Author: Lehner, Ulrich L
Date published: June 1, 2012
CHINA'S SAINTS: CATHOLIC MARTYRDOM DURING THE QING (1644-1911). By Anthony E. dark. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University, 2011. Pp. xv +270. $75.
While there are certainly plenty of studies about the Jesuit missions in China, hardly anything is available in English about the saints China has produced over the last 300 years. Clark's book provides just that, an overview of Catholics dying for their faith during the Qing dynasty, missionaries and natives alike. The missionaries sent to China in the 17th century encountered a culture in which martyrdom was an alien concept. No equivalent word existed apart from xunado, which meant primarily "follower." Moreover, Chinese culture saw death as something negative. A Chinese person who desired to bear witness for his faith and to give his life in expectation of a happy afterlife was, in the eyes of Chinese culture, a fool. "Not knowing how inexorable the cultural cries were against these martyrs who willingly and peacefully went to their deaths is to miss one of the most important aspects of their martyrdom" (17). C. introduces the reader to the history of Chinese Nestorian Christianity, the first Franciscan attempts to evangelize in the wake of Marco Polo, but focuses then in four main chapters on martyrs from Dominican, Jesuit, Franciscan, and other (e.g., Vincentian) missions, most of whom died during the Boxer uprising 1898 to 1901. A helpful appendix gives a comprehensive overview of all Chinese saints (all canonized by John Paul II).
Based on thorough archival studies and a profound knowledge of Chinese culture, this book contributes substantially not only to the comparative study of Christian martyrdom but also to the understanding of enculturation. It tells the story of how an alien, European religion was no longer seen as a cultural and political threat but as part of a nation's religious heritage.
ULRICH L. LEHNER
Marquette University, Milwaukee