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Cross Culture and Faith

Cross Culture and Faith: The Life and Work of James Mellon Menzies

Linfu Dong
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 370
  • Book Info
    Cross Culture and Faith
    Book Description:

    James Mellon Menzies (1885-1957) was a Canadian engineer, Presbyterian missionary, and archaeologist active in China in the 1920s and 1930s. In a tradition that saw archaeology as a means of gathering artefacts for the collections of Western museums, Menzies believed in collecting for the people of China. He also saw his archaeological work as an extension of his missionary work, connecting, through his discoveries, the religious beliefs of ancient China to those of evangelical Christianity.

    InCross Culture and Faith, Linfu Dong sheds new light on the modern encounter between China and the West through Menzies's life, work, and thought. He elucidates the difficult 'negotiation' processes that Menzies endured on multiple levels and with multiple forces, including Chinese nationalism, Western imperialism, the evangelical Mission, and his own personal interest in Chinese archaeology within that world.

    Despite his belief in assuring Chinese artefacts remained in China, some of Menzies's personal collection was donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in British Columbia. This has assured his place in the cultural memory of both East and West - appropriate, since his life so often straddled the two worlds.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7361-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    The young man on the old horse was a Canadian Presbyterian missionary named James Mellon Menzies and the year was 1914, the third spring of the Republic of China. The place was a village named Xiao tun (old spelling Hsiao-t’un), literally ‘Little Village,’ on the broad North China Plain in North Henan (old spelling Honan). Menzies was an unusual missionary, for he was educated initially as a civil engineer and Dominion land surveyor, and had spent his summers surveying the northern Ontario bush. Although he had been in China for only three and a half years and at Zhangde (which...

  5. Chapter 1 Rural Ontario, 1885-1903
    (pp. 15-20)

    ‘I look back now to my childhood and think of our old home in Clinton,’ wrote James Mellon Menzies in 1919, when he congratulated his father on his eighty-second birthday. James was ‘somewhere in France,’ engaged in the melancholy task of supervising a battalion of Chinese workers mopping up the batdefields of the First World War. ‘I can see it memory now. I think I see the spring coming. The snow is melting the green sodden grass is beginning to push its fresh sword like blades toward the warm sun. I can see the steam rising from the ground and...

  6. Chapter 2 Toronto, 1903-1905
    (pp. 21-30)

    When James Menzies arrived in September 1903, ‘Toronto the Good’ was the metropolis of English Canada. It was almost one hundred years old and yet everything seemed new, built within the last decade or two. It was a big, bustling North American city with electric lights, streetcars, and ‘skyscrapers’ as befitted its self-proclaimed image as ‘the Queen City.’ The railways and mass media - national magazines likeSaturday Nightand thePresbyterian Recordas well as the Eaton’s department store catalogue - carried Toronto’s ideas and products to every part of the Dominion.

    It must have been thrilling for a...

  7. Chapter 3 From Commitment to Departure, 1905-1910
    (pp. 31-40)

    For James Menzies, the year after Lakeside was a period of intense spiritual struggle to confirm and strengthen his new commitment. Many times Menzies felt weak, and prayed for God to guide him and give him strength. At other times he thought he was too sinful to be useful for God’s cause on earth. One such day was 4 September 1905, when he started his diary with ‘SIN!’ in capital letters, followed by: ‘I have fallen in sin. Oh God, when I should be striving onward, I have been defeated.’¹ He did not mention the specific sin, but three days...

  8. Chapter 4 North Henan, 1910
    (pp. 41-51)

    The experience gained growing up among the rolling hills of Ontario farmland and surveying the unmapped Prairies seemed to breed a love for travel in James Mellon Menzies. Given the chance, he always took the longer route to any destination. His first trip to China set the pattern: instead of the normal trans-Pacific route, James went via England and Scotland and onwards across Russia on the legendary Trans-Siberian railway.

    With his sister Margaret, he left Toronto on 21 May 1910 to attend the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference as a delegate of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. This great gathering marked...

  9. Chapter 5 The Early Years, 1910-1917
    (pp. 52-65)

    After James Menzies left Annie Belle Sedgwick at Guling with a promise of marriage, he spent his first five months from September 1910 to February 1911 at Huaiqing in the southwest corner of North Henan. For a while there was some confusion, for there was another James Menzies already stationed at Huaiqing: Dr James R. Menzies, a pioneer medical missionary who was no relation. In English, they were differentiated by their middle initial: Dr James R. and Rev. James M. In Chinese the confusion was resolved by choosing different surnames. Since Dr James R. had already adopted the name of...

  10. Chapter 6 Somewhere in France, 1917-1920
    (pp. 66-79)

    In August 1914 the First World War broke out in Europe. Although China was able to stay out of the conflict until 14 August 1917, it was affected by the struggles among the Powers. In November 1914, on the basis of the Anglo-japanese Alliance, Japan sent a large naval and army force to occupy the German concession territory at Qingdao (old spelling Tsingtao) in Shandong province. The Chinese government could do nothing but acquiesce in the Japanese occupation.¹

    While still officially neutral but hoping for better treatment after the war, the Chinese government in late 1916 surreptitiously agreed to a...

  11. Chapter 7 Rest and Return, 1921-1927
    (pp. 80-92)

    In February 1920, a few days before his thirty-fifth birthday, Captain James Mellon Menzies was given an honourable discharge. His war was over. It was three years since he had left North Henan and fifteen months since the armistice. His nerves were shot; he suffered from migraine headaches and needed a rest. After his batman and companion Xiang Er left France with the last Chinese Labour Corps (CLC) contingent, Menzies packed his kit bag and returned to Toronto. Recognizing that he had served a full seven-year term in Henan before joining CLC, the Board of Foreign Missions granted him and...

  12. Chapter 8 Converts, Education, and Nationalism
    (pp. 93-108)

    When James Menzies returned to North Henan, he asked to be designated for educational work, as that was what he had been engaged in since his time at the School of Practical Science. He had spent his first term among the scholar gentry, but the three years in France had given him the opportunity to work at an intimate level among peasants. Presbytery in its wisdom assigned him to rural evangelism. His circuit was the hundreds of villages surrounding the walled prefectural city of Zhangde.

    One of the perplexing questions of China missions has been why would a Chinese peasant...

  13. Chapter 9 The Waste of Yin, 1914-1927
    (pp. 109-121)

    James M. Menzies and his family left Zhangde during the evacuation of 1927. In July 1928, when he returned for a brief inspection, everything was in ruins. The mission station had been occupied and reoccupied by the army of Feng Yuxiang, their erstwhile ‘friend,’ the Christian general. Before this, Margaret Brown wrote, ‘soldiers of various armies had visited the mission stations out of curiosity or for medical treatment... but for more than twenty years none, no matter what faction, had never [sic] harmed anything. It remained for the Nationalist Army to set a precedent.’¹

    ‘It was a great heartbreak to...

  14. chapter 10 Museums and Collectors
    (pp. 122-136)

    Many missionaries collected souvenirs that they used as object lessons when they spoke to people back home in Canada. A few became serious, systematic collectors of Chinese art. These included two notable Canadians, John Calvin Ferguson, president of Nanjing University, and William Bishop Charles White of the Canadian Anglican diocese of Henan, who both became benefactors of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Because Menzies’s career became intertwined with Bishop White and the ROM with unfortunate later results, this chapter considers their relationship at the beginning. As questions have been raised concerning Bishop White’s ethics as a collector of Chinese...

  15. Chapter 11 Interlude, 1927-1928
    (pp. 137-151)

    In the spring of 1927, as the Guomindang’s Northern Expedition escalated tensions, the British consul general in Tianjin ordered the evacuation of all British nationals from the interior of China. The three Menzies children - Marion, aged fourteen, Frances, twelve, and Arthur, ten - were attending the school for missionaries’ children at Weihui, some seventy miles from Zhangde, where James and Annie were stationed. Marion remembered the evacuation vividly. The children were taken to the train station, where they waited for a day and a night, sleeping on camp cots and surviving on porridge. When the train arrived, it was...

  16. Chapter 12 Marking Time, 1930-1931
    (pp. 152-163)

    Four months after his impassioned plea for the recognition of his unique scholarly gifts, James and Annie Menzies left Edmonton with the children and turned their faces to an uncertain future. James's migraine headaches were getting worse.

    Sailing through the Inland Sea of Japan, they stopped at Kobe to drop the children at the Canadian Academy, a school sponsored by a number of missionary societies, including the United Church of Canada, and representatives of the English-speaking business community. The school was run according to the Ontario Department of Education curriculum with qualified Canadian teachers. Entering Form Four (Grade 12), Marion,...

  17. Chapter 13 Next Stage, the 1930s
    (pp. 164-184)

    As already noted, following Menzies’s address to the Archaeological Institute of America in December 1929 Dean Chase of Harvard asked him to prepare a proposal for a joint international excavation of the waste of Yin under the auspices of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. Although never published, this detailed, nine-page proposal was one of the most important documents that Menzies ever wrote. He believed the HYI would act differently than a museum since it was interested in promoting Chinese culture in China and the West. As he wrote to Leighton Stuart, ‘To my mind the work must be undertaken on a far...

  18. Chapter 14 Mature Archaeologist, the 1930s
    (pp. 185-199)

    Menzies’s interest in oracle bones led to a unique mission theory that stressed cultural accommodation. The early Christian church had converted the Roman Empire by adaptation, which laid the foundations for Western civilization. In China, the Jesuits of the late Ming and early Qing followed the same policy, broad adaptation in non-essentials while retaining the purity of the Christian faith.¹ This tradition had been forgotten or rejected by the time Protestant missionaries arrived in China in the nineteenth century. They no longer stressed humility, patience, and adaptation. Instead, to many Chinese they epitomized the Westerner’s arrogant air of superiority, exacerbated...

  19. Chapter 15 Frustrating Exile, 1936-1941
    (pp. 200-218)

    In June 1936 James Menzies wrapped up his projects and left China for his scheduled furlough. Always the adventurer, he travelled on the Trans- Siberian Railway, retracing the route he had taken on his first trip to China in 1910. He chose this route because he wanted to see the Chinese collections in European museums, but more importantly he wanted to see the Siberian landscape. For some time, he had been fascinated with the steppe peoples of Central Asia. As he stared out the train window his remarkable vision trained by years of surveying, he speculated on the role that...

  20. Chapter 16 American Interlude and Postwar Hiatus, 1942-1947
    (pp. 219-237)

    Pearl Harbor changed everything. Until then, the way to China was still open. If James and Annie Menzies had chosen to return to China in 1938-41 as they hoped and planned, they could have joined their colleagues at Cheeloo in exile at West China Union University in Chengdu, Sichuan. The journey was long and hazardous, either trekking across no man’s land from the end of the railroad line in Occupied China or via the ‘back route’ up the Red River from Hanoi into ‘Free China.’ Or they could have gone to Jinan itself, where a small number of faculty were...

  21. Chapter 17 The Last Stage, 1948-1957
    (pp. 238-245)

    On 21 January 1948, while all these problems were swirling around, a letter dragged up again the turmoil of James Menzies’s relationship with Bishop White. It came from Sidney Smith, president of the University of Toronto, informing him that, in view of Bishop White’s imminent retirement, a committee had been set up to choose his successor and restructure the School of Chinese Studies. Would Menzies be interested in the Headship of the new department’?¹ This was a hopeful letter, but the events it unleashed were cruel, deeply wounding Menzies and saddening his future.

    In 1945 Bishop White had publishedBone...

  22. Chapter 18 Conclusion
    (pp. 246-259)

    As a China missionary, James Mellon Menzies and his family joined a select company of Canadians, British, Americans, and others who chose to perform humanitarian and educational work overseas. He experienced the tides of twentieth-century history with his colleagues in North Henan and at Cheeloo University in neighbouring Shandong. Arriving during the high tide of Western imperialism after the Boxer rebellion of 1900, they watched as the Chinese Revolution seemingly swept away their work. Menzies’s life highlights the complex context of Christian missions and the multiple forces that Protestant missionaries had to ‘negotiate’ for their work in China. In contrast...

  23. Epilogue: James Menzie’s Legacy
    (pp. 260-270)

    James Mellon Menzies left two major legacies of international impact: his children and his archaeological collections.

    Three children were raised in unusual environments by kind and loving parents who guided their development of Christian characters that they were to express through their lives and careers. James gave them something more than conventional mishkids enjoyed, something they would never forget: a round-the-world tour that would last almost a whole year. As Marion remembered seventy years later, ‘[W]e were privileged, under the guidance of a father, interested in world archaeology, and Biblical historiography, to get a real feel for what we saw...

  24. Appendix Oracle Bone Studies before 1914
    (pp. 271-274)
  25. Notes
    (pp. 275-308)
  26. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-322)
  27. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 323-324)
  28. Index
    (pp. 325-329)