The Anglo-Chinese College and the Beginnings of Chinese Protestant Christianity
In 1818, Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China, established the Anglo-Chinese College (Yinghua Shuyuan 英華書院, ACC) in Malacca with the help of his colleague William Milne. According to the deed of the ACC, its objective was ‘the cultivation of English & Chinese Literature in order to the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’. During its years of presence in Malacca, the ACC not only offered an opportunity to Chinese youths to receive a general liberal education, it was also a school for Europeans and Americans to study Chinese regardless of whether they were missionaries or not, the alma mater of pioneer Chinese Protestant evangelists, and a press printing Chinese Bibles and Christian tracts as well as sinological works. Shaped by a missionary approach concerned with cultural reconciliation or adaptation, the ACC’s activities and achievements were part of the beginnings of Chinese Protestant Christianity and laid the foundation for its subsequent development, as illustrated in this special issue of Studies in World Christianity, which consists of the revised versions of selected papers presented at ‘Sino-Western Cultural Exchange and the Development of Christianity in China: A Conference in Celebration of the Bicentenary of Ying Wa College’, which was held at Hong Kong Baptist University, 12—13 October 2018, co-organised by the Centre for Sino-Christian Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University and Ying Wa College, and sponsored by Tin Ka Ping Foundation.
Recent historical scholarship on modern Christian missions to China, as to the non-European world as a whole, has been bedeviled by two weaknesses. First, historians have written about Protestant missions to China, or less frequently about Catholic ones, but very rarely about the two together within a single monograph. Second, Anglo-American scholars have tended for obvious linguistic reasons to confine themselves to the study of British or American missions, to the general neglect of those from continental Europe. Not the least of the virtues of Albert Monshan Wu’s book is that it transcends both of these limitations at once. By selecting as his two case studies in missions to China the Protestant Berlin Missionary Society (BMS) and the Catholic Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Wu is able to illuminate both commonalties and dissimilarities across the confessional divide. Continue reading →
This year, there are many festivities celebrating the legacy of the Protestant Reformation – 500 years after Martin Luther penned his Ninety-five Theses in 1517. However, one of the most important legacies which has been overlooked is the Counter-Reformation – the Catholic revival which responded to the protests of Luther and other reformers. When we consider a country like China – or most other places outside of Europe at the time – it is in fact the Counter-Reformation that had an arguably more important impact (at least initially). Three examples, I believe, are worth highlighting, as they show just how much Protestantism in China is indebted to Catholicism in China and, by extension, the Counter-Reformation. Continue reading →