Dissertation > History, geography > History of China > Feudal society ( 475 BC - AD 1840 ) > Sui and Tang period ( 581 ~ 1840 ) > (1368 to 1663 ) > Wanli to Chongzhen (1573 ~ 1644 )

Xu Guangqi in the Tension of Confucianism and "Celestial Science"

Author LiChunYan
Tutor YuShuo
School Northeast Normal University
Course History of Ancient China
Keywords Xu Guangqi Missionaries Confucianism Celestial Science Tension
CLC K248.3
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Xu Guangqi (1562一1633 ) was a well-known scholar in the late Ming Dynasty, who was Minister of Rites, scientists, thinkers, and catholics in one. He was one of a great achievement of the scientists in our history and was one of forerunners of the modern science in China. Many scientific and technologic disciplines were introduced and established by him. We know well his outstanding contributions in sciences and technologies. We know he was concerned about the reality as a self-consummation politician who reformed affairs of empireto consolidate Ming Dynasty, who introduced Western knowledge in order to change academic style, to consolidate the empire being wealthy and powerful.However Xu Guangqi had an essential turning point in his life after he has had a substantial contact with westerners. After more than ten years of observation and experience, he finally choose a foreign belief and was baptized as Catholic. Historians think he was one of the most important Catholic founders in China; Catholic world considers him with Li Zhizao and Yang Tingjun as "the Three Great Pillars of Chinese Catholicism ". He also embodied the Confucian philosophy in Ming Dynasty, the European spirit of modern science in the late Renaissance and the ancient Catholic faith. These different cultural factors, both at the time of the literati or for today’s social elite, seem to be irreconcilable. And it is those heterogeneous factors that formed an enormous tension of his personality, also inspire my research interests. At his time most of the literati had very different points of view on the Roman Catholicism, Xu Guangqi’s maverick must have its specific conditions and the mental itinerary.But what are the factors which contributed to his unique personality attributes? What are the forces that made the Minister of rites to the first rank of Ming Empire accept the foreign sermons and firmly believe in whole life? How formed his spiritual tension between the requirement of rational scientific objectivity and the "blind obedience" of religious subjectivity? In this study, I try basing on Xu Guangqi’s works, describe his spiritual experiences, leading us with him back to historical presence, the late Ming society, and therefore we together review the first encounter between China and the West and their spiritual collision. Although my own theoretical ability and knowledge are insufficient, but I hope to be as faithful as possible with the historical text so that to restore this great man as one of our reference today in thinking of spirituality.

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