Modern Enlightenment in China from the Chinese-Western Rites Controversy


  • 胡晓利 女;汉族;籍贯:湖北汉川



rites controversy, enlightment, religion, culture, conflict


The Sino-Western Rites Controversy was a controversy sparked by the missionaries during their missionary work in China. The focus of the controversy is whether Chinese customs such as ancestor worship, Confucius worship and heavenly worship are contrary to the principles of the Catholic belief, and whether a policy of tolerance should be adopted in view of the special circumstances of Chinese customs. They argued fiercely and defended for their own positions, but in the end they failed to find a way to reconcile, as a result, both sides refused to compromise. The rite controversy between China and western countries was a prelude to the fusion of Chinese and western culture. At that time, China was still able to debate with them as an equal party and made corresponding moves to prohibit missionary work. After the Opium War, China lost the conditions for exercising its free will, and was simply carried along by the world trends. On the surface, the ritual controversy was a clash of religions and customs between two different civilizations, and impacts was limited to missionaries and Chinese believers, but it actually reflected deeper cultural issues. Chinese culture is a complete system independent of other cultures, with its own logic of operation, and when it meets with western culture, Chinese culture still maintains its traditional patterns, with a very distinctive cultural characteristic. Hidden behind the rites controversy is a broader conflict of cultural modes of thinking, and it is these irreconcilable factors that led to the obstruction of Chinese enlightenment. Therefore, this article will study the deeper structure of Chinese and Western way of thinking from the face of this rites controversy, and the inspiration brought by the collision of the two cultures, by which China's future path of enlightenment may be get inspired.


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How to Cite

胡晓利. (2024). Modern Enlightenment in China from the Chinese-Western Rites Controversy. International Journal of Sino-Western Studies, (26), 164–175.



Comparative Religious and Cultural Studies