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Christian Missions in Japan and China Essay

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Updated: May 16th, 2021

Japanese Mission

The first missionary who came to convert the Japanese to Christianity was Francis Xavier (1506-1552). He was a major political figure, as well as the founder of the order of the Jesuits. In 1549 Xavier and the Japanese Anjiro arrived in the southern city of Kagoshima. Living at Anjiros, Francis baptized him and his family. The number of converts increased when he visited Yamaguchi and Kyoto. For several decades, members of Christ’s Society converted about 300,000 Japanese to their faith.

The history of Christianity in Japan is full of blood and torment. In 1857 Toyotomi Hideyoshi arrested 26 Catholics. These people were executed. The massacre of Christians continued under Tokugawa Ieyasu, who completed the unification of the country and became famous for the killings of the infidels, who were forced to hide. Those who refused to step on the copper plate with the image of the Mother of God were brutally killed. Christianity was banned in Japan for another 250 years, although secret Christian communities continued to exist in the country. Japan remained closed to foreigners – primarily to missionaries.

Chinese Mission

The first known Catholic missionaries who arrived in China were members of the order of the Conventuals. In 1234 they founded the first Catholic mission in Beijing. The work of missionaries begins to bring results, and by the end of the century, there were about 30 thousand Catholics in China. At the same time, the process of Christianization of the indigenous population is complicated and until the second half of the XVI century, it remains very static.

A new impetus in the development of Catholicism in China is associated with the activities of the Society of Jesus. In 1579, the famous Jesuit Alessandro Valignano founded the mission of order in the country. Soon, the Italian Matteo Ricci came there and became the central figure in the development of Chinese Christianity of that era. In 1784, the activities of the Society of Jesus in China were officially banned, which, however, did not prevent it from working on a semi-legal basis.

At the end of the century, the persecution of Catholics intensified, but the heroism of priests and laity, as well as support from the West, helped the Church in China not only to maintain influence but also to continue developing. The fact that the Christian faith was established in China and persistently existed in Japan for many years proves that the missions were not in vain.

The Question

The rapid spread of the faith and the sharp reaction of the Japanese government contrasts with the long and difficult introduction of Christianity but relatively little resistance in China. Does it have to do with the difference in mentality of both countries at that time, or is the opposite reaction to Christianity due to the specific historical situation? The issue is important from a cultural point of view.

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1. IvyPanda. "Christian Missions in Japan and China." May 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christian-missions-in-japan-and-china/.


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IvyPanda. "Christian Missions in Japan and China." May 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christian-missions-in-japan-and-china/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Christian Missions in Japan and China." May 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christian-missions-in-japan-and-china/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Christian Missions in Japan and China'. 16 May.

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