The Great Encounter of China and the West
The book “The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800” was written by History Professor D.E.Mungello. His work provides us many information and ideas of the intercultural exchanges and interactions between Ming, Manchu and the West, through the last two dynasties of China. This book also shows us the acceptance and rejection of cultures, Christianity, and Confucianism of Chinese and Europeans. The book was divided into five chapters: (1) Historical Overview, (2) Chinese Acceptance of Western Culture and Christianity, (3) Chinese Rejection of Western Culture and Christianity, (4) European Acceptance of Chinese Culture and Confucianism, and (5) European Rejection of Chinese Culture and Confucianism.
China, with its history of more than four thousand years, always has a great national spirit. In fact, if you travel to China even nowadays, it is not easy for you to find a person who can speak English fluently. Chinese people speak Chinese language all the time as it is their pride. During the period between 1500 and 1800, the Western economy was in a strong and sustainable development with many technological achievements. At that time, Chinese people adopted many aspects of European culture and religion, however, they did not absorb totally. Chinese people still respected and preserved their national characters. The first arrival of the Europeans was like a new fresh breath of air to the Chinese.
They were interested in Western lifestyle and thoughts. They found out a mutual fascination for each other’s culture and religion. They started to get along with and admire each other. However, the road to assimilation was very abrupt. The result was both China and Europe rejecting the other culture and religion. Both cultures were so eager and attracted by the similarities of their moral teachings and philosophies. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was the founder of the Jesuit China mission, whose efforts were an inspiration to later Jesuits even though he was never able to penetrate into Mainland China.
The Jesuit China mission played a significant role in the transmission of learning, science achievements, cultures, and religions between The West and China. Xavier’s successor- the most famous Jesuit was an Italian Father- Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552-1610.) He arrived in Macau in 1582 and then became one of the founders of who led the Jesuit missionary movement in China at the end of the sixteen century. Matteo visited Zhaoqing and here he drew the very first world map in Chinese by using European Cartography. “Its use of Jesuit accommodation was shown in placing China near the center of the map, thereby accommodating the Sinocentric view of their country as the Middle Kingdom (Zhongguo.)”
Ricci was then allowed to enter the Forbidden City by the Ming Emperor- he became the very first Westerner who could have this special favor. Ricci had many opportunities to contact with many Chinese literati and he himself admired a lot of aspects of Chinese culture and nature, such as the enormous size, its populace, the diversity of its crops, its favorable climate, the industry of its people, and its Confucian morality. However, he was very critical of Buddhist and Daoist monks. As of the rules, they are not allowed to get married or have sexual interactions. That was why later Ricci changed his mind to the Chinese literati and Confucian scholars. Ricci also disagreed with the slavery system of China at that time. During three centuries, many of religions from Europe had sent over their missionaries to China.