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基督教传教士与中国文化(外文)
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Christian Missionaries and Modern Chinese Culture
(基督教传教士与中国文化)
An Xi-meng (安希孟,山西大学哲学系教授)
The major religions in China are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam. Among them, Buddhism and Taoism have a longer history and have exercised a greater influence on Chinese culture. Islam has a wide influence among the minority nationalities. Christianity came to China relatively late, but it has strong impact on Chinese politics, cultures, customs, science and technology. It also became ingredient of Chinese cultural tradition after a long period of development. It is no longer strange to Chinese intellectuals and common people now. From the excavation of Nestorian table in Xi’an, Shaanxi, in 1625, we are certain that the early form of Christianity was first introduced to China and was received by the Tang government in the capital city in the year 635. This religion was named Chang Jiao (景教), or the Illustrious Teaching, and was patronized by successive emperors of the Dynasty. Nevertheless, little of it was known during the Song and Yuan Dynasties.
Western missionaries came to China and brought western ideals of democracy and human rights to China. Chinization and Chinese characteristics are sometimes used as excuses for resisting universal values and human rights. When Christianity was introduced to China. it changed to a narrow-minded patriotism and nationalism. However, it is argued that now our foreign policy should not refuse foreign involvement and help, nor reject external criticism and comments. Christianity is a world faith. It is not a self-governed religions, nor is it a nationalistic religion. Christianity is not nature worship. The Yan and Huang Emperors and Dragons are naturalistic and nationalistic powers. Christianity denies these gods.
In the late 16th century, the Jesuits came to China and gained their influence in China owing to their scientific knowledge. Their works in religious missions were insignificant in comparison with their accomplishments in astronomy and mathematics. They were more in association with Chinese upper classes than with the lower people. They quickly adopted Chinese customs and manners instead of criticizing them and trying to convert the Chinese to theirs. They excessively accommodated themselves to Chinese customs and rites.
During the empire of Kangxi, the Catholic missionaries differed with each other in the way the names of Chinese traditional rites and Catholicism were to be translated. This angered Emperor Kangxi, and he issued an edict to stop the missionaries to preach in China. This is what historians call “Controversies about Rites” Ever since the mid-seventeenth century, the controversies growing out of those within the society of Jesus further developed into the arguments between the emperors of the Qing Dynasty and the popes of Roman Empire. This persisted for a whole century (1643 - 1742).
The controversies about rites arose originally between those missionaries themselves rather than between the missionaries and the Chinese emperors. But religious beliefs and rites are the matters that pertain to believers and churches, and it was not Emperor Kangxi’s role to arbitrate religious quarrels and intervene in matters of the missionaries. In so doing, only he was belittling himself as an emperor.
However, the controversies did touch off a comparison between the Chinese religious rites and Roman Catholicism. If this did give spur to Chinese religious beliefs, it could be considered as a good thing, and could hardly be regarded as something against the Chinese culture. We cannot shift the blame to the missionaries for the century-old forbidding of religious belief in China in the wake of the controversies about rites. The forbidding of religious beliefs, the destruction of churches and the exclusion of missionaries were the natural outcome of the policies of the Qing Dynasty and the result of the profound contradictions between Christianity and the Chinese conventional beliefs. The controversies about rites virtually did something good to the Chinese culture when Catholicism attempted to integrate itself with Chinese traditions, and in the process helped to get rid of some of the harmful superstitions. The controversies about rites ended in the seeming triumph of the Chinese feudal empire, but it resulted in something lamentable, as it further isolated this already isolated poor kingdom, making it lag farther behind the world civilization with fewer common interests with the developed countries in the world.
After the Opium War in 1840, the Qing Dynasty was compelled to lift the ban on missionary. From then on, foreign missionaries had a free hand to establish their churches and proselyte in China’s interior. Protestantism was introduced into China in the early 19th century. After the Boxers’ Movement of 1900, Protestant missionaries paid more attention to cultural enterprise by setting up schools, hospitals and other establishments. This benefited our country and people. Christianity was the hope of the weak nation at that time.
Christian missionaries did many beneficial deeds in China. These have been principally educational, social and medical. The revival of the ancient public schools and the adoption of modern public education methods were largely due to missionary initiation. Before 1900, the missionary schools were the only places in China where natural sciences and foreign languages were taught. Most professors and teachers of sciences and languages of the newly established universities and public schools were foreign missionaries. Public schools for girls were entirely new to China and were introduced by the missionaries. The first public school for girls in China was opened by a British mission in Macao around 1890. The new idea spread gradually upward along the Yangtze River and coast line. Canton took a lead in women’s education in the south, Shanghai and Ning-bo in the center and Tien-jin in the north. Modern public education, particularly public education for women in China, is indebted to Christian missionaries.
Many of the first text-books of the new learning were produced by missionaries. Some dialects were reduced to writing after the missionary translated the Bible into them. The popular education movement had its birth in Protestant organizations. The education of the blind and deaf was introduced by missionaries, too.
In addition, Christianity reinforced the Chinese ethical standards and quickened Chinese public conscience. The missionary was active in fighting opium, gambling and prostitution. They attacked famine, poor labor conditions, concubine, the custom of foot-binding, the exposure of infants. They also frowned on arranged marriages for youths. Missionary heightened the respect for individual. No person was too lowly not to have an immortal soul. All men were equal in God’s eyes. Protestant denominations emphasized the democracy. Each person has his voice. This promoted the democratic tendencies in China. Today, many Chinese scholars agree that the elimination of the harmful habits and customs was primarily due to the missionary work.
Christian medical and other charitable works were also important. It is the missionaries who first opened dispensaries and hospitals. Their services were charitable and free to the poor. Sanitary living was one of the campaign topics of missionary activities. Both educational and medical activities were employed by missionaries as means to approach the Chinese people and convert them to Christianity.
Missionaries were also involved in the training of Chinese first modern physicians. A great number (including the great revolutionary forerunner Sun Yat-sen) were trained in medical schools attached to missionary hospitals.
Another method for transmitting Western medical knowledge to the Chinese was the written works. Writings of this kind helped a great number of Chinese scholars to accept Western scientific knowledge. In order to transmit Western learning to Chinese educated adults, missionaries appealed to publication of books and magazines in Chinese. By the end of 19th century, there were a dozen active mission presses. Protestant scholars had written or translated hundreds of books on wide range of non-religious subjects.
In the 19th century, a leading part in the introduction of Western science into China was taken by Protestant missionaries. Protestants produced more books on science and mathematics than the total number of other non-religious subjects.
There were also a number of influential missionary publications in the fields of history and international laws.
All missionary efforts could be regarded as reform-directed. Missionary impact on China’s social reform and activity was great. The instruction in secular subjects in Protestant schools and the knowledge of the West taught in Protestant publications created an atmosphere of reformation. Missionaries set up live models for Chinese reformers for the methods, social attitudes and politics.
The most famous missionaries Timothy Richard, who was the founder of Shanxi University, Young J. Allen and Gilbert Reid were vigorous propagandists for reformation. They also: had good personal relations with Chinese great reformers. The reformist writings of Protestants were much more influential than personal contacts. The circulation of reformist works grew rapidly from late 1880s. The missionaries also stimulated the emancipation of Chinese women. Protestants had commitment to the feminism and had determination to fight for the “equal rights” of Chinese women. Under missionary auspices, several women doctors were trained. Missionaries made efforts to spread literacy among adult women and to furnish them with instruction in home economics. Many of the earliest Chinese modernizers were either Christians or deeply indebted to missionary ideas and outlooks. During the period from 1895 to 1898, the missionary impact on Chinese reformation reached the summit. Christian missionaries helped to shape the specific techniques, ideas and world views of the reformers.
Missionaries also endeavored to improve agriculture and to increase the production of food as well as to prevent disease and to relieve famine. They created in thousands of souls a courage, a faith, a hope, and an unselfish devotion so as to make their way through the distresses.
Another contribution of the missionaries was that they interpreter China to the Occident. Missionaries popularized in the Occident the knowledge about China. Their devotion and love for China made them appreciative interpreters and ardent champions. They were active in fostering organizations for mediating between the East and the West. They made the Occident understand and respect China. It is impartial to declare that the presence and the labors of the missionary were fortunate for Chinese people. The primary function of the missionary was to bring China into contact with the outside world. The primary motives of the missionary movement were not selfish. Their purpose is not to increase the glory and power of Western nations. The dominant motive was a feeling of obligation to share with Chinese people a message, a salvation, a way of life which they believed of importance. Missionaries came to China and labored for an alien people often at the cost of their own lives. It is a glorious page for altruism and heroism in the history.
In my opinion, there are bright prospects nowadays for Chinese Christians to promote political democracy and advocate human rights in Mainland. The churches should play an important role in China. The Three-Self Movement and the Catholic Patriotic Committee are too absolutely attached to the Party closely. The majority of Christian masses don't trust in them. The patriotism is a kind of narrow nationalism, exclusionism. There are still persecutions of non-official religious believers. Chinese church should separate itself from the state and break away from the Party's control. The church leaders must be the protectors of human rights of the believers. They ought to stimulate the political freedom and reform. We ought to condemn the traditional feudalism and defend the fundamental human rights.
In this respect, the foreign missionaries of the last century set up examples for us to learn from.
In short, the transmission of Western scientific and social knowledge and practice was a great contribution of Protestant missionaries to China. Christianity being a part of Western cultures, the acceptance of it was a step toward the modernization and Westernization. Progressive personages of Chinese people didn’t reject it. Chen Tu-hsiu, one of the leaders of the New Cultural Movement, at one time advocated the adoption of moral education based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
In the last century, however, the vast majority of Chinese were closely identified with the status quo. For them, Christianity was a large menace. Among all social classes, resistance was rampant. One of the causes of this resistance was the doctrinal differences between Christianity and Confucianism. Ugly nationalism existed everywhere. Some contemporary scholars wrongly identify it with patriotic indignation. The clash between missionary and some Chinese people was that between higher religion and lower religion, between internationalism and nationalism. The conflict was not that between imperialism and the whole Chinese nation. Mao Tse-tung’s assertion that missionary work was imperialist cultural invasion was utterly groundless.
In China, the gentry class was the elite of society. They were deeply devoted to Chinese tradition. When Confucian teachings came under attack from the missionary, the gentry class had a feeling of resentment. The missionary regarded the Chinese rites as superstitious, the Chinese replied with skepticism toward Christian beliefs. Each considered the other belonging to a lower order. Missionaries contact the Chinese authorities as social equals. This is an invasion of the gentry's traditional privileges. The anti-Christian disturbances of the last decades of the nineteenth century were often planned by this gentry class. The ground for popular hostility to missionary was their racial prejudice. Christian opposition to ancestor worship directly challenged Chinese values. Consequently, Christianity was misunderstood and Chinese people hated Christianity. Non-Christian population regarded missionary building as disregarding native geomantic notions (风水). The anti-Christian literature aimed at generating an atmosphere of intense hatred for and revulsion against missionaries. Many Chinese officials opposed the foreign missionary because the missionary challenged their prestige and authority. The authorities intentionally associated themselves with anti-foreign forces because they wanted to prevent poor people from being against them. We should not consider this action as patriotism, nor can we consider missionaries as imperialists or colonialists.
In today’s China, the government and the leaders of both the Catholic and Protestant churches are against the foreigners doing missionary work in China. They regard foreign missionaries as “Foreign Enemies”. They forgot that Christianity is a missionary religion. Without missions, Christianity is no longer Christianity. Chinese people and churches will benefit from foreign missions. Regent College offered the evangelical theological training that will meet the requirements of Chinese Christians. All Christian Churches are one family. There is no distinction between foreign and domestic churches. There is only one God, a God without color, without class stand. God doesn’t show favoritism to some nation. God doesn’t incite resentment.
In the past, missionaries to China had taken up the task of integrating western and Chinese culture seriously, and the Chinese intellectuals had taken a back seat in this respect. But these missionaries had failed to achieve the desired objective, because they did not perceive the fundamental differences in the two cultures and had only worked on superficialities. They took the teaching of Confucius seriously, but failed to appreciate the importance of the May Fourth movement which advocated social reforms against feudalism which was considered to have been perpetuated by Confucianism. The intellectuals of the May Fourth movement saw Christianity as the antidote to Chinese feudalism. Some of these intellectuals thought Christianity was a superior religion and would like to see Christianity replace Confucianism, polytheism and animism. Attempts at contextualization should therefore focus on the thoughts of the May Fourth movement, rather than the four books and five classics of Confucianism.
The missionaries in the 19th century overlooked some of the essential teachings of Christianity in order to accommodate Confucianism. Instead of contextualization, they merely had accommodation. The modern advocates for indigenization of theology in China misunderstood and compromised Christianity, essentially because they confused religion and faith with philosophies.
It is the writer's opinion that instead of compromise and accommodation, Christianity and Chinese culture should be willing to be mutually critical of each other for the purpose of reforming each other. This process transcends contextualization and indigenization and aims to look outward to the world and look forward to the future when Chinese culture becomes an integral part of the world-wide cultural ethos. To this end, we need to promote the concept of the world-wide church and to refrain from holding on to established thought patterns in China. This is the future of the church in China.

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