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Christian Missions in Japan and Imperial China Essay

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Updated: May 16th, 2021

Introduction

The story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan had its ups and downs which mainly depended on the sociopolitical situation in the country. The first Jesuit missionaries who came to preach the Christian faith in Japan were brought on Portuguese ships during the Warring States period in Japan. The beginning of the Christian mission at that time was marked by errors and trials as Jesuits preached in a foreign language and did not adapt their mission to Japanese culture.

Main body

The fact that the mission was supported by Yamaguchi and Omura clan in the early stage might be explained by the economic prospects of Christianity. Soon after that Jesuits gained access to the capital which marked the beginning of an important development period in the history of Christianity in Japan. According to Po-Chia Hsia, during that period “several hundred were converted to Christianity” (310). Such success might be explained by adapting the mission to the Japanese realities, restructuring the Jesuit community, establishing schools to educate Japanese youth about Christianity, and introducing non-Western classics to Jesuits college.

However, at the beginning of the 17th century, the shoguns began to view Christianity as a threat to their power and ordered all Jesuits to leave Japan. Since then Jesuits had to move their residences in order not to be detected. The politically unstable situation, as well as the poverty of Christians, slowed down Jesuits’ missions. In 1614, the fight against Christianity began which included censorship of Christian books and pressuring Christians to apostatize. Since 1637, Christianity had been banned in Japan for about 250 years. Most Christians were executed or converted to Buddhism by force. Still, there were “underground Christians” who continued their mission even though it was prohibited.

Conclusion

New impetus to the development of Catholicism in China was associated with the missions of the Jesuits. In 1579, the famous Jesuit Alessandro Valignano founded the Jesuit mission in China. The Jesuits introduced the Chinese to the achievements of European civilization. Their authority allowed other Catholic missionaries to work freely throughout China for a century. The success of the Christian mission might be explained by the fact that “the Christian communities exhibited a strong sense of cohesion” (Po-chia Hsia 362).

But the activity of European preachers began to cause discontent both in the government and among the masses. In 1784, Jesuit activity in China was banned, but they continued to work on a semi-legal basis. At the end of the 18th century, the persecution of Catholics intensified, but their influence was still strong. [415]

Questions

What are the main reasons for the failures of Jesuits’ missions in their early stages? Which cultural, political, and economic aspects of Japan should have been taken into account by Jesuit missionaries when preaching the Christian faith? Which ideas and actions of Jesuits had not been adapted for the realities of Japan? [50].

Works Cited

Po-Chia Hsia, Ronnie. “The Christian Missions in Japan in the Early Modern Period.” A Companion to Early Modern Catholic Global Missions, vol. 80, 2018, pp. 303–344. Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition.

Po-Chia Hsia, Ronnie. “Imperial China and the Christian Mission.” A Companion to Early Modern Catholic Global Missions, vol. 80, 2018, pp. 344–364. Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition.

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IvyPanda. (2021, May 16). Christian Missions in Japan and Imperial China. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/christian-missions-in-japan-and-imperial-china/

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

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


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

References

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

References

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

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