Chronique Du Toumet-Ortos: Looking through the Lens of Joseph Van Oost, Missionary in Inner Mongolia (1915-1921)

Article excerpt

Chronique du Toumet-Ortos: Looking Through the Lens of Joseph Van Oost, Missionary in Inner Mongolia (1915-1921). By Ann Heylen. Leuven: Leuven Univ. Press, 2004. Pp. 409. Paperback euro39.

Joseph Van Oost, a missionary of the C.I.C.M. (Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Scheut fathers) in Inner Mongolia, kept a detailed account of the life of the people among whom he worked. Ann Heylen's work reproduces long sections of this account, in French, and she adds explanatory material in English along with her interpretation of the usefulness of such contemporary accounts. Van Oost apparently intended to publish the accounts of his experiences in home periodicals for the churchgoers who contributed to missions.

For the six years that his account chronicles, Van Oost relates much about the practice of Chinese customs (such as the Lantern Festival, observances for various gods, and marriage practices), and he also tells of the ravages of the bandits, warlords, and armies of early republican China. The issue of opium cultivation and the attempts of the government to tax and suppress it occupy much of the chapter on governmental attempts at reform. …