Many have heard about the Jesuit missionaries in China in the 16th-18th centuries. The most famous was Matteo Ricci, who has gone down in history as the initiator of the encounter between Chinese and Western culture and – as far as the Church is concerned – as a model of inculturation, of the proclamation of the Gospel to China and, more generally, to peoples of cultures very different from that of Europe.
Ricci was only the first in a long series of outstanding figures, remembered mostly for their scientific or technical abilities (astronomy, mathematics, hydraulics, cannon casting…), cultural (translation of Confucian classics…), artistic (painting, architecture…), so much so that there are those who question whether the Jesuits’ main commitment was to cultural encounter rather than evangelization.
It is good, therefore, to remind ourselves that the deeper intention that moved the missionaries was to offer knowledge of the Gospel and the newness of Christian life inspired by it. In these pages we will touch on a not very well known aspect of their evangelizing activities and the response they encountered among the Chinese women who became Christians.