Friendship and Hospitality

The Jesuit-Confucian Encounter in Late Ming China

By Dongfeng Xu

Subjects: Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Chinese Studies, History, History Of Religion, Comparative Religion
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438484952, 288 pages, September 2021
Paperback : 9781438484945, 288 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents



Part I: Friendship and the Jesuits

1. Striving for Divine Union: The Wholly Other and the Jesuit Vocation

2. Other Rhetoric: Reading Matteo Ricci's On Friendship

Part II: Hospitality and the Confucians

3. The Subject of Hospitality and Sino-centrism: Theory and Chinese Cultural Background

4. Situating the Middle Kingdom: Matteo Ricci's World Map, the Wobbling Center, and the Undoing of the Host

5. Reforming the Calendar: The Ming Empire's Stairway to Heaven through the Jesuits

6. The Confucian Hospitality: Responding to the Jesuits


Selected Bibliography

Offers a comparative and deconstructive reading of the cross-cultural encounter between the Jesuits and their Confucian hosts in late Ming China.


The Jesuit mission to China more than four hundred years ago has been the subject of sustained scholarly investigation for centuries. Focusing on the concepts of friendship and hospitality as they were both theorized and practiced by the Jesuit missionaries and their Confucian hosts, this book offers a new, comparative, and deconstructive reading of the interaction between these two vastly different cultures. Dongfeng Xu analyzes how the Jesuits presented their concept of friendship to achieve their evangelical goals and how the Confucians reacted in turn by either displaying or denying hospitality. Challenging the hierarchical view in traditional discourse on friendship and hospitality by revealing the irreducible otherness as the condition of possibility of the two concepts, Xu argues that one legacy of the Jesuit-Confucian encounter has been the shared recognition that cultural differences are what both motivated and conditioned cross-cultural exchanges and understandings.

Dongfeng Xu is Assistant Professor of Chinese at Colgate University.


"With his two-faced approach, Xu is giving insight into the dynamics of intercultural and interreligious exchange that takes both sides under scrutiny … this is an interesting contribution both at the historical, but also at the theoretical level that will be appreciated by historians specialized in this particular phase of early modern history. Likewise, scholars from disciplines such as (intercultural) philosophy and religious studies will have much to gain from this." — Religious Studies Review

"…the deconstructivist analysis of the personal interactions between the Jesuits and the literati with its cultural and political implications truly brings new and important insights." — Chinese Studies