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Reviewed by:
  • The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ
  • Patrick Fuliang Shan (bio)
Roman Malek , editor. The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ. Monumenta Serica Monograph Series. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica and China-Zentrum, 2002 (vol. 1), 2003 (vol. 2). 391. pp. €40, ISBN 3-8050-0477-x (vol. 1). 449 pp. €60, ISBN 3-8050-0478-8 (vol. 2).

This work presents an international parade of scholars offering their recent findings on Christianity in China. The coverage of a one-thousand-year Christian experience reveals the tortuous path that the religion underwent in this Far Eastern country and demonstrates that ever since the introduction of Christianity in 635, several waves of Christian missions of various denominations have left an indelible mark on Chinese history and culture.

The two volumes feature recent accomplishments in academic research by o.ering studies of Chinese images of Jesus accompanied by relevant primarysource documents. They reveal the manifold "faces" of Jesus by integrating sinological, mission-historical, theological, and art-historical studies to demonstrate how Jesus was perceived and integrated into the Chinese cultural context.

Volume 1 contains a dozen essays and a section on primary sources, all arranged in chronological order, and o.ers a history of Christianity in China from the Tang dynasty to the Yuan. During these hundred years, Christian teachings were intermittently introduced by Nestorian priests from Syria, Manichaean monks, and Roman Catholic Franciscan missionaries. To assist the reader, the editor has inserted a few introductory essays that compare Christianity with other religions. For example, Livia Kohn's chapter on Medieval Taoism, Joseph H. Wong's on Tao and Logos, and J.D.M. Derrett's on Jesus and Buddha o.er insightful comparative analyses.

Yves Raguin's research probes the history of Nestorian Christianity from the arrival of the Nestorian evangelical mission in 635 until its virtual disappearance two hundred years later. The initial tolerance shown by the Tang rulers provided room for the new religion to survive, prosper, and leave its .rst imprint on Chinese civilization. Although the idea of God was veiled in Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian guises, the tenets of Christianity remained the essential teaching. It was translated as Jingjiao (Brilliant Religion, or Religion of the Light)—an unrevealing name in itself, but its monotheistic emphasis, as Steve Eskildsen's essay brings out, reveals a basic feature of Christianity.

Manichaean monks introduced Jesus to the Chinese by adopting the terminology of Buddhism, according to Gunner B. Mikklsen. Jost O. Zetzeche traces the translation of Jesus' name and ascertains that it took a thousand years for the Chinese to adopt a universally recognized name. In the Nestorian texts, "Jesus" was translated as Xuting , Yishu , and Yishu . "Christ" was not translated in the Nestorian documents, while its Aramaic counterpart Messiva, [End Page 180] or Messiah, appeared as Mishihe , and this was eventually modi.ed in the nineteenth century to its modern form of Misaiya Yet Chinese Christians during the sixteenth century did not follow the Nestorian translation of Jesus' name; instead, they took up Yesu (Jesus), which has become the modern name for Jesus. Other translations for Jesus, such as the Manichaean Yishu , the Islamic Ersa (from Arabic), and the Russian Orthodox version, Yiyisus , all disappeared as time passed.

In the anthology section of the .rst volume, the editor has selected eight original documents. The earliest are the famous "Jesus Messiah Sutra" (ca. 635), "The Lord of the Universe's Discourse on Almsgiving" (ca. 640), and "The Sutra on Mysterious Rest and Joy" (ca. 780). These three, altogether .fty-seven pages long, demonstrate the Nestorian approach of employing Buddhist and Taoist terminology so that the Chinese could more easily understand the concept of God. One valuable document is the inscription on a stele (78.) that still survives in the Xi'an Beilin Museum as testimony to the existence of the .rst Chinese Christian church.

Volume 2 deals with the Christian cultural in.ux during the late Ming and Qing dynasties, a period of over three hundred years during which China was profoundly in.uenced by the West. This volume, which contains .fteen essays and twenty selections of primary sources, examines the Chinese acceptance of Jesus under extraordinary circumstances. In fact...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 180-183
Launched on MUSE
2005-12-06
Open Access
No
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