Scott W. Sunquist
Asian ecumenism began as a pragmatic concern of Western mission agencies, but was catalysed under the pressure of Japanese imperialism early in the twentieth century. National ecumenical organizations were promoted in the wake of the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, but with the dismantling of imperialism in Asia after the Pacific War, national and regional cooperation became the sole work of younger Asian leaders. Organic church unions occurred between the 1930s and 1960s, but this has not been a major theme of ecumenism in Asia. China is unique in the ecumenical movement in Asia because of the formation of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement as a way to negotiate a new place for the church in Chinese society. Ecumenism has once again become more pragmatic, and major ecumenical bodies (e.g. the Christian Conference of Asia) have become more focused on issues such as public health, disaster relief, and the environment.
Class apathy and a selective process of record keeping created fertile grounds for uprise in China. This article throws light on two of the earliest millennialist movements in China, namely, the Taiping Dao and the Wudoumi Dao movements that emerged from havoc, intending to create millennial commonwealth and practiced healing through confession. The Chinese Buddhist millennialism synthesized a modified version of the Indian concept of “kalpa” and the Buddhist teaching of the three ages where each age ends with the demise of a “Bodhisattva” and marks a decline based on the degeneration of Buddha's teachings. It states that the dark age graced by superhuman saviors shall witness the arrival of the Maitreya, the next Buddha incarnate. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) rhetoric about “a thousand years of prosperity” is also considered reflective of millennial views.
Christianity in China is a relatively new import from the West. During the seventeenth century, European missionary orders, especially the Jesuits and Dominicans, entered China and began impressive missionary efforts. However, a bitter “rites controversy” emerged between the Jesuits and the Dominicans over how much the Christian faith could be adapted to correspond to Chinese culture. In the early eighteenth century, the pope sided with the Dominicans, who rejected any compromise with Chinese religious practices. As a result, the emperor expelled missionaries and proscribed Christianity. The legacy of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century imperialism still affects Chinese Christian churches. A second important legacy of Christianity in contemporary China is the history of persecution under the Communist regime. Since Catholicism is heavily dependent on an ordained clergy, its growth in China is inhibited by the shortage of clergy. Various forms of Protestantism grow much more rapidly because they can depend on lay preachers.
Benoît Vermander SJ
Arriving in China at the end of the sixteenth century, Jesuit missionaries experimented with an inventive policy of accommodation that relied on the support and insights of converted literati. The viewpoints and information they forwarded to Europe had profound religious, cultural, and political repercussions. The resulting controversies proved divisive to the point of almost destroying the nascent Church. After 1842, the Second Jesuit Mission in China had to deal with the results of the semicolonial context in which it had developed. From 1949 onward, Jesuits of Chinese nationality—present since the beginning of the mission—had to take the lead at the very time when the country’s political and religious conditions were undergoing radical transformation. Present-day scholarship has engaged in a hermeneutical analysis of the relationship that developed between the Jesuits, on the one hand, and Chinese culture and society, on the other.