Liberal Theology in the Late Qing China: The Case of Timothy Richard

Title: Liberal Theology in the Late Qing China: The Case of Timothy Richard
Authors: Yang, Cuiwei
Date: 2014
Abstract: The opium wars in China during the 1840s were followed by a surge of Christianization in the late Qing dynasty. What a kind of role played by missionaries in the modernization of the Qing China has been a long-lasting issue since the early 20th century. Due to political reasons, the contribution of the Christian mission was either underestimated in view of Cultural Invasion paradigm or overemphasized in view of Modernization paradigm. The thesis employs a less-distorted model, Liberal Theology, to analyze the influences of liberal missionaries, exemplified by Timothy Richard, on the social reform in the modernization movement of the late Qing. It describes the relevance of missionary activities to the development of Chinese history in view of the biographical records of Christian missions. The entry point of this presence is traced in the text through Richard’s activities to contribute to famine relief, literary work, reform advocacy, higher education, cross-cultural exchange, a product of the development of his ideas and strategies gained from the promotion of European models of modernization. Particularly, the thesis brings to light Richard’s symbiotic conception between religion and secularism (i.e., science, technology, education, and political reform). The main contribution of the study hinges on a couple of aspects: (1) Building a thorough portrait of Richard and of his life-long vocation by means of a number of primary and secondary sources in both English and Chinese; and (2) Interpreting the liminal role Richard played in his missionary work to answer the question: are missionaries a proxy of imperialism, or a paragon of modernization, or something in between? After pointing out the limitations of the two old paradigms, the thesis exposes that, armed with the hybrid Liberal Theology model, we can better understand the nature of the mission work done by liberal missionaries, such as Richard. Thus, though their activities happened in an era marked with colonial imperialism, the Christian mission should not be regarded as simply an imperialistic invasion in the cultural field; what is more, though missionaries introduced western civilization to Chinese people in various proselytizing approaches, they could not be considered as one of the prime movers for China’s modernization in the late Qing Dynasty, because the contributions they made subordinately promoted China’s modernization through a series of religious and cultural contacts with Chinese elites via, e.g., meetings, media, literary work, higher education.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -