Why did a Christian worship Confucius? Li Zhizao (d.1630) and his Pangong Li Yue Shu

CGS Brown Bag Series
Mar 02, 2016
12:15 PM to 01:15 PM
157 Burrowes

Kwok-leong Tang, Penn State

In 1618, Li Zhizao (js.1598, d.1630), a prominent Christian converted in early 17th century, published Pangong Li Yue Shu (PGLYS), a manual for worshiping Confucius in the local Confucius Temple. The text raises an interesting question, “Why did a prominent Chinese Christian worship Confucius and even encourage others to do the same?” I argue that Li’s production of the text had a specific and precise intention, in view of the fact that it was published in 1618, one year after the Nanjing Persecution (1616-1617), the first attempt by the Ming court to proscribe Christianity in China. By publishing PGLYS, Li endeavored to allay the doubts and suspicions on the part of the Confucian elites about Christianity, especially the accusation that Christianity sought to dislodge and replace Confucianism. Through the perspective of a prominent Chinese convert, Tang hopes to shed some light on the question of the religiosity and religiousness of Confucianism. Kwok-leong Tang is a Ph.D. student of history at the Pennsylvania State University. His dissertation “Cultural Unity and Political Legitimacy in Local and Transnational Contexts: The Temple of Culture (wenmiao) in Late Imperial China and Vietnam” explores the questions of cultural unity and political legitimacy in the late imperial period by pursuing an in-depth study of the Temple of Culture in China, and to a lesser extent, Vietnam.

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