Chinese Thought in a Global Context: A Dialogue between Chinese and Western Philosophical Approaches

By Karl-Heinz Pohl | Go to book overview

TRANSPLANTING RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS OF MEANING -
MODES OF TRANSFERENCE
AND STRATEGIES OF ADAPTATION,
EXEMPLIFIED BY THE HISTORY OF BUDDHISM
IN THE WEST

MARTIN BAUMANN

During the 16th century, Jesuit missionaries employed various actions and expedient means in order to spread Roman Catholicism in China. Although the number of converted Chinese remained comparatively small, Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) made a great impression among Chinese intellectuals and literati. Ricci learnt to read and speak Chinese. He was most conversant with Chinese philosophy, studying the Confucian classics. Ricci used Confucian concepts and terms to express Christian ideas, thus enhancing and facilitating the mediation of Christian contents in alignment with Chinese understanding. In this way, Ricci made use of various strategies of adaptation, a point worked out with regard to the question of translatability of concepts in the article by Zhang Longxi in this volume.1

In this paper, the transplanting of religions and religious meaning systems shall take the reverse order, i.e., not travelling from the West to the East, but from the “Orient” to the “Occident.” The terminological specification, however, applies to both directions: A transplanted religious system of meaning shall encompass any religious tradition which is transferred from its home country to a new and culturally foreign environment. This process may be called transplantation, transmission, transference or, perhaps most appro-

1 Zhang, Longxi, Translating Cultures: China and the West (in this volume).
See also, among many, Young, John D., Confucianism and Christianity. The First
Encounter, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1983; Gernet, Jacques,
China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1985, and Spence, Jonathan D., The Memory Palace of Matteo
Ricci, London 1985.

-307-

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