Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

China's Christian Colleges: Cross-Cultural Connections 1900-1950

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

China's Christian Colleges: Cross-Cultural Connections 1900-1950

Article excerpt

China's Christian Colleges: Cross-Cultural Connections 1900-1950. Edited by Daniel H. Bays and Ellen Widmer. (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. 2009. Pp. xiv, 405. $24.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-804-75949-6.)

In 1976, John King Fairbank predicted that, in twenty years, the field of China studies would be much broader and more varied. One must wonder if he envisioned a book like this one, where the essays are written by a librarian, three people in the field of education, a former grants administrator, an architect, a lawyer, an anthropologist, and several historians of China. They bring to the study of the Protestant mission colleges in China a perspective based on their own discipline, adding new dimensions to what we know about these institutions. The cross-cultural dimensions of missionaries in the field who wanted the colleges to produce Christian graduates who could then convert all of China; the administrators at home whose views of the institutions were based on their American experience and frequently ignored the realities of China; the Chinese government, which tolerated foreigners teaching modern subjects but preferred it without proselytizing; and the students who wanted education in the modern subjects that they perceived had strengthened Western nations and thus might enable them to transform China into an equal partner with the West- these varied elements all collided on the campuses of the Christian colleges. Each competing group, convinced its methods were the correct ones, sought ways to achieve its goals. From Mathilda Thurston and her Shanghai-based, Western architect, who wanted the Ginling College campus in the shape of a cross, to the students at Soochow Law School in Shanghai who wanted to further their prospects in the business world, each found and took from the colleges lasting cross-cultural understanding (or misunderstanding) of the other's country. …

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