The culmination of D. E. Mungello's forty years of study on Sino-Western history, this book provides a compelling and nuanced history of Roman Catholicism in modern China.
As the author vividly shows, when China declined into a two-century cycle of poverty, powerlessness, and humiliation, the attitudes of Catholic missionaries became less accommodating than their famous Jesuit predecessors.
He argues that "invasion" accurately characterizes the dominant attitude of Catholic missionaries (especially the French Jesuits) in their attempt to introduce Western religion and culture into China during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Elements of this attitude lingered until the end of the last century, when many Chinese felt that Pope John Paul II's canonization of 120 martyrs reflected the imposition of an imperialist mentality.
In this important work, Mungello corrects a major misreading of modern Chinese history by arguing that the growth of an indigenous Catholic church in the twentieth century transformed the negative aspects of the "invasion" into a positive Chinese religious force.