Institutional Scholarship

"God within the shadow": missionary writings on China at the close of the nineteenth century

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dc.contributor.advisor Smith, Paul J., 1947- Tan, Sophia 2014-10-28T20:01:17Z 2014-10-28T20:01:17Z 2009
dc.description.abstract This thesis will examine how the presence of American missionaries in China between the years 1890 through 1901 affected the response by the international community immediately following the suppression of the Boxer Uprising. The impact that published missionary writings had on the American public has been well documented, but this study will focus on the differences between published missionary writings and private correspondences in how the missionaries perceived their immediate environment. One of the most striking contrasts between public and private writing comes through in the amount of religious content the private correspondences lack, while publications for American readership focuses on the religious state of the Chinese. It was the public construction of the Chinese people and the state by missionaries that resulted in the brutal international response towards the Ch'ing government and punishment aimed directly at the Chinese people. What this paper seeks to clarify is how missionaries played important political and cultural roles as the mediators between the Chinese and Americans by studying the known relationships between missionary writing and American perceptions of China in the context of private correspondences. To compare public and private missionary writings, various sources were utilized ranging from published studies on missionaries in China and the Boxer Uprising to private letters archived at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. The volume of works included is just a small volume of the available primary resources that exist. Despite the breadth of material, persistent themes emerge especially in the public writings. Many public journals and letters published in periodicals contain aggressive and religious language that contrasts sharply with the secular and personal perspectives the private letters and journals contain. The motive for this discrepancy appears to be the need for missionaries to justify the expense of their activities abroad, which is funded in part by the Western public reading missionary writings back in the United States and Europe. Although they serve as the direct intermediaries between the Chinese people and Euroamerica, missionaries in fact knew very little about their potential converts. Both public and private writings reveal this ignorance, but again, the motives differ. In public writings, missionaries express little interest in knowing about the Chinese culture and people because those were the main subjects that needed civilizing. Private writings, in contrast, reveal a reluctance by missionaries towards interacting with the Chinese due to a fear of the culture and a desire for Western contact. Missionaries remained isolated from their immediate environment, but it did little to inhibit the publication of their superficially authoritative and knowledgeable observations on China in the late-nineteenth century. The significance of analyzing the differences between the public and private missionary writings rests on the events that follow immediately after the Boxers siege the capital city of Peking. As punishment, the Western powers and Japan support the looting and destruction of villages throughout northern China that were already weakened by Boxer activity. This frenzy of violence was a message to the Chinese state and the people that their actions against missionaries would be taken personally. The missionary writings that the Western audiences read influenced Euroamericans into believing that violent and personal retribution was the only suitable solution to the Boxer Uprising.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Missionaries -- China -- History -- 19th century
dc.subject.lcsh China -- Civilization -- 19th century
dc.subject.lcsh China -- Civilization -- Christian influences
dc.title "God within the shadow": missionary writings on China at the close of the nineteenth century
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Haverford users only

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