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The Virgin Mary and Catholic Identities in Chinese History.

The Virgin Mary and Catholic Identities in Chinese History. By Jeremy Clarke, S.J. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University, 2013. Pp. xiii + 275. $55.

Clarke undertakes the original and ambitious task of presenting the history of Christianity in China through the lens of Marian devotion, a particularly important expression of the faith for Chinese Catholics. The book is divided into three parts: part I explores Marian imagery before 1842, which marks the end of the first Opium War and the beginning of the period of "Unequal Treaties." After a brief discussion of the Chinese Rites Controversy and its aftermath in the early to mid-18th century, part II analyzes the significant influence and effects of Marian devotions imported from France and the general mindset of the missionaries under the French protectorate. Part III concentrates on the founding of the Catholic University of Peking and the influence of the art department at Furen (Fujen), where efforts were renewed to develop a more native Chinese imagery of Mary.

The most original aspect of C.'s work is in narrating the changes in Marian imagery from Chinese to Western and back to Chinese--as the Church struggled over centuries with the central issue of how to define Catholic identity in China. The cultural "adaptation" of Christian imagery in China, especially in the 19th century, was determined by not only theological and cultural concerns but also political circumstances. The subsequent interventions of Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI and the far-sighted and artistically trained apostolic delegate to China, Celso Costantini, encouraged a return to a more indigenous expression of Chinese devotion. Yet the depiction of Mary as a Chinese matriarch--in one instance resembling the Empress Dowager Cixi--was not always met with universal enthusiasm.

Despite significant misspellings, this is a well-produced book. It includes and discusses important images, thereby revealing art once again as an invaluable source of insight--in this specific instance, into the world of evolving Chinese Catholic sensitivities. C. is to be commended on his analysis of popular devotion in China through the history of Marian imagery.

DOI: 10.1177/0040563915593487

M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J.

University of San Francisco

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Author:Ucerler, M. Antoni J.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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