The frontispiece of Athanasius Kircher’s 1667 China Illustrata, depicting the Jesuit founders Francis Xavier and Ignatius of Loyola adoring the monogram of Christ in Heaven while Johann Adam Schall von Bell and Matteo Ricci labor on the China mission.

1685 The first Chinese priest, Gregory Luo Wenzao, OP (1616-1691), is consecrated a Roman Catholic bishop in China. It was not until 1926 that other Chinese priests were consecrated bishops.

The six newly ordained Chinese bishops in Rome after their consecration by Pope Pius XI in 1926. The Chinese bishops are the three men to the far left and far right.

1692 Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) publishes an edict that expresses toleration of Christianity in China. The edict stated that “all temples dedicated to the Lord of heaven, in whatever place they may be found, ought to be preserved, and that it may be permitted to all who wish to worship this God to enter these temples, offer him incense, and perform the ceremonies practiced according to ancient custom by the Christians. Therefore, let no one henceforth offer them any opposition.”

LE COMTE, LOUIS DANIEL Memoirs and Observations Topographical Made in a Late Journey Through the Empire of China,1698.

What eventually put the brakes on Jesuit and Christian influence in China was a bitter controversy within the Catholic Church. The Jesuit missionaries contended that the Chinese public rites and the so-called ancestor worship were only civil in nature and not religious, while the missionaries of other orders insisted they were religious in nature and therefore Catholics should not take part in them.

Church of the Savior, or Xishiku cathedral 救世主堂.

1706 Emperor Kangxi retracts his support of Catholicism because of the Catholic debates over whether the traditional Chinese rites may be allowed for Christians. Most Roman Catholic missionaries are expelled from China.

Life And Works Of Confucius, 1687.

1715 Pope Clement XI in Rome decrees that the Chinese public rites and the so-called ancestor worship are idolatrous and must be strictly forbidden. This was the beginning of a long period of persecution and suppression of Christianity and the influence of the Jesuits outside of Beijing diminished greatly. (Pope Clement’s decree was reaffirmed in a decree of Pope Benedict XIV in 1742. It wasn’t until 1939 that Pope Pius XII finally rectified the decision and rescinded the prohibition.)