Christianity in China: A Scholars's Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States

Christianity in China: A Scholars's Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States

Christianity in China: A Scholars's Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States

Christianity in China: A Scholars's Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States

Excerpt

The oldest record of Christian communities in China is the Nestorian Monument, erected in Xi'an in 781 A.D., 711 years before Christopher Columbus landed in America. From that beginning, the missionary presence fluctuated, growing from none at all for centuries to over 10,000 in the 1920s, the high water mark of the missionary enterprise in China. Living close to the Chinese people for extended periods of time, often for a professional lifetime of thirty to forty years, the missionaries learned the language and customs of the people and thus became the agents of cross-cultural communication between China and the West. Most of them were required to prepare detailed and regular reports and to keep in constant touch with relatives and friends in their home communities. Since the content of this vast accumulation of records extended beyond the ecclesiastical concerns of the Church--touching on activities in the fields of agriculture, education, medicine, famine relief, science, and others--the records created by this encounter are indispensable resources for the study of China as a whole.

John King Fairbank, in his introduction to The Missionary Enterprise in China and America, points out that the missionaries pioneered

the spread of literacy to ordinary people, the publication of journals and pamphlets in the vernacular, education and equality of women, the abolition of arranged child marriages, the supremacy of public duty over filial obedience and family obligations, increased agricultural productivity through the sinking of wells and improved tools, crops, and breeds, dike and road building for protection against flood and famine, public health clinics to treat common ailments and prevent disease, discussion groups to foster better conduct, student organizations to promote healthy recreation and moral guidance, and the acquisition and Sinification of western knowledge for use in remaking Chinese life.

The first guide to resources relating to Christianity in China was A Guide to the Archives and Records of Protestant Christian Missions from the British Isles to China, 1796-1914, by Leslie R. Marchant, published by the University of Western Australia Press in 1960. As the title indicates, it only covers a limited historical period, is limited to the British Isles, and does not include either China-based institutions or the personal papers of missionaries.

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