1989 / 8月
荷蘭萊登大學漢學院師生，對院長許理和教授（Prof. Dr. Erik Zucher）最簡要的形容詞就是——忙。
答：當我提到religion的時候，意思是：超自然的信仰（beliefin the supernatural）。所以，中國的儒家有某些宗教成份，像是祭祖；但整體來說，它不是非常宗教性的，因為超自然因素在儒家中並不強。再說儒家沒有特別的「教士」，更不像伊斯蘭教、基督教般充滿神蹟。所以我說，在中國，儘管下層社會廟壇林立，但上階層社會的宗教性不強。
許理和教授（Dr. Erik Zucher）小檔案
Wang Jia-fong /photos courtesy of Arthur Cheng
The most succinct description of Prof. Dr. Erik Zucher of Leiden University is--busy.
The door to his office is always open, and his tall thin frame can frequently be seen hurrying about among classrooms, libraries, and offices.
He is noted for his numerous, thoroughly researched scholarly works as well for his rare administrative talents. His quick mind and adeptness at carrying through plans are clearly part of the reason for his being so busy.
Dr. Zucher's dedication to studies is equally impressive. During the few days that we visited the Sinological Institute at Leiden University, whenever he had ten or twenty minutes spare time he would march back to his book-covered desk and page through weighty tomes making notes. . . . In fact, his eyesight is poor and he uses a large magnifying glass to help him.
Dr. Zucher was interviewed by us at the Sinological Institute, Leiden University.
Q: The title of our series on Western sinologists is "When West Meets East," but the subject of your research has been "When East Meets West," hasn't it?
A: You could say that. My research has mainly been on the history of the relationship between China and the outside world, not just between China and Europe but between China and the whole world. My main subject has always been the history of Buddhism in China and how it was changed by Chinese culture. I have also studied the history of the coming of Christianity to China during the late Ming and early Ch'ing, including how China received and transformed the influence and the Chinese reaction to it, such as the Taiping rebellion. That is the process that interests me most.
Q: The history of both Buddhism and Christianity in China falls within the field of religion. Why did you choose this subject? Are you religious yourself?
A: Not really, not very clearly. I am not really that ideological and church going. But it's a matter of interest and that is what interests me. Especially foreign things. And from the point of view of China, both Buddhism and Christianity are foreign religions. I believe that Chinese culture shows its features most clearly when it is confronted with something from outside. It's like people in conflict--when you're quarreling with your neighbor, you may say things and show things about your character that you otherwise never would. In the same way, the Chinese have shown certain characteristic features in their reactions to Buddhism and Christianity.
For instance, the Chinese have never believed in the creation of heaven and earth by the gods; there was just hua, a force that came about and evolved. So when the Jesuits came and said that God created the world in seven days, they started writing, "You're crazy. How can you believe that?" And the same with Buddhism. They reacted against Buddhism by putting forward all kinds of arguments that they never would have expressed if they hadn't been challenged by it.
Q: In the end the Chinese accepted Buddhism though, didn't we?
A: That's true. You find all kinds of variations, but in general the idea of rebirth was fairly largely accepted. You see it in Chinese novels, where for instance you often find two young people who were lovers for many lives. So rebirth is often accepted, and there are pictures of hell and its punishments. But at the same time the scholars of the high elite did not always accept it. They still believed in the old ways of thought, so there was always a class difference. The common people mostly believed in rebirth, but the elite were not so easily persuaded.
Q: What do you mean by religion in reference to China?
A: Well, if you say religion means belief in the supernatural, then you can say that Confucianism has certain religious elements, like ancestor worship, but as a whole it is not very religious. It is mainly social and political. The supernatural is not very strong in Confucianism. And Confucianism has no "priests" to speak of. Second, in Confucianism you don't find any miracles, unlike Islam or Christianity, which are full of them. That is why I say China has become less religious in the sense that the element of the supernatural has become less. It is mainly among the people, where you have many Buddhist temples, Taoist temples, and popular cults, but the upper class is less supernatural minded.
Q: Are there any other big differences in the role or significance of religion in China and the West?
A: Religion is less central and less important in Chinese culture. Now, of course, we have changed in the West. Very few people go to church, and it doesn't mean so much anymore. But up until fifty years ago, religion was very deeply rooted in the West--I mean institutionally, the church and church life. Before that time, during the middle ages, the church was really very central to daily life, and the priest was somebody who had authority in your private life. That has changed now, but formerly it was quite normal if you misbehaved or did something wrong, then the priest would come talk with you.
Now that would be unthinkable in the Chinese tradition because religion is just one aspect of life and not so all important--your family is much more important than religion. Religion is done almost as a hobby, as a pastime, as something you do in your free time. Also the status of the priest is low. The Buddhist monk has no high status. In the West the priest is supposed to be like a stern, authoritative father, but in China the lao ho-shang (old monk) is nothing special. Formally under the empire you had beggars, prostitutes, actors, and monks, and there was a "stupid monk" in every novel. So they had no status.
Q: Was it the difference in concepts of religion between China and the West that caused Christianity to have less of an impact on China than Buddhism?
A: There were many factors. As to social background, the T'ang dynasty was more open to foreign influence. Confucianism was more a system of the elite, but the common people were not very Confucian. But by the end of the Ming dynasty the whole educational system had become Confucianized, so that even in small villages the young people had to study the Confucian classics. The society was more Confucian, and that made it more difficult to absorb ideas from outside. During the T'ang dynasty it was easier for Buddhism to spread, and it combined with Chinese civilization more or less. But by the late Ming and earlier Ching the society was more resistant to absorbing ideas from the outside. That is one of the main reasons.
Q: So the influence of Confucianism was a decisive factor?
A: Yes, it was very important.
Q: What about Taoism?
A: It was native Chinese, so you never had the problem. But there was always this idea that Buddhism was something from abroad, even in the late Ming and Ch'ing. So there was always a rivalry between Buddhism and Taoism. Taoists would say that Buddhism was from the outside, and Buddhists would say, "Nonsense, Lao-tzu was just the incarnation of the Buddha in China." Actually Confucianism and Taoism always stood in opposition to Buddhism.
Q: Under this opposition, how was Buddhism propagated in China?
A: It had to be transformed and changed. For example, the family system is very Confucian, while Buddhism talks about leaving the home, which is an absolute conflict. But Buddhism made some concessions. Monks could be asked to perform ceremonies at funerals, for instance. From these small places you can discover how Buddhism was adapted and became a part of the family system.
Q: Buddhism in India doesn't have that?
A: No, it is typically Chinese. They introduced it to the family system.
Q: So the practice of being a "monk at home" is also a product of Chinese-style Buddhism?
A: Yes, it is very much Chinese. In Indian Buddhism you have to reject the world, but in some kinds of Chinese Buddhism, especially Ch'an, you can accept the world and just go on living in it, and you can have enlightenment in daily life.
Q: With the precedent of Buddhism being sinicized before them, why didn't Christians at the end of the Ming make use of that experience?
A: Actually they tried. For instance, they said ancestor worship was all right as long as it was not so superstitious. You were allowed to honor your ancestors but only as a sort of polite remembrance. And also, for instance, every Chinese official had to perform sacrifices to the local City God. Otherwise he would lose his job, you know. So how did they convince an official to convert? They have to do it very carefully. They just said, "Well, okay, he's a kind of angel. He's not a god but a kind of angel who protects the city, like St. Michael." But then the problem was that these concessions were forbidden by Rome. The Pope said no.
Q: When was that? And where?
A: In the seventeenth century, around 1630. In Fukien. They also tried to use the indigenous terms, so in translating "God" they said t'ien, or "Heaven," and they also tried shang-ti. They said, "This is an old Chinese term, you can find it in the Classics." So that made it acceptable to Chinese scholars. But again that was forbidden by Rome.
Q: So the missionaries really tried hard to read the Chinese classics?
A: Yes, they did. That was the beginning of Western sinology. But the problem was not only from the Confucianists but also from Rome.
Q: When we adopted Buddhism in the T'ang dynasty it seems to have made Chinese culture stronger and richer, but when Christianity arrived in the Ming and Ching our culture seems to have experienced a crisis in confidence. Do you think there is any relationship?
A: No, I don't think so. You see, in T'ang times Buddhism was really a big, massive movement, and there was also a lot of trade with Central Asia and Sinkiang. But in the late Ming there was only a handful of Catholic fathers, perhaps no more than thirty or forty Jesuits and missionaries in China. It was a very small trickle, not enough to change China.
It was only in the nineteenth century that foreign influence became so strong that things actually changed. The English and Europeans broke China open not for religious reasons but more for commercial and political reasons. The West did not come to China to propagate Christianity, but it was a side effect. First of all, they wanted free trade.
Q: You have written many influential books. Do you intend to write any more books or do you have any other plans?
A: I haven't written any new books recently. I am very busy as the director of the institute and head of the department. But in a couple of years I will have to retire.
Q: What does that mean?
A: You stop working and lose your job and become a retired citizen!
Q: Then you'll have time to write, I suppose.
A: Yes. I'd like to write a big book on Chinese Buddhism and some articles here and there.
Q: And then?
A: By that time I'll be so old I'll become gaga and go fishing.
The spread and adaptation of Buddhism in early China is Professor Zucher's chief field.
The Visual Presentation of Chinese Culture is Professor Zucher's "new baby," and his greateat wish is to see it grow up.
"In a couple of years I will have to retire!" He says that after retirement he wants to spend a few years writing a "big book."
No sooner did he finish talking with our reporter than he showed up in the stacks.