Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific

By Kang Liao | Go to book overview

4
A MULTICULTURAL MEDIATOR

One of the biggest events in the cultural contact between the East and the West was undoubtedly the establishment of Christian missions. The American missionary movement in China lasted more than a century; thousands of missionaries spent the best part of their lives far away from their own country, and tens of millions of dollars were spent in the oriental land. These generations of endeavor and generous enterprises were all for the sole purpose of bringing the Gospel and salvation to the Chinese. Judging from the number of the Chinese who were converted, everyone admits that the missions failed. As Jessie G. Lutz informed us, "At no time did the number of Christian converts exceed one per cent of the Chinese population, and by the mid-twentieth century the missionary effort had been halted" (vii). The saddening fact is that most of the converts were mere "rice Christians," that is, they became Christians for material benefits rather than spiritual needs. Moreover, some of the converts were even "friendship Christians," that is, they became Christians not because they were converted but because they did not want to hurt the feelings of their Christian friends. However, the number of converts should not be the only measure by which we evaluate the missions. Nor should it be the most important measure. Their failure is much more apparent than their achievement. The lessons that can be drawn from their failure and the experience that can be summarized from their achievement are still beneficial in today's cultural exchange.

Pearl Buck was one of the first influential writers who dealt with the issue of Christian missions in China. Being a daughter of American Presbyterian missionaries who, unlike many of their condescending colleagues, were genuine friends of Chinese peasants and farmers and won love and respect with their good deeds as well as kind intentions, she grew up among ordinary Chinese people. She learned Chinese before English, took Chinese lessons from a tutor, Mr. Kung, as well as English lessons from her mother, made many Chinese

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Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of World Literature ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - A Paradoxical Enigma 1
  • Notes 15
  • 2 - A Neglected Laureate 17
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - A Single-Handed Crusader 47
  • Notes 82
  • 4 - A Multicultural Mediator 83
  • Notes 118
  • 5 - A Historic Mirror 121
  • Notes 137
  • Index 173
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