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Christian Missions in Early Modern Japan and China Essay

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Updated: Apr 28th, 2021

The Christian missions in Japan in the Early Modern period

Сhapter 11 of “A companion to the Early Modern Catholic global missions” focuses on Christian missionary enterprises in Japan during Early Modern times. Japan was in the midst of a civil war at the time, which created an opportunity for Portugal to trade firearms. As they established trade with Japanese people, Jesuit missionaries also arrived in Japan, attempting to preach the Christian faith to native people (Antoni & Ucerler, 2018). They built Jesuit churches and schools, as well as a college to educate Christian priests, thus officially initiating Christianity in Japan (Antoni & Ucerler, 2018). The new religion gained some powerful supporters among Japanese lords, which enabled cross-cultural collaboration during the missions.

The collaboration ended when Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered to expel Jesuits from Japan after suspecting them of interfering with the political landscape of the country. This marked the beginning of the war on Christianity, which led to the expulsion and execution of many Christians. After Christianity was officially banned, most Christian churches and institutions were destroyed. By 1643, all Japanese people had to carry a document confirming their registration at a temple (Antoni & Ucerler, 2018). The last Christian missionary to arrive in Japan during the Early Modern period was Giovanni Battista Sidotti, who was imprisoned immediately after landing (Antoni & Ucerler, 2018). Despite the lack of official missions after that, some Japanese people continued to practice Christianity secretly. The history of Christian missionary efforts in Japan during the Early Modern period shows the interconnectedness of politics and religion and the instability of the international political climate at the time.

Imperial China and the Christian mission

Chapter 12 discusses Christian Missions in Imperial China which originated in the second half of the 16th century. The first Christian missionary to arrive in China was Matteo Ricci (Hsia, 2018). After his death, more Jesuits were summoned to the Emperor’s court and remained there until 1661, when tensions between the Chinese government and Jesuits became prominent. The tensions subsided after Kangxi came to power in 1664, as he helped to recover Jesuits’ image as men of science and facilitated the development of the Christian faith in China (Hsia, 2018). The situation changed again in 1715 when Kangxi prohibited Chinese people from practicing Christianity. However, missionaries were allowed to stay in China and practice their faith, although they now had to obtain certification from the government (Hsia, 2018). Kangxi’s grandson set out on an anti-Christian mission, sending all Christians into exile or to prisons. Nevertheless, small Christian communities remained active despite the efforts, although they had to practice in secret.

References

Antoni, M., & Ucerler, S. J. J. (2018). The Christian missions in Japan in the Early Modern period. In R. P.C. Hsia (Ed.), A companion to the Early Modern Catholic global missions (vol. 80, pp. 303-343). Boston, MA: Brill.

Hsia, R. P.C. (2018). Imperial China and the Christian mission. In R. P-C. Hsia (Ed.), A companion to the Early Modern Catholic global missions (vol. 80, pp. 344-364). Boston, MA: Brill.

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IvyPanda. "Christian Missions in Early Modern Japan and China." April 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christian-missions-in-early-modern-japan-and-china/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Christian Missions in Early Modern Japan and China." April 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christian-missions-in-early-modern-japan-and-china/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Christian Missions in Early Modern Japan and China'. 28 April.

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