Adam Schall's Civil Calendars: A Case Study on China – Europe Cultural Confrontation and Compromise in the Early Ch'ing China

Vol. 26 No. 2   6/1996  


Adam Schall's Civil Calendars: A Case Study on China – euro pe Cultural Confrontation and Compromise in the Early Ch'ing China


Yi-long Huang









Key words

Pinnan Village, Taiwan economic differentiation, gender returning migrants


     Being an indispensable reference book for daily-life activities, millions of civil calendars were issued every year in ancient China. Apart from setting the beginning date as well as length of each month and year , traditional Chinese calendars were aimed at providing people providing people with advice about what to do and what not to do. From Late Ming onward, some Jesuit missionaries entered China for preaching Christianity. Probably affected by the European learning as well as the Church’s view, the missionaries, in general, bore hostility against the occult sciences involved in Chinese calendars.

    After the Manchu assumed the reins of government, Schall took over the Imperial Astronomical Bureau. He had proposed to make sweeping changes in the traditional calendars by Western methods ; this idea, however , was not favored by the government. Nonetheless, certain innovations, later on, were imposed on the civil calendars. In part because these reforms were contradictory with the traditional experience, and in part because they did not conform to the rationale of yinyang and wu shing , Schall’s new calendars incurred great repercussion from the Chinese society. While on the other hand, may be for consolidating his position in the Bureau, Schall inclined to hold a more tolerant attitude toward the divine expressions applied in traditional civil calendars. Practical as the attitude might be, it had no way to get the overall approval of the missionaries, and caused Schall to be severely reproached. It followed that controversies about the divine expressions arose among the Jesuit missionaries. In 1664, the church finally concluded that what concluded that what concerned with occult Sciences in Chinese calendars should be subsumed under super stitions. Before giving any response to this conclusion, Schall was charged by Yang Kuang-hsien and the other Chinese conservative; this accusation was well known ad K’ang his Calendar Lawsuit. Consequently, Schall was put in jail, and not long afterwards, he passed away.

    Throughout Schall’s life, what influenced him most were on the whole focused on the calendrical issues. Owing to his duty in the Bureau, Schall was often placed in the dilemma derived from the discrepancies between the Eastern and Western cultures.Through analyzing the contemporary calendars compiled by Schall bore witness to the confrontation and compromise of these two cultures in Early Ch’ing

Calendar, History of Astronomy, Jesuits, History of Ming and Ch’ing



Author: Yi-long Huang
Genre: Article