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Cultural Technologies: The long and unexpected life of the Christian mission encounter, North China, 1900–30

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 August 2019


MELISSA WEI-TSING INOUYE
Affiliation:
University of Auckland Email: m.inouye@auckland.ac.nz
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Abstract

This article uses the case of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in China to argue that disruptive cultural technologies—namely organizational forms and tools—were just as significant within Christian mission encounters as religious doctrines or material technologies. LMS missionaries did not convert as many Chinese to Christianity as they hoped, but their auxiliary efforts were more successful. The LMS mission project facilitated the transfer of certain cultural technologies such as church councils to administer local congregations or phonetic scripts to facilitate literacy. Once in the hands of native Christians and non-Christians alike, these cultural technologies could be freely adapted for a variety of purposes and ends that often diverged from the missionaries’ original intent and expectation. This article draws on the letters and reports of missionaries of the London Missionary Society in North China from roughly 1900 to 1930—the period during which self-governing Protestant congregations took root in China and many places around the world. The spread of church government structures and a culture of Bible-reading enabled Chinese within the mission sphere to create new forms of collective life. These new forms of community not only tied into local networks, but also connected to transnational flows of information, finances, and personnel. Native Christian communities embraced new, alternative sources of community authority—the power of God working through a group of ordinary people or through the biblical text—that proved both attractive and disruptive.


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Research Article
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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References

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31 Sebastian, ‘The scholar-missionaries’, pp. 190–191.

32 Choi, Gender and Mission Encounters in Korea, pp. 25, 64, 70.

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36 Gordon, ‘Conflicting conversions’, pp. 29–30, 38–39.

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39 Ibid., pp. 120–131; E. Elbourne, ‘Whose gospel? Conflict in the LMS in the early 1840s’, in de Gruchy (ed.), The London Missionary Society, pp. 132–155.

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40 In letters from LMS North China missionaries to their home offices around the turn of the twentieth century, missionaries regularly complained about stretched financial resources due to either home offices’ lack of support or fluctuating exchange rates. See, for instance, W. Hopkyn Rees, letter of 24 April, Beijing, HKBU CWM/Incoming letters/North China, 140D; S. Evans Meech, letter of 24 April 1890, Beijing, HKBU CWM/Incoming letters/North China, 139 D; W. Hopkyn Rees, letter of 03 July 1896, Xiaozhang, HKBU CWM/Incoming letters/North China, 199 A; S. Evans Meech, letter of 12 December 1902, Beijing, HKBU CWM/Incoming letters/North China, 280.

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46 Ibid., p. 367.

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47 Ibid., pp. 99–107.

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48 Lovett, The History, p. 222.

49 W. F. Rowlands, report for 1921, Xiaozhang, HKBU CWM/North China/Reports, MF 752.

50 Naquin, Peking, pp. 565–678.

51 A. M. Jowett Murray, report for 1930, Cangzhou, HKBU CWM/North China/Reports, MF 781.

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53 Goodall, A History, pp. 7–8, emphasis in original. In 1854, a similar statement by Dr Rufus Anderson, secretary of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, gained popular currency. Anderson used the phrase ‘self-propagating’ in a report of 1854, which led to a recasting of the Board's policy in 1856. Goodall, A History, p. 8.

54 T. Bryson, report for 1898, Tianjin, HKBU CMS/North China/Reports, MF 670.

55 Bays, A New History, p. 94.

56 S. Evans Meech, report for 1906, Beijing, SOAS CWM/LMS/North China/Reports/Box 5/1904–1907.

57 Wei Enbo, Shengling zhen jianzheng shu I (The True Testimony of the Holy Spirit, Volume I), Beijing, True Jesus Church, circa 1917, 3A and 45A. Here, Wei Enbo, who went on to find the True Jesus Church, claimed that the land for the ‘China Christian Church’ was given to them by S. Evans Meech (Mi Zhiwen) of the London Missionary Society. He claimed to have made the application with the Qing government (prince Regent's) but the church may have been completed in 1912. Bays dates the earliest independent churches in Beijing to 1912–1913. Bays, A New History, pp. 96, 102.

58 E. J. Stuckey, report for 1920, Beijing, CWM/North China/Reports, MF 748.

59 J. D. Liddell, report for 1916, Beijing countryside, CWM/North China/Reports, MF 735.

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61 I. Greaves, report for 1926, Beijing, SOAS CWM/LMS/North China/Reports/Box 9 1922–1927.

62 Lovett, The History, p. 225.

63 J. D. Liddell, report for 1917, Beijing, HKBU CWM/North China/Reports, MF 740.

64 A. Peill, report for 1905, Cangzhou, SOAS CWM/LMS/North China/Reports/Box 5/1904–1907.

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82 Peill's report for 1917 notes reports of use of Wang-Peill script from Shandong and Fujian.

83 S. G. Peill, report for 1917, Cangzhou, SOAS CWM/LMS/North China/Reports Box 8-1915–1921.

84 S. G. Peill, ‘Paper written by request for the 1923 conference of the China Medical Missionary Association’, HKBU CWM/North China/Reports, MF 755.

85 S. G. Peill, ‘Paper written by request for the 1923 conference of the China Medical Missionary Association’, HKBU CWM/North China/Reports, MF 755.

Ibid.

87 S. G. Peill, report for 1917, Cangzhou, CWM/LMS/North China/Reports Box 8-1915–1921.

88 I. Greaves, report for 1926, Beijing, CWM/North China/Reports/Box 9 1922–1927.

89 Lee, J. T. H., ‘Gospel and gender: female Christians in Chaozhou, South China’, in Pioneer Chinese Christian Women: Gender, Christianity, and Social Mobility, Lutz, J. G. (ed.), Bethlehem, Lehigh University Press, 2010, pp. 182198Google Scholar.

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96 Dunch, Fuzhou Protestants.

97 Lily Lee Tsai's contemporary notion of a ‘solidary community’—that is, a community defined by group subscription to shared moral standards—comes to mind as an example of the significance of the link between moral reputation and community administration. Tsai, L. L., ‘The struggle for village public goods provision: information institutions of accountability in rural China’, in Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China, Perry, E. and Goldman, M. (eds), Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2007, pp. 117148Google Scholar.

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99 Inouye, ‘Charismatic crossings’.

100 See Inouye, China and the True Jesus.

101 Rahav, The Rise of Political Intellectuals in Modern China, especially Chapter Two. Although Yun Daiying drew on China's intellectual tradition rather than religious faith, Yun seems to have found in the camp what he sought: inspiration and techniques for establishing a student organization.

102 Rahav, The Rise of Political Intellectuals in Modern China, pp. 52, 57–58, 138.

103 Schram, S., Mao Tse-Tung, New York, Penguin Books, 1966, pp. 6869Google Scholar.

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106 Lee, ‘The Korean Holy Spirit movement’, pp. 413–422.

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