Anglican Indigenization and Contextualization in Colonial Hong Kong: Comparative Case Studies of St. John’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church

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Abstract

The British Empire expanded into East Asia during the early years of the Protestant Mission Movement in China, one of history’s greatest cross-cultural encounters. Anglicans, however, did not accommodate local Chinese culture when they built St. John’s Cathedral in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. St. John’s had a prototypical English style and was a gathering place for the colony’s political and social elites, strengthening the new social order. The Cathedral spoke a Western architectural language that local residents could not understand and many saw Christianity as a strange, imposing, foreign religion. As indigenous Chinese Christians assumed leadership of Hong Kong’s Anglican Church, ecclesial architecture took on more Chinese elements, a transition epitomized by St. Mary’s Church, a Chinese Renaissance masterpiece featuring symbols from Taoism, Buddhism, and Chinese folk religions. This essay analyzes the contextualization of Hong Kong’s Anglican architecture, which made Christian concepts more relevant to the indigenous community.

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