Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2024) | Viewed by 4812

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of History, SOAS University of London, London WC1H 0XG, UK
Interests: popular religion in late imperial China; medicine, drugs and healing; Manchu culture in the Qing empire

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Guest Editor
Global Asia Institute, Pace University, New York, NY 10038, USA
Interests: Chinese church history; church and state; Sino-American relations; East Asian cinema

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Chinese Christianity, or Chinese Christianities, being perceived both as a cultural phenomenon and as a field of research, has gained much attention in recent decades.

The “phenomenon” of the rapid growth of Chinese churches, with multiple expressions of faith and practices, has been investigated by historians, anthropologists, sociologists and religious scholars and continues to attract ample attention.

Equally important is the scholarly debate about the historical transformation of Chinese Christianity, or Chinese Christianities, as a field of study in the historiography of modern China. Some of the following analytical contours and approaches of this field have emerged:

  1. Attention to the spatial and temporal diversities of Christian missionary presence and indigenous church movements from a historical perspective in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  2. Investigation into the transnational, national and local connectivities of Christian communities and its evangelistic agents/transmitters/recipients (whether individual, organizational, material, cosmological, artistic, linguistic or multipolar networks).
  3. Research on the encounters and correlations between expressions of Christianity and Chinese social, economic, cultural and historical forces, as well as between Christianity and other existing Chinese religious and spiritual traditions.
  4. Reflection on the empirical and analytical tools, such as access to new and old archival sources, the re-conceptualization of Christian terminologies, doctrinal concepts, lived religious experiences and the reassessment of perceived turning points in specific time and space.

This Special Issue showcases the latest historical and social–scientific scholarship on the continuities and changes in Chinese Christian movements and the new emerging research directions.

We strive to move beyond the longstanding state-centered paradigm that defines a Chinese indigenous church against Euro-American Christianity and the oversimplification of “Chinese Christianity” as a singular entity, overlooking intra-/inter-church exchanges across doctrinal and liturgical boundaries and the living reality of trans-local church ties.

We seek to demonstrate that the multiple Chinese expressions of Christianity took root in resistance to Western missionary efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people since the Ming–Qing eras and to decades of sociopolitical upheavals that greatly impacted Chinese churches and believers since the early 20th century.

Methodologically, we explore ways in which the analytical term of Chinese Christianity or Chinese Christianities reveals changing interpretations and approaches in studying China’s rich and diverse Christian landscape across time and space. This Special Issue places the reciprocal process of Chinese–Christian interactions at the center of discussion, revealing the overlap of circulatory local and global church networks.

  • Circulating Resources: Exploring the expressions of Christianity in diverse Chinese historical/political/cultural contexts.
  • Circulating Knowledge: Mapping the interconnectivity of Christian faith experiences between China and the world via the exchange of religious prints, arts/songs, scientific and theological knowledge, etc.
  • Circulating Networks: Studying the trends of Chinese Christian migrations.

Dr. Lars Laamann
Prof. Dr. Joseph Tse-Hei Lee
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • anti-Christian movement
  • Bible translation
  • boxer movement
  • Cantonese
  • Catholicism
  • Christian literature
  • children’s literature
  • hymns
  • indigenization
  • lutheranism
  • mission schools
  • missionary medicine
  • music
  • protestantism

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

14 pages, 345 KiB  
Article
From Singing “Out-of-Tone” to Creating Contextualized Cantonese Contemporary Worship Songs: Hong Kong in the Decentralization of Chinese Christianity
by Shin Fung Hung
Religions 2024, 15(6), 648; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15060648 - 24 May 2024
Viewed by 235
Abstract
For over a century, Hong Kong Christians have sung Chinese hymns in an “out-of-tone” manner. Lyrics in traditional hymnals were translated or written to be sung in Mandarin, the national language, but most locals speak Cantonese, another Sinitic and tonal language. Singing goes [...] Read more.
For over a century, Hong Kong Christians have sung Chinese hymns in an “out-of-tone” manner. Lyrics in traditional hymnals were translated or written to be sung in Mandarin, the national language, but most locals speak Cantonese, another Sinitic and tonal language. Singing goes “out-of-tone” when Mandarin hymns are sung in Cantonese, which often causes meaning distortions. Why did Hong Kong Christians accept this practice? How did they move from singing “out-of-tone” to creating contextualized Cantonese contemporary worship songs? What does this process reveal about the evolution of Chinese Christianity? From a Hong Kong-centered perspective, this article reconstructs the city’s hymnological development. I consider the creation of national Mandarin hymnals during Republican China as producing a nationalistic Mainland-centric and Mandarin-centric Chinese Christianity. Being on the periphery, Hong Kong Christians did not have the resources to develop their own hymns and thus continued to worship “out-of-tone”. With the decline of the old Chinese Christian center of Shanghai, the growth of Cantonese culture and Hongkonger identity, and the influence of Western pop and Christian music, local Christians began to create Cantonese contemporary worship songs. This hymnological contextualization reflects and contributes to not only the decolonization but, more importantly, the decentralization of Chinese Christianity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
12 pages, 290 KiB  
Article
Accommodation and Compromise in the Contact Zone: Christianity and Chinese Culture in Modern Hong Kong Literature
by Yi Yang
Religions 2024, 15(5), 629; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050629 - 20 May 2024
Viewed by 586
Abstract
Situated in the unique historical context of Hong Kong—a contact zone between East and West—this study explores how Christianity’s introduction through British colonialism and missionary efforts has intertwined with and influenced Chinese cultural traditions. By examining selected works of Xu Dishan and Chen [...] Read more.
Situated in the unique historical context of Hong Kong—a contact zone between East and West—this study explores how Christianity’s introduction through British colonialism and missionary efforts has intertwined with and influenced Chinese cultural traditions. By examining selected works of Xu Dishan and Chen Zanyi, this study reveals the dynamic negotiations of identity and values between these two cultural and religious traditions. These literary works not only depict the complexities of cultural hybridity but also provide insights into the evolving nature of cultural identity in Hong Kong, illustrating how global religions and local traditions can merge and transform each other. This study contributes to understanding the intricate dance of religious exchange, conflict, and compromise in Hong Kong’s cross-culture setting, suggesting that such literary explorations can bridge Christianity with the socio-economic, cultural, and historical fabric of Chinese society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
15 pages, 7001 KiB  
Article
Competing Loyalties in a Contested Space: The Lutheran Middle School in Hunan Province, 1907–1914
by Silje Dragsund Aase
Religions 2024, 15(5), 589; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050589 - 11 May 2024
Viewed by 460
Abstract
This study explores the complexities of mission-state and church-state relations from a micro-level perspective, asking how the missionaries, teachers, and pupils at the Lutheran Middle School in Hunan Province negotiated conflicting claims on church membership and national citizenship. However, Hunan is not a [...] Read more.
This study explores the complexities of mission-state and church-state relations from a micro-level perspective, asking how the missionaries, teachers, and pupils at the Lutheran Middle School in Hunan Province negotiated conflicting claims on church membership and national citizenship. However, Hunan is not a microcosm of modern China. When dealing with nationalism in a Hunanese context, it is sometimes more accurate to speak of Hunanese nationalism rather than Chinese nationalism. This micro-level case study sheds light on the general trends of changing mission-state and church-state encounters, but it also emphasizes unexpected expressions of local Christianity in a context that has not so far been given much scholarly attention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
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10 pages, 309 KiB  
Article
An Encounter between Christian Medical Missions and Chinese Medicine in Modern History: The Case of Benjamin Hobson
by Man Kong Wong
Religions 2024, 15(5), 583; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050583 - 8 May 2024
Viewed by 576
Abstract
This article discusses how and why Christian medical missionaries established their foothold in Chinese society through the medical career of Benjamin Hobson, who was active in China from the late 1830s to the 1850s. Apart from his evangelical work among the Chinese, one [...] Read more.
This article discusses how and why Christian medical missionaries established their foothold in Chinese society through the medical career of Benjamin Hobson, who was active in China from the late 1830s to the 1850s. Apart from his evangelical work among the Chinese, one of his key contributions was the new medical vocabularies he created to communicate medical knowledge. In addition to literary considerations, Hobson had his strategies for sharing modern medical knowledge. Moreover, he was prepared to debate with the Chinese over the validity of the pulse theory. The debate did not happen, however. His intention to establish the case for the superior position of Western medicine was not contested. His medical texts, at best, became the necessary underpinning for introducing modern Western medicine to China. When Western medical college projects took place in China at the turn of the century, biomedicine took over as the key paradigm, with Hobson’s medical texts being of limited use. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
13 pages, 210 KiB  
Article
Contextualizing Transnational Chinese Christianity: A Relational Approach
by Nanlai Cao and Lijun Lin
Religions 2024, 15(4), 510; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040510 - 20 Apr 2024
Viewed by 687
Abstract
In recent years, the number of Chinese Christian organizations in Europe has grown considerably compared to other overseas Chinese community organizations. They can mobilize transnational networks and resources to expand religious space in host societies and form a highly visible social force. Although [...] Read more.
In recent years, the number of Chinese Christian organizations in Europe has grown considerably compared to other overseas Chinese community organizations. They can mobilize transnational networks and resources to expand religious space in host societies and form a highly visible social force. Although the rise of early Christianity in the Western world has been considered an outcome of inherent religious strength, especially in terms of its central doctrines and religious ethics, this article suggests that in the diasporic Chinese world where Christianity constitutes a non-indigenous religious tradition, social relatedness based on native place, family, and kinship ties provides a more useful context for understanding its dynamic expansion and cross-regional transmission. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork conducted in Europe among overseas Chinese Christian traders and entrepreneurs, this research seeks an alternative framework for understanding the religious-cultural dynamics of Chinese Christianity in the context of transnational migration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
15 pages, 390 KiB  
Article
Inculturation at Home: The Belgian Catholic Project for Chinese Students (1920–1930s)
by Zhiyuan Pan
Religions 2024, 15(3), 327; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030327 - 8 Mar 2024
Viewed by 689
Abstract
Initiated by Vincent Lebbe in 1920, the Belgian Catholic project for Chinese students was a harbinger of inculturation. Contrary to the impression that the Catholic Church reacted slowly to the demand of indigenisation in the early twentieth century, this article demonstrates that a [...] Read more.
Initiated by Vincent Lebbe in 1920, the Belgian Catholic project for Chinese students was a harbinger of inculturation. Contrary to the impression that the Catholic Church reacted slowly to the demand of indigenisation in the early twentieth century, this article demonstrates that a project specifically designed for Chinese students had already been prepared for this purpose back in Belgium. In other words, through the fostering of intercultural understanding and personal contacts between students abroad and home communities, the Belgian Catholic project became part of the Leuven school’s missiological initiative, which was meant to realise Church implantation in mission countries. In order to maximise the contacts between young Chinese intellectuals and the Belgian Catholic milieu, Lebbe and his associates strategically anchored their cause into the allocation of the Sino-Belgian Indemnity Scholarship, despite stiff competition. The Catholic efforts to encourage a sense of unity evoked sympathy in Belgian society towards China, and in time contributed to charitable support for war victims at the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War. Though originally driven by evangelical purposes and ideological challenges, the spirit of inculturation gave rise to an awareness of human solidarity, a legacy worthy of a true apostolate. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
12 pages, 778 KiB  
Article
Making Knowledge in the Local Settings: Vernacular Education and Cantonese Elementary Textbooks
by Sixing Chen
Religions 2024, 15(3), 299; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030299 - 28 Feb 2024
Viewed by 662
Abstract
A growing number of Protestant missionaries engaged in vernacular education in the late nineteenth century. To meet the demands of the new era, Christian church education faced challenges not only in its curriculum design but also in the way it presented new knowledge. [...] Read more.
A growing number of Protestant missionaries engaged in vernacular education in the late nineteenth century. To meet the demands of the new era, Christian church education faced challenges not only in its curriculum design but also in the way it presented new knowledge. Previous studies have focused on church education at the tertiary level while overlooking the elementary level. This article discusses vernacular church education and vernacular textbooks at the elementary level in the late Qing, with specific reference to Youxue baoshen yaoyan 幼學保身要言 (The Human Body for Children). It argues that the demand for spreading new knowledge urged Protestant missionaries to compile vernacular textbooks and present Western knowledge in the local settings. Vernacular church education should be regarded as the precursor of indigenous education proposed by the late Qing Court. The local dialect, Cantonese in this case, bridged the linguistic gap between new terms and children’s cognition and became an effective means of presenting new knowledge. Vernacular textbooks had an unparalleled significance in the cultural sphere of dialect writing, since the language of textbooks could drastically influence the writing and reading habits of the young generation and further influence people’s attitudes towards dialects and dialect literature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expressions of Chinese Christianity in Texts and Contexts)
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