Handbook of Christianity in China, Vol. 1: 635-1800

Article excerpt

Handbook of Christianity in China, vol. 1: 635-1800. Edited by Nicolas Standaert. Leiden: Brill, 2001. (Handbook of Oriental Studies/ Handbuch der Orientalistik, part 4 China, 15/ 1.) Pp. xxvii, 964. $165.

This first volume of the Handbook of Christianity in China is sure to be an indispensable reference work for decades to come. The modest title does not convey the scope and importance of this monumental work, which lucidly synthesizes the current scholarship on Christianity in China to 1800 (broadly conceived to include the missionary role in scientific and cultural exchange), contributes new insights in the process, and places at the researcher's fingertips the essential reference tools to build on that foundation.

Each period of the three into which the work is divided (Tang, Yuan, and Ming-Qing, the last comprising almost nine-tenths of the work) is discussed under four headings: sources, actors, scene, and themes. The sources section provides analytic summaries of the main primary-- source materials available for Christianity in China for that period and of the pertinent secondary scholarship. In the actors section are general sketches of the missionary bodies, the Chinese Christian communities, and the opponents of Christianity, plus biographies of key individuals. The scene section summarizes the social, political, and ecclesiastical context of Christianity in each period. Under themes fall encyclopedic articles on a wide variety of topics, ranging from missionary theology to the transmission into China of European learning and the transmission of ideas about China to Europe. …