<italic>TAM GIAO CHU VONG</italic> [THE ERRORS OF THE THREE RELIGIONS]: A TEXTUAL AND ANALYTICAL STUDY OF A CHRISTIAN DOCUMENT ON THE PRACTICES OF THE THREE RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY VIETNAM
Tran, Anh Quoc
Christianity has held a small but qualitatively significant presence in Vietnam since its arrival in 1533. Yet the knowledge of its early religio-cultural context has been sparse. This study intends to fill that lacuna through an annotated translation and analytical study of a 1752 missionary document entitled Tam Giao Chu Vong [The Errors of the Three Religions].This recently discovered anonymous manuscript, written in the Romanized script, paints a rich picture of the pre-modern beliefs and religious practices of Vietnamese Three Religions (i.e., Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism). It evaluates not only the main teachings of the tam giao, but also their many religious practices and rituals, especially on funeral rites and ancestor worship. In addition, it provides a trove of information on the challenges and struggles that the Christian converts had to face as they tried to adapt themselves to the Vietnamese religious scene.<italic>Tam Giao Chu Vong</italic> complements other writings written before or during the same period such as Matteo Ricci's <italic>Tianzhu Shiyi</italic> (1603), Alexandre de Rhodes's <italic>Cathechismus in octo dies divisus</italic> (1651), Adriano di Santa Thecla's <italic>Opusculum de sectis</italic> (1750), the anonymous <italic>Phep Giang Dao That</italic> (1758), and <italic>Hoi Dong Tu Giao</italic> (ca. 1800). To obtain a fuller picture of the Three Religions and of Vietnamese Christianity, a comparison between these texts and our manuscript will be carried out.While possibly offensive and outdated to the modern ear, Tam Giao Chu Vong provides rare and unique insights into the hearts and minds of Vietnamese regarding traditional religious beliefs, rituals and customs, some of which are still practiced today. Further examined is how eighteenth-century Christians perceived the followers of other religions, particularly how a Christian writer understood and evaluated non-Christian religions. This study of the interaction between Christianity and the Three Religions sheds light on religious pluralism, inculturation, and interreligious dialogue - an ongoing struggle in all the countries of East Asia where Christianity must dialogue with Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism.
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