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Real and Imaginary Dialogues in the Jesuit Mission of Sixteenth-century Japan

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Abstract This article takes as a starting point for a contextual exploration of the dialogue as a form of cross-cultural interaction the accounts of disputations between Francis Xavier and his companions and various Buddhist monks during the first years of the mission in Japan (1549-51). The essay considers the differences among a lay popular version of these disputations offered by Fernão Mendes Pinto, the account publicized by Francis Xavier in his letters to Europe, and the internal working documents produced by his companions Cosme de Torres and Juan Fernández during these encounters. The latter reflected the complexity of the exchanges that took place in Yamaguchi in September 1551, offering many echoes of Buddhist arguments that stretched the Christian theological capacity. More interesting still is the process by which the Jesuits came to reject the possibilities for convergence through analogy and chose instead to emphasize doctrinal and moral differences, often employing arguments that echoed, unwittingly, the recent divisions within European Christendom.


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