Matteo Ricci and His Closest Chinese Friends
Chapter 3. Arousing Antagonism out of Buddhism: Matteo Ricci’s Deliberate Provocation in Tianzhu Shiyi
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AROUSING ANTAGONISM OUT OF BUDDHISM
Matteo Ricci’s Deliberate Provocation in Tianzhu Shiyi
As much as his ambiguous accommodation to Confucianism, Matteo Ricci’s open and unprovoked hostility toward Buddhism was a conspicuous feature of Tianzhu Shiyi. Closely connected and equally deliberate, these two maneuvers in making foes and friends respectively enacted in combination a three-pronged new evangelical policy which first crystalized around 1595 and which consisted in “rejecting Buddhism as a false religion, distinguishing ancient from modern Confucianism, and allying himself with the literati of ancient Confucianism.”1 Given the exclusive and intolerant nature of his European faith, it is understandable that he rejected the dress and hairstyle which he had adopted since 1583, but it is surprising that he concurrently campaigned publicly to denounce and destroy the one tradition of piety which most resembled Catholicism in its foreign origin, transcendental belief, institutional organization, and ceremonial rituals. Before 1595 Buddhism was not hostile to Christian evangelism, but after 1595, Ricci made it into what another Catholic missionary later called “the greatest Enemy.”2 Prominent and dramatic, Ricci’s reorientation of his proselytizing strategy in 1595 revealed his profound insight into the relationship of both competition and complement among native Chinese philosophical and religious traditions which he sought to utilize for his apostolic purposes, but it also exposed serious limitations of ← 63 | 64 → his cultural understanding because his high-profile acrimony against Buddhism did not and could not lead to the result which he...
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