Previous Exhibit: "Late Qing Exhibit" - China's Catholic Legacy

"Late Qing Photograph and Document Exhibit" - China's Catholic Legacy

  Through August 15 [2012]

Catholic Chinese Children

While China's Roman Catholic heritage really commenced during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Christianity was largely dormant in the Middle Kingdom from the end of the Yuan until the famous Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, SJ (1552-1610), re-established the Catholic mission in China during the final years of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  The first Catholics to serve China's people and teach Christianity were the Franciscans, but it was the Jesuits that planted the most enduring seeds of Catholicism in Chinese society.  By the late Qing, however, Catholic missionaries were not the only Westerners in China; by the 19th-century China fell victim to Western imperialism and was besieged by emissaries and merchants who were more interested in profit and colonialism than spiritual and charitable concerns.  The historical photographs, documents and objects included in this exhibit--mostly from the private collection of Dr. Anthony Clark--represent both the successes and failures of the Catholic exchange in China during its turbulent era of transition from empire to republic.  By the late-imperial period the Chinese Catholic Church had grown to over three million Christian faithful, and one of the larger questions was whether it was still a "mission," or if China already had its own native Church.  This exhibit illustrates the tensions that marked China's transition from a foreign-run Church to one that oversees its own enduring legacy.