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Seeking a fuller picture of China's missionary history

Study of Catholic mission work has for too long been lopsided towards Jesuits, some scholars said

Updated: August 08, 2017 10:10 AM GMT
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Seeking a fuller picture of China's missionary history

An exhibition on the history of the Paris Mission Society (MEP) that supported a conference at the Chinese University of Hong Kong which studied MEP's missionary history in China. (ucanews.com photo)

A recent academic conference on the missionary history of the Paris Mission Society (MEP) held in Hong Kong is part of filling in the gaps in understanding China's Catholic past.

Several scholars at the event — organized by the Catholic Studies Center of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Beijing Institute for the Study of Christianity and Culture — pointed out that the study on Catholic missionary history in China has been lopsided in favor of the Jesuits.

Father Louis Ha, director of the center, told ucanews.com that many scholars have focused their research interests on the Jesuits in the late Ming (1386-1688) and early Qing (1644-1912) dynasties.

Jesuits have merits "but there were other missionary societies which also have their merits that were oftentimes overlooked," Father Ha said.

Some historical Jesuits figures were famous even among non-Catholic Chinese, such as Matteo Ricci and Giuseppe Castiglione, both who served in the imperial court.

"If there is only research on the Jesuits, it could not give a comprehensive picture of the missionary history and Catholicism in China. So, this conference was a very innovative thing to do," said Father Ha.

The center has previously held seminars to introduce six to seven religious congregations and missionary societies in Hong Kong but this was the first time to have an event on one individual missionary society on their service and development in China.

The MEP entered China in 1658. It was one of the main evangelization forces of the Catholic Church in the country during the Ming and Qing dynasties. They reached as far as the southwestern Tibetan Plateau and mountainous regions in Guizhou and Yunnan provinces.

About 80 scholars and others from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and further abroad joined the conference held July 26-27.

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