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
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.
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).