Orientalism and Reverse Orientalism in the Interactions between Christianity and Confucianism: With Special Reference to the Problem of “Immanence vis-à-vis Transcendence”
Keywords:Orientalism, Confucianism, Christianity, Transcendence, Immanence
Through making references to some inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural studies of “Transcendence” as well as the usage of the relevant terms in contemporary Confucianism and Christianity, especially the concepts of “transcendence” and “immanence” (which is translated sometimes as nèi zài in Chinese), this study attempts to challenge some of the prevalent stereotypes of Christianity and Confucianism. With special references to the historical and contemporary Christian-Confucian discourses related to the concepts of immanence and transcendence, this study argues that certain features of “orientalism” can be found in the Christian interpretations of Confucianism, especially their tendency of downplaying the transcendence in Confucianism in order to highlight that Christianity is the fulfillment of Confucianism. In contrast to the Christian interpretations, the Confucian interpretations tend to highlight the “transcendence” in Confucianism and ignore the “immanence” in Christianity. Certain “reverse orientalism” can be found at the Confucian interpretations of Christianity, especially their attempts at arguing for the superiority of Confucianism through articulating the contrast between “external transcendence” (wài zài chāo yuè) and “internal transcendence” (nèi zài chāo yuè). This study further argues that no matter whether it is orientalism or reverse orientalism, these stereotypes of the contrast between Christianity and Confucianism misinterpret not only the other’s tradition, but also one’s own, and thus hinder the communication between the two traditions.