The Images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary in the Early Qing Collection of Taoist Immortal Stories


Dadui Yao

Religions (Special Issue: Texts, Interpretations, and Reception Histories in Chinese Christianity)

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Abstract: The book Lidai Shenxian Tongjian (The Comprehensive Mirror of Immortals Throughout the Dynasties), a compilation of Taoist narratives from the early Qing dynasty, contains a dedicated section on “The Life of Jesus,” accompanied by two images portraying Jesus and the Virgin Mary. “The Life of Jesus” is believed to have originated from Gaspar Ferreira’s Nianzhu Guicheng (Rule for the Recitation of the Rosary) and Diego de Pantoja’s Tianzhu Yesu Shounan Shimo (The Passion of the Lord Jesus). The narratives and images of Christian content within Tongjian showcase the influence of Chinese Ming–Qing Taoist immortal stories and the indigenization of Christianity that resulted in a fusion of Chinese and Western cultural elements. Multiple versions of the accompanying images exist in different editions of Tongjian, indicating an evolution in the depictions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Through a comparative analysis of these images and their variations, we can glean valuable insights into the Qing dynasty editors’ reception of Western culture, shedding light on the process of localizing Christianity during the Ming–Qing period and emphasizing the significance of the cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Chinese and Western civilizations.

About the author: Dadui Yao was a HYI Visiting Fellow from 2011-12.