Matteo Ricci and His Closest Chinese Friends
Chapter 8. The Many Kinds of Acceptance and Rejection: The Ideological Commitment of Yang Tingyun
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THE MANY KINDS OF ACCEPTANCE AND REJECTION
The Ideological Commitment of Yang Tingyun
Yang Tinyun was never as close to Ricci as Qu Taisu, Xu Guangqi, or Li Zhizao, but he and the Jesuit father knew each other and they were much more than mere acquaintances. They could have met for the first time in 1601 when Yang was in Beijing between two official assignments and Ricci had just arrived in the northern capital and was a major attraction of a sort. The unusual religious teaching of the Jesuit father could have won immediate empathy from Yang, but the secular learning of Ricci did not sweep him off his feet into a closer relationship as it did with Qu, Xu, and Li. In the seventeenth century Yang was already enshrined as one of the “firme and stable pillars, very proper to sustaine that infant Church,”1 but the fact of European science and mathematics drawing him apart from rather than close to Ricci has made him celebrated recently as “a religious man, a seeker after truth,”2 “a[n] anima naturaliter christiana,”3 “an ideal Catholic,”4 and “the most devout Christian convert.”5 From Qu, Xu, and Li, Yang was indeed different. However, the implicit use of this difference in recent scholarship to categorize him as “an experimental convert” (shiyanxing guiyi)6 who moved successively through Confucianism (Ru) and Buddhism (Chan) and finally found satisfaction in Christianity (Ye) is...
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