Christian Communities in China

Richard Madsen

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Christian Communities in China

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  • Religion
  • Interfaith Relations
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  • East Asian Religions


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Christianity in China is a relatively new import from the West. During the seventeenth century, European missionary orders, especially the Jesuits and Dominicans, entered China and began impressive missionary efforts. However, a bitter “rites controversy” emerged between the Jesuits and the Dominicans over how much the Christian faith could be adapted to correspond to Chinese culture. In the early eighteenth century, the pope sided with the Dominicans, who rejected any compromise with Chinese religious practices. As a result, the emperor expelled missionaries and proscribed Christianity. The legacy of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century imperialism still affects Chinese Christian churches. A second important legacy of Christianity in contemporary China is the history of persecution under the Communist regime. Since Catholicism is heavily dependent on an ordained clergy, its growth in China is inhibited by the shortage of clergy. Various forms of Protestantism grow much more rapidly because they can depend on lay preachers.

Keywords: Christianity; China; Jesuits; Dominicans; missionaries; imperialism; persecution; Catholicism; clergy; Protestantism

Article.  2017 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Christianity ; East Asian Religions

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