Chinese scholars and Roman Catholics are to jointly study relations between Catholicism and Chinese culture.
The Beijing Institute of Christianity and Culture Studies was founded in the Chinese capital on Monday, almost 400 years after the death of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), an Italian missionary who introduced the world map, Western mathematics and astronomy to China in the 16th century.
"This will be the first time that clergy cultivated by new China over the past half century, instead of foreign clergy, will do the research," said Michael Fu Tieshan, the bishop of Beijing Diocese.
Roman Catholicism was brought to China back in the 13th century. But studies on culture, divinity and philosophy related to Catholicism have been always done by foreign clergy.
"Catholicism, despite its occasionally broken history in China, has eventually become an important component part of traditional Chinese culture by uniting with the mainstream culture of the nation," he said.
Matteo Ricci and noted ancient Chinese scholar Xu Guangqi co-translated into Chinese "The Elements (of Geometry)", the most significant geometry work of Euclid (circa B.C. 300).
"The Elements is a typical integration of Chinese and Western cultures," the bishop noted.
The Rev. Peter Zhao Jianmin, director of the new institute, said that it is aimed to explore the relations between Catholicism and morality, culture, and art.
The institute would promote international exchanges of Christian cultures and spread traditional Chinese culture.
The institute would also collect historical data about Catholicism, Beijing Catholicism in particular, so as to develop religious art with traditional Chinese characteristics based on the localization of the Catholic culture.
Zhao said his institute would work in cooperation with other research institutes and prestigious universities and colleges. His future partners included reputed scholars such as Zhuo Xinping, head of the Institute of Research on World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Zhao Dunhua, dean of the Department of Religious Studies of Peking University, Yang Huilin, director of the Institute for the Study of Christian Culture of the People's University of China, and Wang Xiaochao, director of the Center for the Study of Morality and Religion of Tsinghua University.
The scholars hold that traditional Chinese culture offers an entirely new ground for the development of Christian culture.
(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2002)