Like Reformation in Western Europe, sixteenth-century China also witnessed profound changes in intellectual ideas and in society. The zeal for an autonomous mind-and-heart of Yangming learning ignited one of the most spectacular intellectual movements across the whole spectrum of society. This movement was a fusion of multi-faceted philosophy and religions, including Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism and popular religions. In the waning days of the movement in late sixteenth-century, some intellectuals, who were dissatisfied with the indigenous intellectual movement, turned to another alternative of Christianity and western learning introduced by the newly arrived Jesuit fathers. This presentation will focus on the first-generation Christian literati, including Yang Tingyun, one of the Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism, and Xiong Shiqi, a scholar-commoner. Specifically, it details Yang’s retrospections on Chinese history and politics through his newly acquired faith, and Xiong’s grass-root activities through writing religious pamphlets in vernacular language. Including Christian literati from both top and lower echelons, the study hopes to map their respective roles in the landscape of Christianity in late Ming.
Yu-Yin Cheng is Professor of History and International Studies and Coordinator of Asian Studies minor at Marymount Manhattan College. Her research interests include the Taizhou intellectual-activists in late Ming, Ming-Qing women and Chinese Christian literati under the impact of East-West encounters. She is the author of A Chronological Biography of Lo Ju-fang (1515-1588), Poet, Philosopher, Activist [in Chinese], and co-editor (with Susan Mann) of Under Confucian Eyes: Texts on Gender in Chinese History. Her recent works include “Tang Xianzu’s (1550-1616) Peony Pavilion and Taizhou Philosophy: An Perspective from Intellectual History” (Ming Studies) and “Changing Cosmology, Changing Perspectives on History and Politics: Christianity and Yang Tingyun’s (1562-1627) Reflections on China” (Journal of World History).