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Journal > Volumes > 40 (2009) / 4 (Winter)
Jesuit Encounters with Confucianism in Early Modern Japan
Haruko Nawata Ward
Columbia Theological Seminary

Between 1549 and 1650, Jesuits gained knowledge of rising Confucianism in Japan. They came to understand Confucian filial piety in their dealings with Japanese marriage laws, and from their converts they learned more about Confucianism. In 1605 Brother Fukan Fabian published Mtei mondō [Myōtei dialogue], which provides the Jesuit theological assessment of Japanese religions. It is based on interreligious dialogues which women catechists practiced in the Jesuit mission, and it reveals various degrees of encounter, confrontation, and intersection of minds among the Jesuits, women catechists, and Confucian scholars. In 1606, Hayashi Razan, a Neo-Confucian politician, accused Fabian of promoting Christian insubordination to Japanese authorities and criticized women for expressing their religious opinions. Under his directive, the government expelled the Jesuits and a group of women cat- echists in 1614. In 1617 Fabian apostatized, but many Christians remained faithful despite persecution. By 1650, visible signs of the church were eliminated from the land and the Neo-Confucian patriarchal class society was firmly established.

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