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Senkyoshi to Chugoku o meguru “Chi” no Kochiku (Missionaries and Constructing Knowledge on China - Protestants before the Opium War)




376 pages, A5 format




December 26, 2023



Published by

University of Tokyo Press

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Senkyoshi to Chugoku o meguru “Chi” no Kochiku

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The 19th century delineates the advent of modernity, especially from an Asian perspective, and it also marks the onset of modern globalism as well as the era of imperialism. Concurrently, the expansion of the British Empire into Asia hightened the demand for knowledge of the East. This book provides insight into the manner in which Britain accumulated knowledge about China through the engagement of Protestant missionaries, highlighting their pivotal role in the formulation and construction of said knowledge. Chronologically examining the endeavors of early Protestant missionaries before the Opium War(1839-1842), sheds light on the circumstances that facilitated their activities and unveils the underlying mechanisms. These endeavors include translating Confucian classics in India, publishing English-Chinese/Chinese-English dictionaries in Macao, establishing the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca, translating the Bible into Chinese, and publishing the Chinese Repository.
During the early Protestant missionary era, British legislation deemed missionary activities in Asian countries, such as India and China, as illicit. This circumstance necessitated affiliations with educational or commercial entities of the English East India Company in Asia. The aforementioned endeavors of missionaries were facilitated under the supervision or cooperarion of local British authorities. The 1830s witnessed the emergence of new local political forces, notably free-trade merchants, alongside whom American missionaries also contributed to the cultivation of knowledge about China through the publication of the Chinese Repository, with the support of British local authority officials.
The pre-Opium War endeavors of missionaries transcended scholarly and religious realms, spurred by the political exigencies of British local authorities, such as the East India Company government, in procuring information about the ostensibly enigmatic China. Missionaries positioned themselves as experts in China and Asia, assuming roles as interpreters and advisors during the Opium War. In the late 19th century, amidst the institutionalization of sinology in British universities, the accomplishments of missionaries contributed to the nascent progress in sinological studies.
The accumulation of knowledge on China by Britain through Protestant missionaries emanated from the recognition of a critical imperative by local British authorities. This utilization of missionaries as human assets diverged from the pre-19th century French model characterized by a top-down approach, where the monarch dispatched Catholic missionaries, such as Jesuits, to China, subsequently extracting information from them. In this context, the book also furnishes insight into the historical evolution of oriental studies, particularly the establishment of sinology, in the modern era.

(Written by: HWANG Yerem / February 19, 2024)

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