A History of Chinese Christian Hymnody: From Its Missionary Origins to Contemporary Indigenous Productions

Article excerpt

A History of Chinese Christian Hymnody: From Its Missionary Origins to Contemporary Indigenous Productions. By Fang-Lan Hsieh. Lewiston, N.Y: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009. Pp. xv, 269. $109.95 / £69.95.

This cross-disciplinary study addresses cultural history, Chinese poetics, musicological assessments, hymnologists' biographies, and religious influences of Protestant hymnology during the last two centuries. Including over fifty illustrations in its six chapters, Hsieh presents a historical cornucopia of Chinese hymnology, garnished by biographies of key foreign and Chinese hymnists and musicians.

Hsieh, a musicologist and librarian at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, has done extensive research in key North American archives related to Chinese Protestantism but also has obviously obtained other materials and information from a wide range of circles within "cultural China." Believing that studies in hymnology can offer an aesthetic gauge for levels of indigenization and spiritual maturity, she assesses these matters within hymnals produced not only in Mainland China but also in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other places in Asia where overseas Chinese live and worship. Going beyond her concern for indigenization, she provides details about "contemporary" and "global" music that now appears in recently published hymnals.

Hsieh 's strength is clearly in musicology, with specialization in the history of Chinese Protestant hymnology produced by foreign missionaries and indigenous Chinese pastors, intellectuals, and hymnists. Her scope includes hymns and hymnals produced over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, not only in now-standardized forms of Mandarin Chinese but also in eight Chinese dialects or languages used by Han ethnic groups. …