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The Spread of Buddhism and Christianity in Imperial China: Spontaneous Diffusion Versus Guided Propagation [25]

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the striking differences in the ways in which Buddhism and Christianity spread in China. The way in which Buddhism has spread is a school example of what is called "contact expansion", the way in which the roots or the branches of a tree expand, by gradually moving outward, constantly developing new shoots and filaments that penetrate into new territory and fill up the empty spaces. It is in this way, through an organically expanding network of communities and monasteries i.e., at the institutional level, that Buddhism spreads all over the Asian continent. Institutionally speaking, Buddhism and Christianity also basically differed from each other on another point, the position of lay believers. With the Jesuits, the role pattern was heterogeneous, ambiguous, and this ambiguity undermined the whole missionary enterprise.

Keywords: Asian continent; Buddhism; China; Christianity; Jesuits

10.1163/9789004263291_014
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