- Contextualization of Christianity in China: An Evaluation in Modern Perspective
This volume of essays derives from a 2002 conference of the same title in Leiden. The organizer and chair was Peter Chen-main Wang of National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan, who was concluding his one-year tenure as the European Chair of Chinese Studies at Leiden University. He is now the editor of the present volume. Speaking as one of the conference participants, I found it a pleasant and stimulating gathering, and I am delighted to see these papers published. It took five years after the conference for the volume to appear, which is probably a little faster than the average conference volume. Several papers were presented at the conference that, for various reasons, are not in the volume, including one by the late Dutch sinologist par excellence Erik Zurcher, former president of Huazhong Normal University Zhang Kaiyuan, and another by the author of this review.
This volume suffers, to some extent, from the malady of almost all conference volumes: the reality that no matter how the conference organizer endeavors to define and delineate the general topic, and to inveigle the authors into rewriting their papers with reference to the others for the conference volume, the final product is somewhat disjointed. That common characteristic, in this case, is countered by the quality of many of the essays. Most of the pieces are interesting, and several are both well researched and clearly written, in addition to addressing important subjects.
Wang as editor has tried to impose a bit of order by dividing the eleven essays into four parts of two or three essays each. Part 1 has two essays on the seventeenth-century Catholic mission, both dealing with Ricci. Claudia von Collani's essay provides a broad survey of the development of what she calls a "Chinese theology" from Ricci to the Figurists. The other essay, by Vincent Shen of the University of Toronto, addresses the strategy of "strangification," by which he [End Page 281] means the phenomenon of venturing from familiar ground and "going toward the stranger" that he claims Ricci used.
Part 2 has three essays in very different genres. First, Christoffer H. Grundmann, a chaired professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana, gives a well-researched account of the assumptions and limited cultural understandings of the emergence of early medical missions in the nineteenth century. Grundmann concludes that these early physicians in the China mission were unable to step back and see with critical eyes the nature of the assumptions of modern medical ideologies that they brought to China. John E. Geddes, a longtime Canadian Presbyterian missionary in Taiwan and professor at Tamkang University, offers a fascinating historical overview of the changing use of language, that is, largely the struggle between Mandarin and Taiwanese, in the denominational hymnbook of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan from 1865 to 1965. The final essay in this section is a masterful bibliographical survey of the development of the Chinese historiographical body of work on the Christian colleges of the early twentieth century, by Jessie G. Lutz, professor emerita of history at Rutgers University. Lutz, who wrote the first major treatise on the Christian Colleges, continues to produce excellent work, as shown by this fine essay.1 (I wish that I and my coeditor Ellen Widmer had had this essay close at hand when we were doing the preface and postface of our recent book on the China Christian colleges as sites for cross-cultural experiences both for Chinese and for the Westerners involved.2)
Part 3 of the volume has three biographical studies. First is Peter Wang's deft portrayal of the disastrous career of Bishop F. R. Graves (1858-1940), American Episcopal (Anglican) bishop of Shanghai in the late 1920s, who had a decidedly hostile encounter with Chinese nationalism at that time. In a substantial chapter, rich in detail, Wang outlines the main elements of Graves's antagonistic stance towards the May 30th...