Years ago, I was at Strand in New York City, and while browsing through, I picked up an old hardback monograph Christianity in Modern Korea, by Donald N. Clark, which was published by the Asia Society. Interestingly enough, I have found this thin book to be extremely informative, helping me to understand the history of the church in Korea. In its “Outline of Korean Christianity in 1784-1945,” Clark begins to describe how the church found its start through the Jesuits:

The Korean church began with a small group of eighteenth-century Confucian scholars from the out-of-power political faction, Silhak, or the School of Practical Learning. The purpose of Silhak was a rejuvenation of Korean Confucianism through a clearer understanding of man’s relation to nature–“the investigation of things.” Among the texts studied by the Silhak scholars was a smuggled copy of The True Doctrine of the Lord of the Heaven, a Chinese work by the seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. Ricci description of the Christian God seemed much like their idea of the Neo-Confucian Supreme Ultimate, and they decided to learn more. This was risky. The Pope’s condemnation of ancestor worship in 1742 had scandalized Korean Confucianists; the church was therefore anathema to the orthodox atmosphere of Yi-dynasty in Korea.

Advertisements