Timothy Richard, World Religion, and Reading Christianity in Buddhist Garb

in Social Sciences and Missions
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This article examines some of the published works of the missionary Timothy Richard (1845 - 1919), and analyzes how his mission experience played a foundational role in his study of religion. It argues that his work and his approach to Chinese religions challenged established views of the relationships between the world religions held by his contemporaries. The latter section focuses on his studies of Mahāyāna Buddhism and how they sought a familiar religious revelation clad in foreign clothing. Finally it suggests that his experience might complicate our picture of orientalist scholarship in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Timothy Richard, World Religion, and Reading Christianity in Buddhist Garb

in Social Sciences and Missions




Eric J. ZiolkowskiA Museum of Faiths: Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions (Atlanta: Scholars Press1993) 137. Emphasis in original.


Edward SaidOrientalism (New York: Pantheon Books1978); Philip C. Almond The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988) 4-6 139-141 and passim.


Charles Hallisey“Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism” in Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism under Colonialismedited by Donald S. Lopez Jr. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press1995) 33.


Richard KingOrientalism and Religion: Post-colonial Theory India and the Mystic East (New York and London: Routledge1999) 149.


Ruth RogaskiHygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China (Berkeley: University of California Press2004) 10-13. See also Arif Dirlik “Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism” in Genealogies of Orientalism: History Theory Politics edited by Edmund Burke III and David Prochaska (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press 2008): 384-413.


Timothy RichardForty-five Years in China: Reminiscences (London: T. Fisher Unwin1916). William E. Soothill Timothy Richard of China: Seer Statesman Missionary & The Most Disinterested Adviser the Chinese Ever Had (London: Seeley Service & Co. Limited 1924). E. W. Price Evans Timothy Richard A Narrative of Christian Enterprise and Statesmanship in China (London: The Carey Press 1945.)


Glanmor Williams et al.The Welsh Church from Reformation to Disestablishment 1603-1920 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press2007) 310-315.


E. Wyatt-Edgell“On the Statistics of Places of Worship in England and Wales, Founded on a Table Compiled by the Rev. T. Blisse,” Journal of the Statistical Society of LondonVol. 14 No. 4 (Dec. 1851) 343. Paul Richard Bohr Famine in China and the Missionary: Timothy Richard as Relief Administrator and Advocate of National Reform 1876-1884 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1972) 1. Evans 15.


RichardForty-five Years22. Evans 16.


Kenneth D. BrownA Social History of the Nonconformist Ministry in England and Wales 1800-1930 (Oxford: Clarendon Press1988) 77-79. Richard Forty-five Years 25-26. When Richard visited the school fifteen years later he found that these changes had been reversed. Soothill 26.


RichardForty-five Years29.


Brian StanleyThe History of the Baptist Missionary Society 1792-1992 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark1992) 180. On Laughton’s death see The Chinese Recorder August 1870 pp. 83-84. On Brown see Evans 22; Stanley 181.


Evans 24-26. RichardForty-five Years48. Stanley 182. Richard also published Irving’s sermon and distributed it to missionaries in East Asia in 1887. Evans 27.


Arnold DallimoreForerunner of the Charismatic Movement: The Life of Edward Irving (Chicago: Moody Press1983) 62-63.


Sidney A. ForsytheAn American Missionary Community in China 1895-1905 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs1971) 34-40.


RichardForty-five Years48-49. Evans 28-29 quotes from Richard but adds additional detail. Nestorian Christianity (Jingjiao 景教) had reached China as early as 635 CE and survived in small local religious communities until about the fourteenth century when these were dispersed by the new Ming government. Christian scholars and missionaries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made much of this historical precedent.


RichardForty-five Years49-52.


Bohr 10-11. RichardForty-five Years76. Richard is referring to Confucianism Daoism and Buddhism.


RichardForty-five Years78-81.


RichardForty-five Years86. Soothill 76. Qingxin lu is better known as Xingmu Qingxin Lu 醒目清心錄 (Records to Awaken the Eyes and Clarify the Mind).


RichardForty-five Years86. His troubles with an “anti-Foreign ex-Magistrate” are narrated on pp. 84-85. Soothill 76.


RichardForty-five Years88. Sale’s The Koran: Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed was first published in 1734. Rodwell’s The Koran was published in London in 1861.


RichardForty-five Years89-93.


Timothy RichardCalendar of the Gods in China (Shanghai: Methodist Publishing House1906) i-iv. The Chinese text that Richard consulted was likely the one by Qin Jiamo 秦嘉謨 (fl. 1812 - 1818) and published in Jiangdu Jiangsu province in 1812. Two major sources were Ernest J Eitel Handbook of Chinese Buddhism and Justis Doolittle Vocabulary and hand-book of the Chinese language. Romanized in the Mandarin dialect. (Fuzhou: Rozario Marcal and company; 1872.)


RichardCalendar of the Godsviii.


Timothy RichardGuide to Buddhahood: Being a Standard Manual of Chinese Buddhism (Shanghai: Christian Literature Society1907) i.


RichardGuide to Buddhahoodi.


RichardGuide to Buddhahoodxxi-xxiii. See Carole Morgan “The Chinese Game of Shengguan tuJournal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 124 No. 3 (Jul.-Sep. 2004): 517-532. Also see the chapter on “Playing with Karma: Ouyi’s ‘Selecting a Buddha’ Board Game” in Beverly N. Foulks “Living Karma: The Religious Practices of Ouyi Zhixu (1599-1655)” Ph.D. Dissertation Harvard University 2009.


RichardGuide to Buddhahoodiii-iv. Hīnayāna meaning “small vehicle” is a pejorative term used by Mahāyāna Buddhists and has little meaning other than within this Mahāyāna-defined dichotomy.


Chün-fang YüKuan-yin: the Chinese transformation of Avalokites´vara (New York: Columbia University Press2001) 317-320.


Timothy RichardNew Testament of Higher Buddhism (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark1910) 2-3 129. The “Essence of the Lotus Scripture” is based on extracts from the Kumārajīva translation; on the “Great Physician” see T 1748.37.150; The Heart Sūtra appears as T 8.251. Richard’s title was perhaps based on The Creed of Half Japan by Rev. Arthur Lloyd (1852-1911) of the China Missionary Society (London: Smith Elder & Co. 1911). See Soothill 292. Takakusu Junjirō was one of the editors of the Taishō Canon.


T. W. Rhys DavidsBuddhism: being a sketch of the life and teachings of Gautama the Buddha (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. & J.B. Young & Co.1894) 4-5. Richard also offers some estimates of religious populations in his Calendar of the Gods in China ix.


RichardHigher Buddhism37-38.


RichardHigher Buddhism44.


RichardHigher Buddhism46 47. Suzuki’s translation is As´vaghosha As´vaghosha's Discourse on the awakening of faith in the Mahāyāna… (Chicago: Open Court Pub. Co. 1900.) Richard’s translation was first published in Shanghai by the Christian Literature Society in 1907. Wanfa guixin lu was written by Zuyuan Chaoming 祖源超溟 (fl. 1676) and a one-fascicle edition was printed in 1889.


RichardHigher Buddhism47; 39.


George Abraham Grierson“Modern Hinduism and its Debt to the Nestorians,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society1907: 311-335. Cited in John Stratton Hawley “The Bhakti Movement - From Where? Since When?” India International Centre Occasional Publication 10. My thanks to Professor Hawley for bringing this source to my attention.


RichardHigher Buddhism33-34.


J.J. ClarkeOriental Enlightenment: The Encounter Between Asian and Western Thought (London and New York: Routledge1997) 133-134.


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