The Chinese Rites Controversy: Its History and Meaning

Article excerpt

D.E.Mungello. Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 1994. Pp. x, 356. $40, DM 60.

The essays in this volume were first presented in 1992 by Chinese and Western scholars at a symposium coinciding with the three hundredth anniversary of the Kangxi emperor's Edict of Toleration for Christianity. They include a superb analysis of the repercussions of Charles Maigrot's fateful mandate against the Chinese rites of 1693, which formally inaugurated the most dramatic phase of the long-simmering controversy between the Jesuits and their mainly mendicant adversaries over the accommodation between Christianity and Confucianism, Chinese religion, and the worship of ancestors. Another valuable contribution sheds new light on the "fatal clash of wills" in 17067 between Rome's plenipotentiary, Cardinal de Tournon, and the Chinese emperor. The two essays on the Figurist ideas of Joseph Premare, S.J., and the substantial unpublished writings of Antoine de Beauvollier, S.J., reveal the complex nature of the Rites Controversy.

Special mention must be made of Erik Zurcher's remarkable contribution, for it is one the very few chapters that considers the essentially European Rites Controversy from a Chinese perspective. …