The 1906 Nanchang Religious Incident sparked a vigorous episode of “press war” between Chinese and Western news outlets. The Chinese and Western camps in this “press war” were split over the question of Nanchang County Magistrate Jiang Zhaotang’s cause of death, which led to three months’ worth of back and forth discursive battling between the two sides. The Chinese side reported that the official was murdered, while the Western side reported that he committed suicide. In this press war both sides went to extremes, but the truth is that Jiang Zhaotang was forced to slit his own throat. The way that the press handles news material is heavily influenced by national sentiment, the promotion of which was one the important missions of the early modern Chinese press. The instance of this press war provides a perfect example of how questions of public opinion, truth, and national sentiment intersected during the late Qing era.
Among the Western figures that most often appeared in the intellectual discourse of the late Qing, Martin Luther holds a special status for being intimately linked to both the Christian missionary enterprise and the modern reform movement in China. In the years between the Opium Wars and the Sino-Japanese War, most Chinese literati saw Luther as a “religious schismatic” and were very critical of him. At the same time, however, some Protestant missionaries began extolling the accomplishments of Luther’s renewal of the church, fashioning his image into that of the “Great Reformer.” In the period of the 1898 “Hundred Days’ Reform” movement, leading reformist intellectuals like Liang Qichao utilized the history of Luther’s transformation of Christianity to find historical legitimacy for the political changes they promoted, exalting Luther’s status even higher, turning him into a type of “mythical” figure in the process. The significance of researching Luther from the perspective of this “mythical” image lies not in evaluating its correspondence to historical reality, but in focusing the investigation on the fashioners of his image and the particular historical currents to which they belonged.
During the nineteenth century, the study of language developed into an independent academic discipline in the West. Through comparison the many languages of humankind were divided into different language families according to morphology and genealogical relationships. Some Sinologists also began searching for the proper location of Chinese within the genealogical tree of human language development. How was Chinese to be studied scientifically? Did Chinese possess genetic relationships with the other languages of humankind? Missionaries and diplomatic officials living in China, and professional scholars teaching at the most prestigious academic institutions in the West each had proposals in response to such questions. The questions that Sinologists encountered in the search for a scientific methodology for the study of Chinese also became subjects of long-lasting debate in broader Western scholarship at the time. Combining information about the historical background of the development of early modern Western linguistics and the analysis of Sinologists’ investigations and debates on the methodology of Chinese language research not only helps deepen our understanding of the historical development of Western Sinology, but more importantly demonstrates the intimate connection between Sinology and early modern thought in the disciplinary history of the Western academy.
The on-going development of charismatic Christianity in early modern China compelled Christians of many denominations to produce writings critical towards this “charismatic movement,” of which Wang Mingdao’s article “The Charismatic Movement in Light of the Bible” is one of the most representative examples. In his criticism of charismatic Christianity, Wang asserted the apocalypticism and authority of the Bible, expressing belief in its truth as a divine sign and a historical record; he upheld a literalist interpretation of scripture, essentially interpreting the Bible according to the literal meaning of the text; he promoted the “centrality of the early church,” taking the charismatic experience of the early Christianity as the reference point and standard for criticism of contemporary charismatic phenomena. In truth, Wang Mingdao’s idea of returning to the early church signaled his dissatisfaction and reproach towards the liberalism of mainstream Christianity at the time, revealing disputes about questions of faith that existed in Chinese Christianity in the Republican Era.
Jingjing was the most important theologian and translator of the Jingjiao religion (Chinese “Nestorianism”) in the Tang Dynasty, while the stele he composed as a comprehensive survey of the theology and history of the Jingjiao Church can be seen as a milestone of his authorial career. His co-translation of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtra on the Six Pāramitās with the monk Prajñā Tripiṭaka can be taken as a watershed event separating the early and later stages of his thought, allowing it to be adduced that the theological formulations of the Sutra on the Origin of Origins and the Sutra of Ultimate and Mysterious Happiness show characteristics of the early stage of his thought, while those of The Book of Praise and the Hymn of Perfection of the Three Majesties possess features of his later stage.
Utilizing the early modern mainstream Protestant publication The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal as its main historical source, this chapter examines the understanding and attitude of missionaries in China towards Communism. Its basic conclusion is that the attitude of the missionaries towards Communism was complex and was not simply characterized by condemnation, but also contained elements of acknowledgement, reflection, mutual examination, and emulation, as well as reproach and refutation.
In the late Ming and Early Qing periods, as Catholicism entered China, young women who kept chaste and abstained from marriage came to be known as “virgins” in some regions of the country. These virgins mostly came from homes that had observed Catholicism for multiple generations and therefore shared familial relations. Naturally, because they were located in different regions, the reasons for their chastity varied. For a woman to cultivate purity by keeping chaste and abstaining from marriage was counter to traditional Chinese moral notions, so these virgins were reproached by people outside of the faith at the time. During the one hundred years that Catholicism was prohibited in China, some virgins gradually began to leave home and began to engage in church work.
During the late Qing and Republican Era, Christian missionaries from the West encountered Chinese Muslims. Missionaries and Muslims engaged in deep discussion and communication surrounding the topic of Christian missionary writings. Initially, the missionaries distributed Arabic and Persian literature that had been effective for missionary efforts in such Islamic lands as Egypt and India to Chinese Muslims, which were welcomed and respected by regular Muslim communities in many locations around China. However, in the effort to explain the distinctions between Christianity and Islam, towards the end of the nineteenth century some missionaries began producing Christian tracts in Chinese to proselytize Muslims, which were criticized from the traditional Islamic standpoint as overly aggressive and quickly aroused the resistance and condemnation of Muslim intellectuals in China. After 1917, with the establishment of the Special Committee for Work on Muslims and the flourishing of the Chinese Muslim cultural movement, the British missionary Isaac Mason of the Society of Friends (Quakers) proposed a “conciliatory” strategy for literary evangelizing that involved the collection, reading, and deep research of Chinese Islamic writings aimed at Muslims and the production and translation of special Christian literature for Muslims using less criticism, more conciliatory language, and Chinese Islamic terminology to lessen Chinese Muslims’ aversion to Christian missionary writings. Mason’s missionary strategy directly influenced wider Christian literature and missionary efforts of the 1920s and ‘30s in China.
After the Society of the Friends of Muslims in China was established in 1927, Mason further developed his missionary strategy towards the aim of “establishing friendly contacts with Muslims.” He acknowledged that the foundation for dialogue between Christianity and Islam rested on their similar beliefs, advocated the acceptance of the differences between them, and promoted the active pursuit of friendship with Chinese Muslims with an attitude of sympathy and tolerance. These ideas were all included in the program of the Society of the Friends of Muslims, which provided the basic approach to handling relations between Christian missionaries and Chinese Muslims during the Republican Era and propelled Western Christian missionaries and Chinese Muslims towards peaceful dialogue and engagement.
Mason’s strategy of “conciliatory” evangelical literary work demonstrated a clear shift in Christian missionaries’ attitude towards Chinese Islam, revealing that missionaries in China had reflected on the problem of handling relations between the two faiths and demonstrating their tolerance. It was precisely this kind of reflection that made the Christian missionary movement more reasonable and develop more stridently in the direction of dialogue over time.
After the First Sino-Japanese War, Christian missionaries were attacked and even sustained loss of lives as many grave incidents of religious strife erupted in China. To protect their safety and defend their right to carry out missionary work, Protestant missionaries in China united to elect Timothy Richard and others to represent them in submitting a petition to the Qing government in hopes of being granted an audience with the emperor. However, after exhausting efforts and enduring many twists and turns, they only obtained a meeting with Prince Gong and other high ministers of the Qing central administrative yamen. They requested of these officials the banning of writings that vilified Christianity, such as the Illustrated Treatise on the Maritime Kingdoms and the Second Imperial Treatise on Managing the Affairs of the World, that Christianity not be seen as a heterodox cult, that Christians not be persecuted because of their beliefs, that officials and gentry of various locales be ordered to observe and learn about the religious cultivation and benevolent practices of the Western countries, and that they not personally discriminate between Chinese and Westerners in negotiations, all in hopes of bringing the occurrence of religious incidents to a permanent end, especially since imperial officials that were friendly to Christianity had been censured or sidelined into positions with no power. Nevertheless, while this attempt to petition the Emperor did not come to full fruition, the missionaries did have an opportunity for dialogue with central court ministers, showing that they did have some influence with the court. As a result of this episode, the missionaries were able to come to an understanding and build friendly relations with many high officials and gain a glimpse at future improvements in the relations between officials and religious representatives.
The large output of Chinese-language fiction written by the nineteenth-century Prussian Protestant missionary Karl Friederich August Gützlaff (1803–1851) makes him second to none among his colleagues proselytizing in China. This chapter examines seven of Gützlaff’s novels, for instance The Doctrine of Redemption (1834), The Doctrine of Eternal Life (1834), and Orthodoxy and Heresy Compared (1838), to discuss the authorial strategies he utilized in his Chinese-language Christian fiction through detailed textual analysis, alongside consideration of the contemporary historical, political, and religious circumstances of the time. Although the contents and narratives of the seven novels investigated in this study are all distinct, on the whole they all utilize a narrative pattern of “dismantling followed by construction.” “Dismantling” was seen in Gützlaff’s attempts to dispel the prejudices and misunderstandings of the Chinese towards Christianity, as well as in condemning indigenous Chinese religious beliefs and ideas, while “construction” was demonstrated through his various methods of effectively disseminating Christian thought. Besides propagating Christian ideas, Gützlaff also managed to transmit information and pursued literary aesthetic values to contribute to his authorial strategies for religious proselytizing.