Eugenio Menegon
Boston University
The Habit that Hides the Monk:
Fashion Strategies at the Imperial Court

in Early Modern China

4:30 PM, Monday October 3, 2016 

Since the arrival of the first Jesuits in China in the late Ming period (1580s), one of the most visible forms of “going native” was the adoption of Chinese clothing and hairstyle. Dressing like the Chinese was not a choice, as foreigners residing within China had to adapt to local dress codes and bodily practices. Only in native garb could missionaries enter and circulate in the Chinese empire, and truly become “local agents.”


This presentation maps the changing wardrobe, hairdo and ‘fashion statements’ of early modern missionaries in China, from the Ming to the Qing period. The age-old adage “the habit does not make the monk” needs revisiting: in the China mission, clothing was actually a way to “hide the monk,” i.e. the missionary’s religious identity, while opening myriad venues into late imperial Chinese society, within a culture constrained but also shaped, like early modern Europe, by sumptuary laws and cultural taboos about clothes and the body.

Eugenio Menegon is Associate Professor of Chinese History at Boston University, and Affiliated Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College.  He has published extensively on the history of Chinese-Western relations, and is the author of Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China, Harvard Asia Center and Harvard University Press, 2009, which was the recipient of the 2011 Levenson Prize in Chinese Studies (Association for Asian Studies). His current book project is an examination of the daily life and political networking of European residents at the Qing court in Beijing during the 17th-18th centuries.





The cultural and missionary work inaugurated by Matteo Ricci, SJ (1552-1610) in Ming China (1368-1644) offered the hope of a brand of intercultural dialogue founded on the belief of the universality of the human experience and possibility of mutual understanding between cultures.  In this spirit, the “Matteo Ricci Speaker Series," extending from 2014-2018, invites leading international scholars to speak on the subject of Chinese-Christian intercultural dialogue.  Our Speaker Series celebrates both the bicentenaries of the restoration of the Society of Jesus (1814) and the Foundation of Saint Louis University (1818).

馬泰奧·裡奇(漢名利瑪竇耶穌會, 1552-1610) 在明代中國所作之開創性的文化及傳教活動為跨文化對話帶來了希望人類經驗普世性之信念和異域文化可交融乃是跨文化對話之源頭“馬泰奧·裡奇講座系列” 扱取在聖路易大學中世紀暨文藝復興研究中心神學,哲學及歷史學系跨文化研究中心以及國際研究中心的學術活動探索中國研究中的重要課題該講座系列始於2014 止於 2018,旨在慶賀耶穌會復會二百年 (1814) 暨聖路易大學建校二百週年 (1818).

Subpages (1): Ricci Pluralism