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The Interweaving of Rituals

Funerals in the Cultural Exchange between China and Europe

by Nicolas Standaert

Publication Year: 2008

The death of the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci in China in 1610 was the occasion for demonstrations of European rituals appropriate for a Catholic priest and also of Chinese rituals appropriate to the country hosting the Jesuit community. Rather than burying Ricci immediately in a plain coffin near the church, according to their European practice, the Jesuits followed Chinese custom and kept Ricci's body for nearly a year in an air-tight Chinese-style coffin and asked the emperor for burial ground outside the city walls. Moreover, at Ricci's funeral itself, on their own initiative the Chinese performed their funerary rituals, thus starting a long and complex cultural dialogue in which they took the lead during the next century.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

One of the theses of this book is that many texts emerge from multiple interactions and are ultimately the result of coauthorship, even if they carry the name of a sole author. The Interweaving of Rituals is likewise the outcome of many dialogues, and consequently it contains the voices of many people. ...

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pp. 3-9

In spring of the year 1681, the Kangxi Emperor ordered the entombment of Empresses Xiaocheng and Xiaozhao, both of whom had died several years earlier. Their bodies had been kept seven and three years, respectively, in a village close to Beijing, awaiting the completion of the emperor's mausoleum. ...

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1 / Chinese and European Funerals

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pp. 10-36

Prescriptive texts influenced, but not necessarily fully controlled, the actual performance of both Chinese and European funerals before their encounter in the early seventeenth century. Such texts are a good starting point for understanding what anthropologist James Watson calls the "elementary structure" of funeral ...

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2 / Missionaries' Knowledge of Chinese Funerals

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pp. 37-80

What European missionaries knew about Chinese funeral practices can be discovered from the texts they sent to Europe. These texts included private letters often used for correspondence internal to their religious order, but also reports and historical narratives that were published and destined for a larger public.1 ...

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3 / The Gradual Embedding of Christian Funeral Rituals in China

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pp. 81-117

When Matteo Ricci settled in China in 1583, it was not clear what shape Christian funerary rituals would take in this new environment. Through different phases of cultural interaction over the course of the next century, Christian rituals gradually became embedded into Chinese society. In the initial period ...

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4 / Funerals as Public Manifestation

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pp. 118-139

In the middle of the seventeenth century the practice of Christian funerals in China had apparently become more solidified, yet missionaries and Christian converts were still searching for practical agreements on the forms of actual funerals. The period of exile in Canton (1666 - 1671) represents a kind of caesura ...

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5 / Funerals as Community Practice

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pp. 140-163

In the post-Canton period, at least as important as the development of a mission policy regarding funerals was the creation of a systematic Chinese Christian funeral liturgy. As illustrated by a guideline of rituals for funerals in thirty-two articles that was drafted in Guangdong in 1685, the Chinese and Christian ...

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6 / Christian versus Superstitious Rituals

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pp. 164-183

The funerary guideline, "Ritual Sequence," shows how the Chinese and European traditions could fuse more or less harmoniously into one Chinese Christian funeral rite. Yet ritual exchange is often accompanied by tension and conflict, such as appear with the shifts taking place in Chinese rituals as the missionaries ...

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7 / Imperial Sponsorship of Jesuit Funerals

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pp. 184-206

Over the course of the seventeenth century, missionaries and Chinese Christians gradually paid more attention to the organization of their funerals. After the Jesuits' period of exile in Canton, from 1666 to 1671, these initiatives were, unexpectedly, also encouraged by imperial decisions. The imperial sponsorship ...

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8 / Conclusion: The Metaphor of Textile Weaving

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pp. 207-230

If Christians in China were "buried according to the Chinese custom but with a Christian ritual," how can we evaluate the intermediary or "in-between status" of their funerals in the interaction between China and Europe in the seventeenth century? One way of understanding, and by no means the only one ...


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pp. 231-234


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pp. 235-282

Chinese Glossary

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pp. 283-288


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pp. 289-290


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pp. 291-314


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pp. 315-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800042
E-ISBN-10: 0295800046
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295988238
Print-ISBN-10: 0295988231

Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 792935295
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Interweaving of Rituals

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Social exchange -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • China -- Religious life and customs.
  • China -- Social life and customs.
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- China.
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Europe.
  • Death -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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