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“Western Gods Meet in the East”: Shapes and Contexts of the Muslim-Jesuit Dialogue in Early Modern China

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Abstract This essay is concerned with the possibilities and limitations of the Jesuit-Islamic dialogue in China in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It presents and discusses evidence for the interest of Chinese Muslims and Jesuits in each other almost from the outset, immediately after Matteo Ricci’s arrival in China. Muslims read Jesuit material and even incorporated it in their own works. Chinese Muslims were not, however, interested in Jesuit doctrines because of a shared monotheist faith: Chinese Muslims clearly saw Christianity not as a sister faith but as a Western one, and that was the main reason for their interest. With regard to the tendency to compare Jesuits and Chinese Muslims as two rivals competing for success in the Chinese world of ideas, the Chinese Muslim scholars should be considered not as rivals of the Jesuits but primarily as Chinese scholars engaging Jesuit knowledge and using it selectively for their own purposes.


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