Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled
A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Christian and His Conflicted Worlds
Series: Columbia Studies in International and Global History
- ISBN: 9780231187527
- Published By: Columbia University Press
- Published: May 2018
Dominic Sachsenmaier’s Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled is a long-expected work that focuses on its attention beyond the traditional academic interests in the first generations of the Western missionaries and elite Chinese national Christians. It is a microhistory of an intercultural Chinese Confucian Christian who connected with the macrohistory of the Jesuits and others in China and the world. This book demonstrates for readers a new historical paradigm from a combination of “microscopic and macroscopic perspectives” in the study of Chinese Christianity (vii).
Sachsenmaier’s book provides a portrait of Cosmas Zhu (Zhu Zongyuan, 1616–1660, juren 1648), an early Chinese Catholic engaged in cultural interactions, self-formation, and transformation. Born in a provincial elite Confucian scholar’s (ru) family in Ningbo, on China’s eastern coast, he had a personal “enlightenment” (wu) or “awakening” (jue) to the Christian faith from his roots in Confucianism (39, 143). Zhu was baptized by the Italian Jesuit missionary Luigi Buglio (1606–1682) in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, in 1638. He was one of the pioneers of Western learning (xixue) in the east China area and the author of several primary Christian writings in the classical Chinese language, which are part of the main sources of this study, such as Da kewen (Response to the questions of a guest, 1643); Zhengshi lüeshuo (A summary of world salvation, 1650); Tianzhu shengjiao huoyi lun (Treatise on the removal of doubts about Christianity, 1680); and other published texts.
According to Sachsenmaier's long-time investigation of the Chinese and Western original materials, Zhu lived his life as “a bridge builder” with many global connections, mostly to the European Jesuit and Dominican missionaries in China and beyond, such as Manuel Dias the Younger, João Monteiro, Martino Martini, Girolamo de Gravina, and Juan Bautista de Morales. Sachsenmaier confirms that Zhu never left his home province, but his life and thought were part of a world history through networks of the globalizing Catholic Church, the communities of the empires of Ming and Qing, and faith societies and institutions in the complex encounters.
Sachsenmaier’s book is the first in English about Zhu to explore the global-local history of this Chinese Christian who negotiated a hybrid Confucian-Christian identity. Sachsenmaier’s research demonstrated that Zhu simultaneously practiced his academic, social, cultural, and religious responsibilities with ethical and ethnical roles that needed to interpret Christian principles from the traditional lens of the “golden age” way of Confucianism (137). Sachsenmaier writes that Zhu’s conversion to Christianity should not misread as “a renunciation of all other traditions” (40). It meant, to Zhu, that cultural encounters in his local community and other social circles between Christianity and the Chinese Confucian tradition was a kind of lived experience and process of “accommodation” with regard to the different “teachings” (jiao).
From Sachsenmaier’s perspective, Ningbo city was multireligious and multicultural, with great diversity and complexity because Western missionaries entered this port city and stayed in the region during Zhu’s lifetime—the calamitous Ming-Qing transition period. In five chapters, Sachsenmaier interprets Zhu’s hybrid identity as “making a case for cultural opening” and for fostering a righteous local people who actually did not need to disagree with the remote “foreign” (and Christian) “learning of heaven”, even though they immersed themselves into the most comprehensive teaching of the Confucian classics (20). In other words, “the Way” (Dao) of the teachings could be one and the same with the “wind” (feng) of learning, such that there could be a Confucian-Christian synthesis. In Zhu’s words, “Christianity alone was able to show the proper way to understand the content of the [Confucian] classics” (97).
This book is a typical macrohistory of the mid-17th-century worldwide flow of ideas and knowledge through a personal microhistory of a Confucian Christian who belonged to and was involved with multiple border-crossing or global-local identities. On the one hand, it narrates and analyzes the Ningbo local intellectual, political, social, and faith contexts in the late Ming and early Manchu Qing dynasties with the cultural questions of a Chinese Han Christian concerning ethnic and religious identities.
On the other hand, it situates this Confucian Christian’s story into a grander world history of the Catholic Church, early modern empires, and these systematic powers’ monumental encounters, transformations, and reconstructions. As a result, Sachsenmaier’s historiography is outstanding and will be meaningful to scholars and students in many academic fields, such as world Christianity, relations between China and the West, and religious studies. The author provides a successful example of global history and transnational studies in a connected world, with both macro and micro perspectives, in an early modern case study.
Sheng Ping Guo is visiting researcher at Cambridge Center for Christianity Worldwide, United Kingdom.Sheng Ping GuoDate Of Review:November 3, 2021