term meaning a foreign religion. The paper is interested in political and social cooperation and negotiation of the observed Christian groups in the selected environment. The two different settings are the contemporary People´s Republic in China (1945–now) ruled by the communist government and the Republic of China in Taiwan during the period of martial law (1949–1987). The paper does not only confirm the domination-resistance model of church-state relations but instead focused on what different means are available for the religious groups during the process of negotiations. The paper is interested in how Christian churches attempt to protect and promote their interests in authoritarian Chinese societies. I argue that religious specialists established in an authoritative Chinese environment have to face at least two types of pressure—demands of an authoritarian rule and a social pressure requiring their assimilation to the local culture. One of the main interests of both mentioned churches is to create a well-established mission and stable parishes. The findings suggest that to accomplish their objective, the churches have for a long time endeavoured to localise the church (bendihua 本地化) and to create a bond between Christian beliefs and the local culture. Another part of the adaptation to the local environment is also to cooperate with the government.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room 4
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