Emperor Kang Xi (1662 - 1723)
Early emperors from the Qing Dynasty were greatly influenced by Christian thinkings. This was reflected by Emperor Sun Zi's 21 visits to the South Beijing Church to consult the great missionary Johann Adam von Bell during his reign. His son, Kang Xi who succeeded him was obviously impacted by his father and was a Christian initially. The following are a few Christian poems written by Kang Xi.
During Kang Xi's reign, the number of foreign missionaries in China increased drastically, and they contributed greatly to the Qing government. Unfortunately, during the middle of the 17th century, the controversy over the Chinese practices of ancestor worship and Confucianism led to the breakup of this honeymoon. Kang Xi sent messengers to the Pope explaining that ancestor worship and Confucianism are not religions, but are Chinese customs paying respects to their ancestors. The Roman Catholic Church insisted that these practices be banned. Feeling that he was insulted by the Pope and that the Chinese customs and culture were seriously challenged by Christianity, Kang Xi felt compelled to retaliate or faced the consequences of the Roman Catholic Church interfering with China's internal policies. He thus passed a law banning Catholicism. In the legislation, Kang Xi wrote, 'How can we expect foreigners to understand the Chinese culture. None of them really understand the Chinese language in the first place. Their words and philosophy are often laughable. Their preaching is similar to Buddhism, Taoism and other cults. Thus there is no need for these foreigners to preach to us. Subsequently, we can ban this altogether.' Note that the entire legislation does not mention the word Catholicism. So what was to be banned? Was it the teaching of the foreigners, or the foreigners themselves? It seemed Kang Xi was still attached to Catholicism and the action was taken to save face after the talk broke off with the Pope. Indeed the ban was never carried out effectively. Most local officials knew Kang Xi's attachment to Catholicism and feared that he might change his mind one day, and were not willing to be too harsh on Catholicism. Under the new law, missionaries with visas were allowed to stay and others deported. Even so, Catholicism flourished in China. By the end of Kang Xi's reign, there were 300,000 Catholics in China, with more than 300 churches.
After Kang Xi's death, Sunu (a Christian) tried to crown Kang Xi's eighth son, Yun Yi king. This angered Yong Zhen who eventually seized the throne. The fact that Sunu was a Christian probably led Yong Zheng to hate all Christians and initiated bans on Christianity. The greatest oppression on Christianity, however, came from his son Qian Long. During Qian Long's 60 year reign, almost no Chinese dared to claim being a Christian in public.
The Poem of the Cross
When the work was accomplished, blood formed a creek
Grace from the west was thousand feet deep.
He who lowered himself for us stepped on the midnight trip.
Before the rooster crowed twice, betrayed thrice was He.
Five hundred slashes torn every inch of his skin.
Two thieves at six feet high hanged besides him.
The sadness was greater than anything seen by anyone.
This poem is for You, the Holy one.
The Poem on Truth
Everything as seen by the eye is His creation.
He who has no beginning and no end, is three persons in one.
The heaven's gate was closed to the first man's sin and reopens through the Son.
Rid of all false religions, we should become real disciples admired by everyone.
The Treasure of Life
The treasure of heaven is comprised of Sun, Moon and Stars;
The treasure of earth consists of crops, gold and silver.
The treasure of a kingdom is to have righteous officials;
The treasure of a family is to have descendents with piety.
Yet, Gold, silver and jade are not as precious as one's life.
Hundred years of age is nothing compared to eternity.
Coming and going in life is like a dream.
The best food and clothing don't mean a thing.
It's no exception for someone born in a royal family.
The most important thing in the world is life.
Something that white jade, gold and silver can't buy.
Even plain porridge can be satisfying;
No cloth is fit to wear for a thousand years.
The heaven's gate was closed due to the first man's sin;
The path to salvation is through the Son only.
I would like to accept God, the Son and the Holy Spirit;
And receive from thee my free gift of eternity.
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