This Suffering Is My Joy: The Underground Church in Eighteenth-Century China (2021)

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David Mungello, This Suffering Is My Joy: The Underground Church in Eighteenth-Century China

Lanham (Maryland, USA): Rowman & Littlefield, March 2021,

186 p., ISBN 978-1-5381-5029-0 .


(Publisher’s description:) Tracing the little-known history of the first underground Catholic church in China, noted scholar D. E. Mungello illuminates the period between the imperial expulsion of foreign Christian missionaries in 1724 and their return with European colonialism in the 1800s. Few realize that this was the first time in which Chinese, rather than Europeans, came to control their own church as Chinese clergy and lay leaders maintained communities of clandestine Catholics.

Mungello follows the church in a time of persecution, focusing in particular on the role of Chinese clergy and lay leaders in maintaining communities of clandestine Catholics during the eighteenth century. He highlights the parallels between the 1724 and 1951 expulsions of missionaries from China, the first driven by a Chinese imperial system and the second by a revolutionary Communist government. The two periods also reflected foreign bias against the Chinese priests and laity and questions about their spiritual depth and constancy. However, Mungello shows that the historical record of incarcerated and interrogated Christians reveals a spiritually inspired resistance to government oppression and a willingness to  suffer, often to the point of martyrdom.

Table of contents:

List of Illustrations / Acknowledgments / Author’s Note

1 The Underground Church in China

Historical background. // The auspicious beginning of Catholicism in China.

The eighteenth-century crisis.

2 Matteo Ripa’s Attempt to Establish a School for Chinese Priests in China 

Fr. Matteo Ripa’s spiritual vision. // Ripa’s journey to China.

Ripa at the Chinese court. // Ripa’s first school for boys.

Opposition to Ripa’s school. // Ripa departs Beijing with five Chinese.

The journey from Guangzhou (Canton) to London and Naples.

3 Founding of the Chinese College for Priests in Naples

Financial struggles in founding the Chinese College.

The first Chinese College graduates return to China.

Problems with Chinese students in Naples.

More students arrive from China. // Lucio Wu as Ripa’s “perpetual cross to bear”.

Lucio’s second flight and imprisonment in Castel Sant’Angelo.

4 Racial and Cultural Tensions between Chinese and European Priests 

Fr. Filippo Huang in China. // Fr. Huang’s struggles as a missionary in Northern Shanxi.

Growing tensions between Chinese and European priests.

Anti-Christian movement (“Great Persecution”) of 1784.

5 Emergence of the Underground Church

The underground Church in Japan. // The formation of Chinese Jesuit priests.

Chinese priests and catechists in Sichuan.

The formation of Chinese underground priests.

Christian virgins (chaste women) in Sichuan. // Chinese priests in Jiangnan.

6 European and Chinese Forms of Martyrdom

Sacrifice and martyrdom among Chinese priests and catechists.

Indigenous Chinese Catholic leadership.

Mendicant martyrdoms. // Chinese Christian martyrdoms.


Bibliography, Index.



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