Ma Xiangbo and the Mind of Modern China 1840-1939

Ma Xiangbo and the Mind of Modern China 1840-1939

Ma Xiangbo and the Mind of Modern China 1840-1939

Ma Xiangbo and the Mind of Modern China 1840-1939

Excerpt

My interest in Ma Xiangbo goes back to the late seventies, when I was reflecting on a topic for a doctoral thesis, and came upon the story of the conflict between Ma and the French Jesuits at Aurora University (Zhendan) in 1905, which led to the creation of Fudan University. This story seemed to provide a kind of microcosm of the value conflicts between Chinese and European ideas of scholarship and scholarly institutions, and I can clearly remember the sense of intrigue it aroused in my mind. Since I was studying Comparative Education, rather than Sinology, I went on to pursue the broad theme of Western influences on the emergence of universities in China over the whole modern period in my doctoral thesis. However, I never lost interest in some of the specific details of the history of Zhendan and Fudan, and published one or two articles on how it illustrated some of the dilemmas surrounding the introduction of the Western concept of the university into Chinese cultural soil.

In 1997 I had the pleasure of meeting Father Edward Malatesta of the University of San Francisco, and he urged me to consider taking up the subject once again. As we discussed the many dimensions of Ma Xiangbo's long life, from 1840 to 1939, we realised that he could be seen as a kind of Xu Guangqi of the modern period, and that a careful study of his life and thought would be invaluable for understanding Chinese Catholic thought in the modern period. Whereas considerable research has been done around encounters between the 16th and 17th century Jesuits and the Chinese intellectual community, also around Protestant Christianity and its impact on Chinese intellectual life in the 19th and 20th centuries, there seemed to be little written on Catholicism in the modern period. This was partly due to the fact that 19th century Catholic missionaries were in many ways outshone by their Protestant contemporaries, also that few among them had the kind of vision for cultural cooperation that had characterized Matteo Ricci and his confrères and successors. However, Ma Xiangbo was a modern Catholic figure who been inspired by the work of the early Jesuits and their . . .

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