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The Biographies of the Chinese Christians Composed by the British Missionaries in the Late Qing Dynasty and the Early Republican Period of China: An Overview

Abstract: From the Late Qing Dynasty through the early period of the Republic of China, the British missionaries in China composed and published miscellaneous biographical writings for their Chinese converts. Such doing is for not only the encouragement of the followers but also the enhancement of their own work. Moreover, under the circumstances of the native people’s stronganti-foreignism, it is also a kind of self-defending. These biographies are characterized with the deep animosity towards Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and the rural superstitions, a feeling supported by the rigid dogmatism held by most of the Protestant missionaries who, unlike the Late Ming and Early Qing Jesuits who adopted the strategy of ‘coalescing’&‘transcending’ Confucianism, believe that the Chinese have been groping in total darkness since the beginning and the hope for China lies only in the Christianization. This belief demonstrates the biographies’parochialism that is born with Christianity. Nevertheless, these documents have values in various respects. 1. They describe the moving acts of the Chinese Christians and laud their sublime religious spirit; 2. They record with vivid details the history of spreading Christianity in China in a special period; 3. They reveal the contributions of Christianity to the transformation of modern Chinese culture; 4. They have some amending effects on the writing of traditional Chinese biography.

Keywords: British missionaries; Chinese Christians; biography

Author:Yin Dexiang, Ph.D.,is Professor of Comparative Literature in School of Humanities and Communication at Ningbo University, China. His research interests are modern Sino-Western literary relationship and modern life writing. He is the author of Across the East Sea & the West Sea: The Cultural Observation, Identification and Choice in the diaries of the late Qing Diplomats to the Western Countries(2009) and A Textual Research into the Late Qing Zhuzhi Ci Poetry about Foreign Lands (2016). This article is part of the work in the Major Project “Compilation and Research of Overseas Life–Writing on Modern Chinese People” (IN. 11&ZD138), sponsored by the National Social Science Foundation of China. Email:yindexiang8065@163.com.