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199 In Shanxi today not only do Catholic villagers tell stories of their history, but their teenage children know many of these stories too and gather round to listen, asking questions and evidently fascinated, especially when their elders talk of the events of 1965. Church newsletters publish regular columns on local church history, mostly about the schools, clinics, and other institutions established by the missionaries in the early twentieth century. An astonishingly high proportion of priests are enthusiastic amateur historians and they have accumulated an impressive collection of publications and archives. Much of this book is the result of this collective passion for history, which prompted Shanxi Catholics not only to tell me long and sometimes deeply moving stories, but also to get their friends to hunt out documents in obscure archives in Rome, even to go out to other villages, conduct interviews, and write up the results. Why does their history matter so much to them? Clearly one reason is that the version of their history endorsed by the Chinese state is at once so important in their lives and so deeply in conflict with their own understanding of their past. The current version of this history is shaped by the Chinese Communist Party, but it has its origins in the perceptions of Qing dynasty officials in the 1860s, who thought that the Catholic villages they saw around them were made up of people converted by the missionaries who had entered China since the Opium War. The missionaries themselves encouraged this idea, and the communal violence of the 1900 Boxer Conclusion 9780520273115_PRINT.indd 199 9780520273115_PRINT.indd 199 27/04/13 3:46 PM 27/04/13 3:46 PM 200 | Conclusion Uprising made it part of popular consciousness. Then in the early twentieth century it was absorbed into the story of a great national struggle against foreign imperialism, which was later inherited by the Chinese Communist Party. In this story of heroic struggle, Christians found themselves placed on the side of the villains. They were, as the placard Duan Runcheng wore around his neck in Cave Gully in the 1960s said, “running dogs of the imperialists.” Today, Catholics are no longer under pressure to renounce their religion (though they still cannot join the Chinese Communist Party without doing so), but this version of history remains pervasive in textbooks and newspapers, on the television, and in the minds of those they meet whenever they go beyond the village. The Shanxi Catholics’ own version of their history is very different. It includes ancestors who converted in the early Qing, Wang Tingrong who went to Rome to protest against missionary domination of the Chinese church, massacres of whole communities by the Boxers, and the many stories of the heroic courage and sometimes the miraculous powers of those who suffered in the campaigns of the 1960s. It is told in opposition to the particular highly romantic form of nationalism widely promoted in school textbooks and television dramas, but it should also make us rethink our own understanding of the history of Christianity in China, which is based on very much the same ideas put forward by late nineteenth-century officials and missionaries. It was the Boxer Uprising as described in missionary reports that prompted Léon Joly’s claim that Christianity had failed in China because it was not seen as Chinese. From his arguments has grown a scholarly literature structured around the question of whether or not it is possible to be both Chinese and Christian. This question lies behind many discussions of acculturation, with its suggestion that Christianity can only be successful and authentic as it gradually adapts to local culture. This book has argued, against this framework, that we should instead understand the history of Christianity in China as one in which Christians have over the centuries come to relate increasingly closely to the church as a global institution. The argument has been made by looking at a single Catholic village and its surrounding community over three hundred years. It has been firmly based in the sources but specific to Catholicism and to a small part of one inland northern province. This conclusion turns to consider the implications of this method for a broader understanding of the history of Christianity in China. What might we learn if we were to study other parts of China, and Protestants as well as Catholics, in this way? 9780520273115_PRINT.indd 200 9780520273115_PRINT.indd 200 27/04/13 3:46 PM 27/04/13 3...


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