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The Itinerant Preaching of Three Hoklo Evangelists in Mid-Nineteenth Century Hong Kong

  • Ellen Xiang-Yu Cai

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Karl Gützlaff set up the Chinese Union in 1844, which was a missionary society based on the principle that China's millions could never be converted to Christianity by foreign missionaries: Chinese Christians themselves must carry out the evangelisation of the empire while Western missionaries would serve as instructors and supervisors. Ever since the founding of the Chinese Union, the effectiveness of this evangelistic methodology has given rise to heated debates among contemporary missionaries and subsequent generations of Christian mission historians. Both Jessie G. Lutz and Wu Yixiong discussed the employment of this evangelistic methodology from the perspective of foreign missionaries, such as Gützlaff's evangelistic thought, the founding and development of the Chinese Union, and its crisis. By making use of more substantial mission archives, Jessie G. Lutz's research is more detailed; she even included Gützlaff's European tour from 1849 to 1850. It was Gützlaff's absence from Hong Kong that gave the other missionaries, such as Theodor Hamberg (1819-54) of the Basel Mission, Gützlaff's co-worker, the opportunity to investigate the function of the Chinese Union, and which eventually caused the dissolution of the Chinese Union during 1852 to 1853. How Gützlaff came to the idea of utilising native agency to evangelise the Chinese and how he managed to maintain his enterprise are quite clear. Although it did not come to a respectable result in his time, this idea of “self-propagation” was inherited by the missionaries who were sent to China by the other missions. Yet how did the Chinese evangelists carry out the evangelistic work independent from the missionaries? This is a question Jessie G. Lutz focused on for years.

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* Ellen Xiang-yu Cai is a Ph.D. student with a major in history of Sino-western relations at Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou). Now she studies in Leiden University as a visiting graduate student and researcher. The title of her dissertation, co-supervised by Prof. Wu Yixiong, Prof. Leonard Blussé, and Prof. Heleen Murre-van den Berg, is “The Promotion of Female Works by Three Foreign Missions in Chaozhou Region, South China: 1860-1926”. These three missions are English Presbyterian Mission, American North Baptist Mission, and Les Missions Etrangères de Paris. Koos Kuiper provided me with much information on the works by protestant missionaries that are collected in the Sinological Institute of Leiden University, and Joseph Tse-Hei Lee gave me much instructive advice on this paper. Here I want to express my sincere gratitude to them.

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The Itinerant Preaching of Three Hoklo Evangelists in Mid-Nineteenth Century Hong Kong

  • Ellen Xiang-Yu Cai

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