"The world risks exploding today if it does not find ways of dialogue."
My Chinese Dream
Bridging East and West:
Hope, Challenges, and Opportunities
By Kin Sheung Chiaretto Yan
~ an introduction by Tom McGuire, USCCA Board Member
Chiaretto Yan is a Lay Catholic theologian and a seminary professor in China. He recently published a book in English, My Chinese Dream, Bridging East and West-Hopes, Challenges and Opportunities”, Claret, Publishing Group, 2023.
I was happy to help edit my friend Chiaretto’s book. He offers us a broad and integral basis for building bridges of friendship and dialogue. His research contributes to understanding life from a Western and Chinese point of view, grounded in Divine Revelation.
In September, Chiaretto attended a My Chinese Dream panel discussion in Rome, Italy. A panel member, Fr Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave the book a glowing endorsement, saying it contributed to the dialogue between East and West.
Pope Francis was presented with a copy of My Chinese Dream during the Synod in October. The hope is with the positive endorsement and having been brought to the attention of Pope Francis, interest will grow in Chiaretto’s book. The goal is a richer dialogue among friends that includes Chinese wisdom, giving us a fuller understanding that Divine Revelation is for all nations under the sky.
I asked Fr Vic Clore, my classmate and retired pastor from the Archdiocese of Detroit, to read My Chinese Dream and write his thoughts about Chiaretto’s Dream. He is a scholar of Greek and Roman culture and has no first-hand knowledge of Chinese culture. I thought getting his views about Chiaretto’s original thinking on dialogue with Chinese people and the Catholic Church would be good. He not only wrote some thoughts but also wrote an excellent short commentary on each chapter and recommended using the book in faith-sharing groups.
Note: Claritian Publisher published My Chinese Dream in Macao. You can access an ebook at this link:
My Chinese Dream
Bridging East and West:
Hope, Challenges, and Opportunities
By Kin Sheung Chiaretto Yan
Commentary by Victor Clore
This book is the result of years of serious research by a man born in China, educated in Hong Kong and Europe, and now living in Shanghai and teaching at the National Seminary in Beijing and the Catholic University of St. Joseph in Macau. The phrase "Chinese Dream" (中国梦) is a common expression of hope to restore China’s lost national greatness. It has ancient origins; the poem "Flowing Spring" (下泉) describes a poet waking up in despair after dreaming of the former Zhou dynasty. Popular patriotic Chinese literature makes frequent references to the "China Dream."
Recently, the phrase has become widespread in official announcements and political ideology under General Secretary Xi Jinping. Xi promoted the word in a high-profile tour of an exhibit at the National Museum of China in November 2012: “The Chinese Dream is the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation – a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, and harmonious.” Eradication of poverty and improved living standards are critical components of the China Dream. Xi said that young people should "dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams, and contribute to the nation's revitalization." Moreover, now that China can demonstrate significant internal progress, Chinese thinkers, spiritual leaders, and artists are beginning to engage as equal partners in constructive East/West dialogue.
Kin Sheung Chiaretto Yan’s Chinese Dream has this current development in mind:
I dream of fewer wars and conflicts, less hunger and indifference, and reduced poverty and greed. … More than competition, we need collaboration. More than wit, we need tenderness. … I dream of respectful dialogues among people of different cultures, faiths, and convictions, recognizing that diversity in harmony can be a gift to one another. I dream of a world, a common home for all, for generations to come, with fresh air to breathe and for young people to travel freely for exchanges and appreciation of each other’s history, culture, art, and literature. As a follower of the Focolare Movement, I believe in the charism of unity, building a united world beyond all borders. (p 3)
As we read his book, Kin Sheung proposes a strategy to engage in productive dialogue to achieve this dream. He points out that the United States and China must revise inaccurate prejudices. The American public labors under the belief that atheistic communist China should be isolated at all costs, and China continues to carry the historical baggage of a “hundred years of humiliation” caused by Western powers. Kin Sheung hopes to help readers in both the West and China know each other better and clear up the most critical obstacles at stake. Since China and the Catholic Church are the two oldest extant cultures in the world, he proposes a three-point dialogue: China, the West, and the Catholic Church. He explains how his dream has been unfolding in five chapters.
Chapter One elaborates on the dialectic harmony between Chinese culture and the Christian Trinity. Chinese culture is a blend of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism, which complement one another and contribute to the happiness and harmony in daily life. Confucianism is a social and moral philosophy focusing on personal relationships and present-day fulfillment. Buddhism contributes a sense of religious spirituality. Daoism is more transcendent and mystical, with three attributes: the invisible, the inaudible, and the formless. Dao manifests itself as an absolute and united One. Dao contains the yin and yang, and therefore One becomes Two. Two becomes three in the Qi, the relation between the vital forces of yin and yang. Kin Sheung then describes the Trinity, illustrating the similarities with Chinese thinking. As Vatican Council II proposed in Dei Verbum, divine revelation occurs in all cultures at all times.
Chapter Two is about the relationship between the human family and the created universe within which we live. Kin Sheung summarizes our relationship with ecology in the Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist schools of thought and Catholic teaching. He outlines the relational paradigm from both the Chinese and the Christian perspective, focused on the anthropocentrism of Christ. Kin Sheung studies two critical documents: Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis and a speech by Xi Jinping, Ecological Civilization.
Chapter Three studies fraternity and social friendship. Kin Sheung describes examples of brotherhood and fraternity in Chinese culture. Unlike in English, the Chinese term for brotherhood is neither masculine nor feminine: Bo’ ai, “universal love.” He summarizes brotherhood in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the history of Christianity. He discusses “fraternity instead of clash” in Christianity, Islam, and China, examining a diplomatic journey that Pope Francis made to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The pope greeted the head of state and signed a historic joint declaration on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” with Grand Imam Al-Tayyib of Egypt. Kin Sheung summarizes Pope Francis's speech in this meeting and then outlines the contents of Fratelli Tutti, illustrating how its notions of fraternity and social friendship are consonant with Chinese culture. This is an enlightening and inspiring chapter.
Chapter Four is Poverty Alleviation and a New Model of Economy. He gives a historical overview of poverty in China. He identifies efforts for reform – for example, systematic agreements by which more prosperous coastal provinces assist the poor areas in the interior. Kin Sheung examines spiritual poverty, i.e., materialism and a culture of indifference. He offers China’s approach to alleviating poverty as a new economic paradigm incorporating the Asian values of harmony, diligence, frugality, and habitual savings. This parallels the suggestion by Pope Francis that the West adopt a new economic system that considers ecology, fraternity, social justice, and respect for multiple cultures. Kin calls this the “Economy of Francesco.” He cites John B. Cobb, an American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist who promotes ecological interdependence – every part of the ecosystem relies on all the other parts. Catholic Social Services in China is a spiritual and practical witness to poverty alleviation. The rubber hits the road in this chapter.
Chapter Five: Freedom of Religion and the Golden Rule of Reciprocity. The Chinese constitution does allow freedom of religion, but not political intervention. This complicates efforts at evangelization. Christianity has deep roots in China since the days of Matteo Ricci, but at present, most Christians are Protestant – they do not owe allegiance to a “foreign power” in Rome as Catholics do. Kin Sheung examines the dialogue between the Holy See and Chinese authorities and how Catholics navigate changes and challenges in China.
My Chinese Dream is a thorough study that demands careful study by the reader. It would be profitable to read it with a group, reading one chapter at a time and discussing it over several weeks. Ideally, at least one member of the group would be Chinese. Recall the Prophet Zechariah (8:23): In those days, ten persons from nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you since we have learned that God is with you.” Take a Chinese person by the sleeve, “We want to go with you.”
Since Vatican Council II, many of us have had enlightening experiences in ecumenical dialogue, but our religious encounters usually engage other Western religions. We may have had some contact with Buddhist or Hindu ideas but little exposure to Confucian or Daoist thought and spirituality. For most of us, our only contact with Chinese culture is in a restaurant.
Studying My Chinese Dream would be an excellent way to learn how God is in this ancient culture. This is not simply an exercise in historical knowledge; with present-day technology, China is no longer remote but our neighbor in the world community. Kin Sheung has introduced us to our Chinese friends, sisters, and brothers, building a bridge from East to West. Another bridge is Focolare (Italian for family hearth or fireside). It is active in 180 nations and promotes unity and universal brotherhood. Your study group might investigate forming a permanent community of faith-sharing like Focolare.