Missionary Myths

Christians in China
A.D. 600 to 2000
Jean-Pierre Charbonnier,
Translated by Archbishop M.N.L. Couve de Murville
Ignatius Press, $29.95, 664 pp. 

Journey to the East
The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724
Liam Matthew Brockey
Harvard University Press, $35, 512 pp.

Jean-Pierre Charbonnier, a priest of the Missions Étrangères de Paris, begins his ambitious new book with the Syrian Church, whose arrival in China during the Tang dynasty fourteen centuries ago marks the first recorded appearance of Christianity in that country. From there, he continues through the mission to the Mongols in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the extraordinary (and often-told) story of the rise and fall of the Jesuit mission from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Then, after a twilight period, the modern era opens with the arrival in the nineteenth century of a new wave of missionaries, Protestant and Catholic, in a weakened China open to Western incursion.

The author’s emphasis...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Nicholas Clifford, a professor emeritus of Middlebury College, is a frequent contributor to Commonweal.