Erected in Chang’an (Tang Dynasty Capital) in 781
Matteo Ricci’s missionary strategy was based on a long-term vision, along with a willingness to acculturate and adapt Catholic teachings in light of prevalent Chinese norms and traditions. That meant presenting a form of Christianity that was not narrowly bounded by European culture. ... However, not everybody was in agreement with Ricci’s accommodationist stance. Some of his successors, and even more their competitors, adopted increasingly aggressive strategies of proselytization and did not shy away from directly confronting ingrained Chinese beliefs and prevalent cultural practices. These differences in missionary strategy gradually developed into a full-blown dispute within the Catholic Church, known as the “rites controversy,” which pitted the proponents of accommodation and acculturation against those who took the opposing view. ... Within the Chinese context, the main issue under debate was whether it was allowable for converts to continue with traditional Chinese (particularly Confucian) observances, such as paying respects to Confucius, conducting customary funeral ceremonies, and performing ancestral rites. ... In the end, the battle was won by the opponents of acculturation and accommodation. ... The intransigent and supercilious attitudes displayed by the Europeans led to an erosion of imperial support for the missions and alienated many among the Chinese literati. [Introducing Chinese Religions, 220-1]
Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860), when the Qing government was forced to end its isolationist policies and ease the restrictions on Western missionaries operating in China. ... The Protestant missionaries saw themselves as positive agents of change that brought to China the benefits of progress and civilization. ...
Some of the influences of Protestant Christianity and their intersections with local Chinese traditions are exemplified by the Taiping movement, whose rebellion against the imperial government in the mid-nineteenth century threatened to topple the Qing dynasty. ... Having read some Christian tracts and passages from the Bible, Hong Xiuquan supposedly had a series of mysterious visions, which he understood to mean that God charged him with combating deviancy, including the falsehoods taught by Confucius, and destroying demonic forms of worship. Later Hong sought religious instructions from an American Baptist missionary. Before long, he embarked on a religious vocation as a messianic figure, preaching to ever increasing crowds of followers drawn to his personal charisma and egalitarian message of hope and redemption. ... After careful military preparations, in 1850 Hong Xiuquan and his followers started an armed rebellion against the Qing government, which they perceived as a demonic power that had to be obliterated in order to establish their Heavenly Kingdom. ... By 1853 the rebels captured the ancient capital of Nanjing, which they renamed Heavenly Capital (Tianjing) and turned into their seat of government. From there they ruled a fairly large area that included much of southern China. ... The Western powers initially claimed neutrality in China’s civil war, even as many Westerners were sympathetically inclined towards the Taipings and their ideas, especially in light of their perceived connection with Christianity. However, the Western colonial nations eventually decided that their political and economic interests were better served by propping up the weakened Qing government, which was seen as being preferable to the zealous and unpredictable rebels. As they learned more about Hong and his followers, Westerners also became dismayed by their fanaticism and outlandish theological positions, as evident in Hong’s commentaries on the Bible. That led them to the conclusion that what he preached, after all, was not authentic Christianity. The combined Chinese and Western forces won a string of victories and finally recaptured Nanjing in 1864. In the wake of the final defeat, the Chinese son of God was said to have committed suicide, thus ending his dream of establishing a heavenly kingdom on earth. [Introducing Chinese Religions, 224-6]
The earliest Muslims to enter China were Persian and Arabic merchants and emissaries, who arrived via established trade networks in the seventh-century during the Tang dynasty. A major entry point was the southern seaport of Guangzhou, which was home to a large community of expatriates, although Muslims also came to other ports in the South or entered from the northwest by way of the Silk Road. ... While most of the Muslim merchants were transient visitors, some of them settled in China, joining the sizable communities of immigrants from East and West Asia that thrived in some cities. There they established the earliest Muslim communities in China. Like other foreigners, the Muslims were mostly separated from the Chinese population, although some Muslim men married Chinese women. The lines of demarcation between the Muslim and native populations were reinforced by governmental regulations, which stipulated that foreigners should live in restricted urban zones and trade at specially designated markets. Muslim merchants retained substantial presence in China throughout the Tang-Song transition, especially in large urban centers that were involved in international trade. ... Despite the growing Muslim presence during this period, the native Chinese population, including the sociopolitical elites, had limited exposure to Islam and showed little interest in learning about it. [Introducing Chinese Religions, 227-8]
Introducing Chinese Religions, 230-2]