Book Review of: Gail King, “A Model for all Christian Women”. Candida Xu, a Chinese Christian Woman of the Seventeenth Century

Leopold Leeb
Prominent and revered Catholic women of the 17th century are not uncommon in the Philippines, as for instance the foundress of the “Religious of the Virgin Mary,” Venerable Ignacia del Espíritu Santo (1663–1748). In Vietnam, as well, a community of virgins was founded early on, namely the “Amantes de la Croix” (Sisters’ Congregation of the Love for the Holy Cross), which was founded in 1670 by Mgr. Pierre Lambert de la Motte. Very little is known, however, about the first Christian women in Tonkin or Cochin China. Only tragic women’s fates have come down to us from the early days of Christianity in Korea and Japan, such as that of the Korean woman Julia Ōta (ca. 1560–1612), who was taken to Japan by the Christian Daimyō Konishi Yukinaga in 1592 and converted there, and who then steadfastly stood up for the faith and was banished to the island of Kōzu-shima for that reason. Or Hosokawa Garasha (1563–1600), who came from a noble family and was married to the Daimyō Hosokawa Tadaoki. She corresponded with the Jesuit Gregorio de Céspedes (1551–1611) and, probably in an emergency situation in order not to fall alive into the hands of the enemies, had herself killed by a servant. There is no shortage of tales of martyrdom about the hair-raising ordeals of beatified or canonised Japanese women, such as Maria Murayama (c. 1595–1622), Magdalena Kiyota (c. 1580–1627) and Marina Ōmura (c. 1590–1634). So it is good to hear about the only notable Chinese Catholic woman of 17th century China that she was not a tragic martyr figure, nor a nun nor virgin catechist, but a wife and mother of a large family, a businesswoman and very committed social activist, a creatively thinking missionary from the upper class, but still a tradi­tional Chinese woman, a careful guardian of Confucian etiquette and (probably) with small bound “lotus feet.”

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