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Forgive Us Our Sins: Confession in Late Ming and Early Qing China.

Edited by Nicolas Standaert and Ad Dudink. Nettetal, Ger.: Steyler Verlag, 2006. Pp. 268. 40 [euro].

Nicolas Standaert and Ad Dudink (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium) have edited a pioneering study of Christian ritual in late imperial China, with contributions by three leading scholars. The editors are sinologists specializing in Catholicism in China, as is Eugenio Menegon (Boston University). Erik Zurcher (Leiden University) is a scholar whose work over the last half century has encompassed Buddhism, Chinese popular religion, and Christianity in China. Liam Brockey (Princeton University), a historian of early modern Europe, has recently published Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579-1724 (Harvard University Press, 2007).

In "Deliver Us from Evil: Confession and Salvation in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Chinese Catholicism," Menegon examines the prescriptive and normative meaning of the sacrament and the way it was actually practiced, including an examination of the particular practices of women. He shows how the ritual of confession could have different meanings for priests and their followers: lay Chinese Christians increasingly perceived the sacrament as a "pastoral of fear" rather than a "pastoral of perfection." For them, confession became an efficacious ritual, not one of spiritual direction.

Zurcher, in "Buddhist Chanhui and Christian Confession in Seventeenth Century China," compares Christian confession with the communal Buddhist chanhui confessional liturgy. He suggests that the individual Catholic practice of confession, unlike chanhui, shared the Confucian notion of self-improvement through the individual's examination of conscience. Zurcher suggests that Confucian Christian converts could find Christianity appealing in this regard.

In "Illuminating the Shades of Sin: The Society of Jesus and Confession in Seventeenth-Century China," Brockey examines how Jesuit missionaries hoped to "reform the customs" of their followers through suasion after auricular confession. Appended to his essay is a translation by Brockey and Dudink of a confession manual by the Jesuit missionary Jose Monteiro (1646-1720), with the original Portuguese and Chinese texts.

Robert Entenmann is Professor of History and Asian Studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.
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Author:Entenmann, Robert
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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