After about 400 years of study and research, Confucianism in the West is still a subject which only involves a small group of scholars. It is more than surprising when we actually realize how wide and deep is the effect of Confucianism on Chinese culture and society. More interesting, one reason that might explain the lack of cultural awareness is probably the great similarities between Confucianism and Christianity, without considering the differences inherent in the cultural and historical context. These convergences are not only due to their comparable profound and long lasting on society but rather because of their agreement de facto on the core of their doctrines. Even though he first came in China to evangelise people, in the sixteenth century, the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci learnt about Chinese culture in general in order to find the right words to convert Chinese people.
[...] Christianity was presented to the Chinese by Matteo Ricci as a moral philosophy, with an equally (if not more) ethical body of teachings as Confucianism, since he considered Confucian ethical ideas from contrary to Christian principles”. For him, Confucian teachings as filial piety, reciprocity and personal virtue had their place in the universal church of Christ, partly because “Confucian culture was too embedded to be displaced by Christianity”. He also made some adaptations to Christianity: for example, he avoided talking about original sin. [...]
[...] He came to the conclusion that Confucianism and Christianity had a lot in common. According to him, they should establish a dialogue from which they could not only benefit but learn a lot by nourishing each other. From his years spend in China , he came to the end that a Confucian- oriented Christian was most acceptable. More precisely, while trying to purify Confucianism, he saw its universal relevance and eventually tried to blend it with western faith. These conciliatory measures, if called so, result both from his wish to introduce Christianity more easily in China and the facts that he seemed to have been convinced by some aspects of Confucianism. [...]
[...] It is used to compare the two religions whereas Confucianism merely refers to the ideology developed by a man named Confucius whose importance and role cannot be compared with that of Jesus-Christ. The Chinese rather use the terms Ju-jia or Ju-jiao (respectively, the school or teachings of the scholars). Confucianism represents a teaching (jiao) with both religious and philosophical dimensions. It is a religion but of a different nature than Christianity. Whereas Christianity is a Theistic religion, thus places the Transcendent/ God at the centre, Confucianism is a humanistic religion since it places human beings at the centre. [...]
[...] For this reason, in at least two aspects, Confucianism could teach to Christianity: with the model of the family as a starting point to be then extended and with avoidance of hatred: contrary to the Christians' utopia to love one's enemy, the Confucians recommend to hate the sin rather than the person, which is more realistic. For this reason, Matteo Ricci found it relevant to blend the two thoughts, thinking they could improve reciprocally The two religions first met in 635 CE when the Nestorians visited China. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee