Author: WU Chang Sing, Associate Professor, Taiwan Chung Yuan Christian University
When Catholic missionaries came to China in the seventeenth century, they brought not only western civilization and science, but many miracle stories too. After their arrival, more and more local miracle stories also emerged. The tradition of such miracle stories enriched various aspects of the Christian presence in China from the late Ming onwards. It also provides us a new approach to the study of the history of Christianity in China. This paper focuses on the miracle stories included in Kouduo Richao, Li xiu yi jian and Shen pan ming zheng, compiled by the local scholars Li Jiubiao, Li Jiugong and others. The paper explores how Aleni, his aides, and his disciples employed miracle stories in their missionary work, and how they adapted and created miracle stories to suit the spread of the religion locally. We also find miracles stories in the different kinds of literature written by Aleni’s disciples. The purpose of spreading these miracle stories was to show the unfolding of God’s might, to comfort and strengthen the faith of the people, and, given the competition with Chinese religions, to demonstrate to the Chinese that the Heavenly Lord was the only true God. This study shows how the occurrence of miracles could demonstrate the authenticity of the disciples’ faith and encourage them to re-examine the state of their faith with humility. Yet beyond this, it enhanced the religious faith of the converts and stimulated the growth of their religious communities. Miracles, or the spread of miracle stories, were expected to move the unsaved relatives of converts and eliminate the psychological barriers to becoming a part of Catholic communities.
Miracles, Ming dynasty, Jesuist missionary, Giulio Aleni
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