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Christianity in Japan and China

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Compare and contrast the role and success of Christianity in feudal Japan and in Ming early-Qing China. How did the religion spread? What made it successful or unsuccessful in each country? In which country did Christianity have the greater degree of success?

The introduction of Christianity in Japan was first experienced in the mid of the 16th century. The first Jesuit missionary to arrive in Japan was Francis Xavier in 1579. History has it that after 30 years Japanese Christians had increased to 100,000. However it was abolished during the Tokugawa period, and by 1614 the religion was completely eradicated from Japan. This stopped its spread in Japan for many years until the 19th century when Christians were once more allowed to enter Japan. Religious sanctions were withdrawn but still the freedom to religion was not out rightly granted. Some rules and beliefs in the bible seemed to conflict with the Japanese traditions and this made it difficult for the people to follow and adhere to the Christian teachings. This was enhanced by the fact that many of the Japanese had a firm belief in Buddhism and Shinto which had existed for many years in the history of Japan. So in essence the future of Christianity in Japan is decaying.  Traditional culture, group allegiance and national uniformity make it difficult for Christianity to flourish in Japan (Smitha, 2001)

Christianity in China just like in Japan faces the same problems largely from Buddhism. This however does not compare with the experiences that Christian crusaders came across in China especially during the Ming and early Qing dynasties. It was an inspiring and fascinating period to them.

They managed to make contact between two entirely different civilizations that had developed independently. Missionaries in China, despite few harassment and occasional persecutions, enjoyed unexpected popularity. Many missionaries the likes of Xavier wished to visit China but never made it but their wishes never died. The next two hundred years saw almost 1000 missionaries spreading Christianity to the Chinese populous. Among them were; Giulio Aleni, Nicolas Longbardi, Adam Schall to name just but a few. This acceptance of a foreign religion in a region dominated by Confucian beliefs came as a surprise to many including the missionaries themselves. In short, the spread of Christianity was a success in China but a failure in Japan (Chen & Chang, 2004).

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