On 29 September 1584, the first Catholic catechism was printed in China under the title The True Record of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shilu 天主實錄). Written primarily by the Jesuit missionary Michele Ruggieri (1543–1607) with the assistance of at least two other Jesuits and Chinese interpreters, the catechism inaugurated the rich cultural exchange between China and Europe for which the Jesuit China mission would be renown. Despite the pioneering role of this catechism, it has been viewed for the most part by posterity as a pale forerunner of the later catechism by Ruggieri’s confrère, Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shiyi 天主實義). This article attempts to skirt the anachronistic comparison with Ricci’s Tianzhu Shiyi by proposing the Tianzhu Shilu as an autonomous text expressive of a cogent strategy for tailoring Western scholasticism to the contingencies of the Chinese cultural context.
The Mingli Tan is recognized as the first Chinese-language treatise introducing Western logic in China. First published in the final years of the Ming dynasty, the work was presented to Emperor Kangxi in 1683. Despite its sophisticated thought and innovation, the work failed to gain support among intellectuals and court officials. By analyzing the objectives of the Mingli Tan in tandem with its companion work, the Coimbra commentary, this paper explores some of the important philosophical, pedagogical, and historical reasons that can help to explain this failure. Through this historical failure, we can gain some insights about the nature of logic and its current position in China.
Translator Casey Lee
The ancient Chinese people believed that they existed at the center of the world. With the arrival of Buddhism in China came a new cosmic worldview rooted in Indian culture that destabilized the Han [huaxia 華夏] people’s long-held notions of China as the Middle Kingdom [Zhongguo 中國] and had a profound influence on medieval Daoism. Under the influence of Buddhist cosmology, Daoists reformed their idea of Middle Kingdom, for a time relinquishing its signification of China as the center of the world. Daoists had to acknowledge the existence of multiple kingdoms outside China and non-Han peoples [manyi 蠻夷] who resided on the outskirts of the so-called Middle Kingdom as potential followers of Daoism. However, during the Tang dynasty, this capacious attitude ceased to be maintained or passed on. Instead, Tang Daoists returned to a notion of Middle Kingdom that reinstated the traditional divide between Han and non-Han peoples.
Translator Kathryn Henderson
The Abbey Celebrating the Tang [Qingtang guan 慶唐觀], a Daoist temple on Mount Longjiao in southern Shanxi Province, played a special role in the religious history of China in the Tang dynasty. Because of the myth that Laozi himself emerged from this mountain during the war to found the Tang state, this abbey was closely linked to the political legitimation of the Tang. Even plants in this abbey were regarded as the harbingers of the fate of the state. The emperor Xuanzong erected a huge stele in the Abbey Celebrating the Tang, demonstrating the support enjoyed from the royal house. Images of the six emperors, from Tang Gaozu to Xuanzong, were also held in the abbey. After the collapse of the Tang dynasty in 907, the Abbey Celebrating the Tang lost its political, legitimizing privileges, but its connection with the local community continued to develop well into the Song, Liao, Jin, and later dynasties. The creation and transformation of the Abbey Celebrating the Tang not only show the political influence of popular religion in ancient medieval China but also provide an interesting case of how a Daoist temple grew in popularity and prestige after it lost favor with the state.
This paper, unlike scholars who ascribe to it a copy theory of meaning, argues that the logic of the Xici is best described through “philosophy’s linguistic turn,” specifically Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms. Cassirer’s concept of the symbol as a pluralistic, constitutive, and functional yet concrete and observable form, is comparable to the symbolic system in the Xici 系辭: xiang 象, gua 卦, yao 爻, and yi 易. Their similarity is due to a shared philosophical orientation: humanism. The characteristics of the Xici—the part-whole (structuralist) relationship typical of correlative cosmology, the simultaneously sensuous and conceptual nature of its symbols, the stress on order as opposed to unity, and the importance of symbols per se—for Cassirer are characteristics that were only possible in European intellectual history after a substance ontology was replaced by a functional one. For Cassirer, a functional ontology is closely associated with a humanism that celebrates creations (i.e., language) of the human mind in determining reality. This humanism is coherent with the intellectual context—Confucian humanism—contemporary with the period of the Xici’s composition. It would thus be inconsistent to concede this humanism to the Xici without also conceding that its understanding of the symbols is akin to that of the linguistic turn. Finally, even regardless of this comparative framework, the Xici runs into a paradox if we read it through a copy theory of meaning, paradoxes that immediately dissolve if we read it through the paradigm of the linguistic turn.
Translator Caterina Weber
Translator Casey Lee
During the Six Dynasties period, the cultural landscape of the mountains underwent a transformation. Most notable among these were the appearance of monasteries and Daoist temples as well as the system of immortals’ grottos and estates that accompanied the latter. Because of this shift, mountains began to constitute a special religious and cultural space. Two factors contributed to this shift. The first was religious, specifically, the movement of Daoist and Buddhist practice into mountain retreats. The second was political, namely, how political power was shaped by new geopolitical configurations centered on the city of Jiankang (Nanjing). With these two factors at work, a new cultural form and spatial configuration emerged from the mountains that reflects the intimate relationship between the Six Dynasties politics, society, and culture.