I discussed this many years ago with a Jesuit who was giving a lecture on the history of Christianity in China, and raised the same question. Jplowman’s guess that the terms “were the Chinese translations coined by Catholic and Protestant missionaries to China in the 19th century” is not far off, but a tad late; checking online sources to refresh my memory, I see that the Jesuits were in Macau in the mid 16th century and in 1601 Ricci went to the imperial Chinese; given that Ricci published a book entitled Tianzhu shiyi in 1603, I imagine that the term Tianzhujiao couldn’t have been far off. Protestant missions began a bit later, with the first, by Robert Morrison in Canton, in 1807. I don’t actually have any info on when these Chinese terms were coined, though.
Could be; or perhaps they merely translated the terms independently, without a thought for the confusion which would follow. Protestants often introduce themselves as “Christian” too, while Catholics tend not to choose that word when volunteering self-identification. I imagine that the Chinese terms merely reflect this.
[quote=“chris”]Technically, in Chinese, Catholicism is 天主教 and Protestantism is 新教, while Christianity is 基督教, and covers both Catholicism and Protestantism. But it seems most Chinese are unaware of that, at least in my experience.
Yes, very common problem; most use 基督教 jidujiao to mean “Protestant”, which is of course confusing. Just FYI, another term for Protestantism is 新基督教 xin1 ji1dujiao4, and another for Catholicism is 舊基督教 jiu4 jidujiao. But neither is commonly understood.