- Introduce the relation between Chinese culture and Christianity in historical context and to offer examples of cultural accommodation and cultural conflict that arose after the two had encountered.
- Analyze contentious historical cases by utilizing multifarious perspectives and methodologies of judging and reasoning.
- Compare the similarities and differences of Chinese and Western cultures and of their respective religions.
- Apply the declarative interdisciplinary knowledge acquired in this course to real-life situations, notably to discuss contemporary Chinese and global cultural and religious problems.
The significance of this course as a GE course:
According to the National Geographic published in December 2007 in US, the ratio of the religious people in the world in 2005 was 85.7%, among these Christians constituted 33%, while Muslims 21% and Hindus 13%.
It is worthy of note that the ratio of the religious people in China was distinctly different from other countries. In China, only 8% of the population were Christian, while 50% were non-religious. In US, on the other hand, Christians constituted 82% of the population, while only 12% were non-believers. 73% of the population in India were Hindus, while only 1% did not believe in any religion. Added to this, the total number of Muslims amounted to over one billion, which equalled one fifth of the world’s population.
One can assert that, according to the numerical data shown above, religion and faith can still be considered crucially important cultural phenomena in the world today. The number of the religious people and the proportion of various religions in different countries are markedly different. With no stretch of the imagination can we know that, against this background, conflicts may be easily instigated among different peoples as the process of globalization is accelerating, due to rapid technological advances in transport and communication in recent years, especially the widespread use of the internet. What may happen, for instance, if a non-religious person is bound to work with a Christian, a Muslim or a Hindu; or a Christian is bound to work with a Muslim, a Hindu or a Confucian? How far can they accommodate each other given that there is only one reality in their own beliefs? Are they destined to end up in clashes anyway?
In summer 1993, Professor Samuel Phillips Huntington (1927-2008) of the Harvard University published his celebrated article interrogatively-titled “The Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs magazine, in which he spelled out the viewpoint that clash of civilizations would very probably act as a deciding factor in provoking major global conflicts in the future. His conclusion is of course debatable, not to mention the political overtones in his arguments, but what he put forward can foster our awareness of the problems or even danger in the sweeping changes brought about by globalization and technological development in modern times.
In view of the international relations nowadays, it is surely intellectuals who are obliged to tackle the problems of cultural and religious differences in a serious manner, and for this reason the issue should in fact form a vital and indispensable part within the realms of “Gateway Education” at the university level.