We are now shifting to 70 years before the suppression – to look at the controversy of the Chinese Rites. The Jesuit missions had been phenomenally successful in China, specifically the work of Matteo Ricci. Ricci had been a bridge between the east and the west – translating many Chinese works into Latin and introducing European literature, maps, knowledge and artefacts to China. He was the first to translate the writings and philosophy of Kong Fuzi into Latin and coin the Latinized name "Confucius". The key to the success of the Jesuit missions were high standards of scholarship and an incredibly deep and sensitive appreciation of Chinese Culture. The Jesuit influence grew, making possible a first Chinese treaty with a European Power, Russia, which was to ensure peace between the two giants. Imperial pleasure peaked in 1692 when a decree granted freedom to preach all over china and freely accept converts.
However there was hostility to the Jesuits, principally from the Paris Foreign Mission Society, zealous priests influenced by Jansensism. Most controversial was the acceptance of Jesuits of Confucian rites and Taoist traditions honouring ancestors. The Jesuits saw these as secular rites that should be tolerated. Dominican and Franciscan missionaries that had arrived from the Phillipines were scandalised by this and reported this to Rome. The debate went to and fro in Rome with decrees for both sides.
Cardinal Tournon – was sent as a papal visitor to China having censored the Jesuits in India. It was clear that he was not in favour of the Jesuits position nor was he in favour of any direct interaction with Chinese officials claiming that books were enough evidence that he needed. On Jan 20th 1707 (307 years ago) he forbade the Chinese Rites and the use of the words Tian (heaven) and Shangdi (Lord Above) for God, these were allowed by the Jesuits. Within 14 years Christian missionaries were to be banned from China. In 1939 Pope Pius XII was to relax the ban on Catholics accepting Chinese Rites.