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Reviewed by:
  • The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ ed. by Roman Malek
  • Patrick Fuliang Shan (bio)
Roman Malek, editor. The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ. Sankt Augustin, Germany: Monumenta Serica Institute, vol. 4a, 2015. 658 pp. Hardcover $52.09, isbn 978-1-9096-6268-1; vol. 4b, 2020. xix, 354 pp. Hardcover $97.73, isbn 978-0-3673-5697-2.

A couple of weeks prior to my receipt of volumes 4a and 4b of The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ, I read an obituary written by Barbara Hostler from whom I got the sad news that Roman Malek (1951–2019) passed away on November 29, 2019. For decades, Malek had published fruitfully on Christianity in China, for which he is acclaimed for his diligence, persistence, and productivity. As a historian teaching Chinese history, my attention was inevitably drawn to his prolific publications. In fact, I enjoyed reading his previous volumes. Although I had never met Malek and did not even have a chance to communicate with him, I felt that my special scholarly tie with him naturally existed as I was his enthusiastic reader. May this review serve as a tribute to him as an assiduous and productive scholar who labored on the history of Christianity in China for so long. His edited volumes should be valued as a contribution to the ongoing study of the Chinese embracement of Jesus Christ in the unique cultural setting of East Asia. [End Page 149]

In the previous volumes (vols. 1–3), Malek followed the chronological order to trace the Chinese acceptance of Christianity from its first introduction into the Tang empire (618–907) during the Medieval Ages to the present days in the People's Republic of China. Each volume comprises one or two books to present relevant primary sources and related scholarly articles. Malek's meticulous selection of those valuable materials demonstrated his astute acumen, his sound assessment, and his rational judgment. After reading those volumes, the reader may acquire an unblemished picture of Jesus Christ among the Chinese people during the millennium-long vigorous cultural and religious interactions. As a protracted civilization, China has its unique religious tradition and its distinctive cultural heritage, which have inevitably influenced the Chinese absorption of the Christian faith. Because of this, the Chinese face of Jesus Christ differs from that of other nationals. Malek's volumes help the reader perceive Chinese images of Jesus Christ and comprehend the Chinese interpretation of Christianity.

Readers of Malek's previous volumes might feel disappointed in finding that The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ (vol. 4a) is mostly an annotated bibliography. After a careful examination, the reader is still grateful to Malek for offering such a comprehensive bibliography with detailed information about authors, their publications, and other related information. For the researcher, volume 4a is indeed a handy reference. Malek included a list of publishing houses, journals, and book series with their counterparts in Chinese characters, which is a convenient inventory for the researcher to save time in figuring out their original titles. He incorporated key references, illustrations, and a valuable list of original documents that are stockpiled in two Chinese libraries: Beitang Library in Beijing and Xujiahui Library in Shanghai. Nevertheless, volume 4a does not offer a complete bibliography; for example, some Chinese-American scholars' important works are ignored. Xi Lian, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, Dong Wang, and many other publications on Christianity in China are left out. For example, Xi Lian's Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (Yale University Press, 2010) should not be excluded. Of course, this bibliography, as Malek honestly conceded, "is by no means complete" (p. 7), which implies that more efforts should be invested in order to compile a more exhaustive bibliography.

The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ (vol. 4b) consists of a supplementary anthology, a general index, an addenda, and other items. A little over half of this volume is devoted to the supplementary anthology in which one-third of all titles are printed in English, others mostly in German and occasionally in Chinese. Needless to say, non-English materials pose a barrier to the English reader. From over seventy titles in the anthology, the...


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