Making the South Seas a “Chinese” Mission Field: Chinese Evangelical Missionaries to Southeast Asia, 1920s to 1950s

In: Mission Studies
Joshua Dao Wei Sim (沈道偉) Research Assistant Professor, Department of History, Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong China

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The emergence of Chinese evangelicals as missionaries in the first half of the twentieth century is an understudied topic. This paper thus seeks to foreground their voices by focusing on their Southeast Asian evangelistic work. By drawing on publications related to the Chinese Foreign Missionary Union and Alliance Bible Seminary, it is clear these missionaries were able to show their competency as transnational, inter-cultural workers that could undertake effective missionary work. This is shown in three ways. First, I argue that these evangelicals sought to carve out the South Seas (Nanyang) as a “Chinese” mission field by constructing narratives that emphasized a Chinese-Christian obligation to evangelize the region. Second, these evangelicals added a racial dimension to these narratives by claiming that they were more suited to evangelize the Nanyang peoples. Thirdly, I suggest that they eschewed “top-down” missionary methods and employed a grassroots approach in their engagement with different communities.

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