restricted access Introduction to the Paperback Edition
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Introduction t o the Paperback Editio n Christopher Munn Every s o often a work of history appear s that radically change s ou r understanding o f people, place an d period. Chinese Christians, firs t published i n 1985 , is such a work. This book asked questions abou t Hong Kon g tha t ha d neve r bee n aske d before . I t showe d tha t th e leaders of Chinese society had a far greater role in shaping early Hong Kong history than earlier historians had believed. It also demonstrated, for the first time, that Chinese society in early colonial Hong Kong had coherence and continuity. Dispensing with the traditional governor-by-governor approach to Hong Kong history, Chinese Christians explores the lives of some 200 men and women who came into contact with Christian missionaries in early Hong Kon g and who used their connections t o achieve wealt h and status. Its themes are the building of communities in colonial Hong Kong an d th e "middlemen " wh o linke d th e Chines e an d colonia l communities. These were the people who laid the foundations of Hong Kong society. Many of them became influential beyon d Hong Kon g through their connections with the colonial community and its officia l religion. Yet, with the exception of Sir Robert Ho Tung, Yung Wing, Sun Yat-sen and perhaps on e or two others, few o f the characters i n this book ar e remembered muc h today. Even the important amon g them find little place in the standard histories of colonial Hong Kong. Many o f th e me n an d wome n her e ar e representativ e rathe r tha n significant — people who are known simply because they happened to be recorded a s members of congregations o r schools. Some, like the indignant Ch u Tak-leung o r the declasse Taiping royals, are utterl y unimportant. They are no less interesting for that. In rescuing these lives from obscurity, Carl Smith has shown that the history of early colonial Hong Kong is more than just a narrative of governors , opium wars, merchant house s an d grand reclamatio n projects: it is also the experience of ordinary people — and of a few extraordinary me n and women who saw the opportunities thrown up by Britis h rul e an d trie d t o mak e somethin g o f them . I n Chinese Christians these people speak clearly across the years: some of their voices are loud and impressive; others are moving; a few are angry and x INTRODUCTIO N T O TH E PAPERBAC K EDITIO N accusing. By bringing them together in this book, Carl Smith made a singular contribution t o Hong Kong history. Together with his othe r writings on people and society in Hong Kong, Chinese Christians has, perhaps more than any other body of work, turned the field o f Hong Kong history on its head.1 Chinese Christians was first published by the Oxford Universit y Press in 198 5 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversar y of the founding o f the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society: Carl Smith was a driving forc e i n the Societ y then , a s he is today. The chapters tha t make up Chinese Christians were, however, published even earlier as separate articles in a number of Hong Kong journals and bulletins, one as early as 1969. Most of these journals are difficult, i f not impossible, to track down. Chinese Christians itself has also become something of a rare book. It is now difficult t o obtain from libraries . It is not to be found in bookshops, new or second-hand, and whenever it appears for sale on the Internet (which is not often) larg e sums are demanded. No book of this kind should be so inaccessible for so long. Twenty years on, this reprint seeks to remedy the problem. This edition of Chinese Christians reproduces th e original in its entirety, withou t revisio n an d wit h th e paginatio n an d origina l foreword b y James Hayes preserved.2 All that has been added is this new introduction, whic h has been written with Carl Smith's consen t and warm co-operation. The main intention of this new introduction is to bring out...