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ANCESTORS, VIRGINS, AND FRIARS: Christianity as a Local Religion in
Late Imperial China.
Cambridge / London: Harvard University Press, 2009, 450 pp.
Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, vol. 69
Hardcover edition ISBN 13: 978-0-674-03596-6 / ISBN 10: 0-674-03596-8
($49.95 / £36.95 / Euro 45.00)
Christianity is often praised as an agent of Chinese modernization or
damned as a form of cultural and religious imperialism. In both cases,
Christianity’s foreignness and the social isolation of converts have
dominated this debate. This book aims to uncover another story. In the
sixteenth century, European missionaries brought a foreign and global
religion to China. Converts then transformed this new religion into a
Focusing on the still-active Catholic communities of Fuan county in
northeast Fujian, this project addresses three main questions. Why did
people convert? How did converts and missionaries transform a global
and foreign religion into a local religion? What does Christianity’s
localization in Fuan tell us about the relationship between late
imperial Chinese society and religion?
The study’s implications extend beyond the issue of Christianity in
China to the wider fields of religious and social history and the
early modern history of global intercultural relations. The book
suggests that Christianity became part of a pre-existing pluralistic,
local religious space and, the author argues, that we underestimate
late imperial society’s tolerance for “heterodoxy.” The view from Fuan
offers an original account of how a locality created its own religious
culture in Ming-Qing China.
Short table of contents:
ch. 1 – Fuan Literati, Jesuits, and Spanish Friars, pp. 17-58
ch. 2 – Becoming Local: Conflict with Gods and Ancestors, 1634-1645,
ch. 3 – The Golden Age of Opportunity, 1645-1723, pp. 92-115
ch. 4 – Suppression and Persistence, 1723-1840s, pp. 116-153
ch. 5 – The Christians of Fuan, pp. 154-205
ch. 6 – Christian Religious Fellowship in Mindong: Priests, Rituals,
and Lay Institutions, pp. 206-259
ch. 7 – Filial Piety, Ancestral Rituals, and Salvation, pp. 260-300
ch. 8 – Virginity, Chastity, and Sex, pp. 301-356
Conclusion: Ruptures: Fuan After the Opium War, pp. 357-373
Reference Matter, pp. 377-450 (Notes, Bibliography, Index)
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