In early modern China, Jesuit missionaries associated with the male elite of Confucian literati in order to proselytize more freely, but they had limited contact with women, whose ritual spaces were less accessible. Historians of Catholic evangelism have similarly directed their attention to the devotional practices of men, neglecting the interior spaces in Chinese households where women worshipped and undertook the transmission of Catholicism to family members and friends. Nadine Amsler’s investigation brings the domestic and devotional practices of women into sharp focus, uncovering a rich body of evidence that demonstrates how Chinese households functioned as sites of evangelization, religious conflict, and indigenization of Christianity.
The resulting exploration of gendered realms in seventeenth-century China reveals networks of religious sociability and ritual communities among women as well as women’s remarkable acts of private piety. Amsler’s exhaustive archival research and attention to material culture reveals new insights about women’s agency and domestic activities, illuminating areas of Chinese and Catholic history that have remained obscure, if not entirely invisible, for far too long.
A major contribution to a much-neglected topic in the field of Sino-European relations, that of gender and the role of women.
Nicolas Standaert, author of The Interweaving of Rituals: Funerals in the Cultural Exchange between China and Europe
The fruit of admirable archival work, this book offers a major contribution to the history of Chinese-Western relations, especially to the subfield of early modern Christianity. It is essential reading for anybody interested in gender relations and religion, in China and comparatively.
Eugenio Menegon, author of Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China
Jesuits and Matriachs is the first full-length study of Catholicism and women in late imperial China. Amsler's research synthesizes Chinese and European sources, analyzes Jesuit masculinity and Chinese feminity, and places the study of domestic religiosity in the largest global framework.
R. Po-chia Hsia, author of A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci 1552–1610
A fascinating book that takes an entirely new angle on the Jesuit mission to China and raises a wide range of new issues for students of relations between China and the West. Amsler examines the Jesuit missionaries as seventeenth-century European men living in the context of elite Chinese social and domestic life, and especially the Jesuits’ interactions with Chinese women. The sophistication of Amsler’s knowledge of both European and Chinese history brings the period to life.
Henrietta Harrison, University of Oxford