Tracing the little-known history of the first underground Catholic church in China, noted scholar D. E. Mungello illuminates the period between the imperial expulsion of foreign Christian missionaries in 1724 and their return with European colonialism in the 1800s. Few realize that this was the first time in which Chinese, rather than Europeans, came to control their own church as Chinese clergy and lay leaders maintained communities of clandestine Catholics.
Mungello follows the church in a time of persecution, focusing in particular on the role of Chinese clergy and lay leaders in maintaining communities of clandestine Catholics during the eighteenth century. He highlights the parallels between the 1724 and 1951 expulsions of missionaries from China, the first driven by a Chinese imperial system and the second by a revolutionary Communist government. The two periods also reflected foreign bias against the Chinese priests and laity and questions about their spiritual depth and constancy. However, Mungello shows that the historical record of incarcerated and interrogated Christians reveals a spiritually inspired resistance to government oppression and a willingness to suffer, often to the point of martyrdom.
D. E. Mungello is professor of history emeritus at Baylor University. His books include The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500–1800, Drowning Girls in China: Female Infanticide since 1650, Western Queers in China: The Fight to the Land of Oz, and The Catholic Invasion of China.
List of Illustrations
1 The Underground Church in China
The Auspicious Beginning of Catholicism in China
The Eighteenth-Century Crisis
2 Matteo Ripa’s Attempt to Establish a School for Chinese Priests in China
Fr. Matteo Ripa’s Spiritual Vision
Ripa’s Journey to China
Ripa at the Chinese Court
Ripa’s First School for Boys
Opposition to Ripa’s School
Ripa Departs Beijing with Five Chinese
The Journey from Guangzhou (Canton) to London and Naples
3 Founding of the Chinese College for Priests in Naples
Financial Struggles in Founding the Chinese College
The First Chinese College Graduates Return to China
Problems with Chinese Students in Naples
More Students Arrive from China
Lucio Wu as Ripa’s “Perpetual Cross to Bear”
Lucio’s Second Flight and Imprisonment in Castel Sant’Angelo
4 Racial and Cultural Tensions between Chinese and European Priests
Fr. Filippo Huang in China
Fr. Huang’s Struggles as a Missionary in Northern Shanxi
Growing Tensions between Chinese and European Priests
Anti-Christian Movement (“Great Persecution”) of 1784
5 Emergence of the Underground Church
The Underground Church in Japan
The Formation of Chinese Jesuit Priests
Chinese Priests and Catechists in Sichuan
The Formation of Chinese Underground Priests
Christian Virgins (Chaste Women) in Sichuan
Chinese Priests in Jiangnan
6 European and Chinese Forms of Martyrdom
Sacrifice and Martyrdom among Chinese Priests and Catechists
Indigenous Chinese Catholic Leadership
Chinese Christian Martyrdoms
Over decades, D. E. Mungello has made a name for himself as an accomplished author and meticulous historian. This new work is no exception, drawing on important archival collections and dealing with representations of European Catholic missionaries in late imperial China. Focusing on Matteo Ripa and the Christian Chinese community leaders in his entourage, Mungello addresses the historically difficult topic of indigenization within the Catholic clergy during the premodern era. His book thus portrays a world in flux, where the certainties of the past—both Confucian and European—were beginning to give way to new insights.
This erudite history provides essential new insight into how Chinese priests and lay catechists preserved the Catholic Church when it was forbidden, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They lived a martyrdom overlooked until Mungello’s elegant portrait, based poignantly on diaries written in Latin to avoid detection by hostile local officials. This Suffering Is My Joy is a pearl of a book.
David Mungello concludes his cavalcade across three centuries by telling us that ‘the history of the underground church of the eighteenth century is deeply relevant to understanding church-state relations in China today.’ This emblematic story, in fact, goes beyond the experience of one single church. The operative word here is ‘underground,’ a way for many local communities to go undetected, survive, and resist state authorities and dominant orthodoxies over the course of Chinese imperial and modern history. Even today, underground cultures within religion, the arts, literature, politics, and ethnic and sexual groups continue to offer spaces of expression that represent another China. It is a China to be celebrated, not hidden, policed, and shamed by power, as much yesterday as today.