Chinese Christians

Chinese Christians: Elites, Middlemen, and the Church in Hong Kong

Carl T. Smith
New introduction by Christopher Munn
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Chinese Christians
    Book Description:

    Every so often a work of history appears that radically changes our understanding of people, place and period. Chinese Christian is such a work. This book asks questions about Hong Kong that have never been asked before. It shows that the leaders of Chinese society had a far greater role in shaping early Hong Kong history than earlier historians had believed. It also demonstrates, for the first time, that Chinese society in early Hong Kong had coherence and continuity. This book is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in Hong Kong's history. In its focus on ordinary people and their lives, it is equally enjoyable and interesting for the lay reader, and its original approach of building from raw data on individuals provides a model of broader relevance for historians. Chinese Christians explores the lives of some 200 men and women who came into contact with Christian missionaries and who used their connections to achieve wealth and status. By bringing them together in this book, Carl Smith has made a singular contribution to Hong Kong history. He has, perhaps more than anyone else, turned the field of Hong Kong history on its head.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-067-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Plates
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction to the Paperback Edition
    (pp. ix-xxii)
    Christopher Munn

    Every so often a work of history appears that radically changes our understanding of people, place and period. Chinese Christians, first published in 1985, is such a work. This book asked questions about Hong Kong that had never been asked before. It showed that the leaders of Chinese society had a far greater role in shaping early Hong Kong history than earlier historians had believed. It also demonstrated, for the first time, that Chinese society in early colonial Hong Kong had coherence and continuity.

    Dispensing with the traditional governor-by-governor approach to Hong Kong history, Chinese Christians explores the lives of...

  5. Foreword
    (pp. xxiii-xxx)
    James Hayes

    It is a great honour for me to be able to provide a foreword to this study of élites, middlemen, and the Chinese Protestant Church in Hong Kong by my friend, the Revd Carl T. Smith. In it, I shall touch on the importance of his work for present-day Hong Kong and on the record of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, since this book, a joint venture with Oxford University Press, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the re-establishment of the Society in Hong Kong.*

    Carl Smith, a Vice-President of our Society, is the most assiduous and...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
    Carl T. Smith
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This introductory chapter provides a framework for the more detailed studies in succeeding chapters. It sketches the introduction of Christianity into China and the organization of Chinese Protestant congregations in Hong Kong in the nineteenth century; it makes selected reference to some of the Chinese workers in these congregations, describes the missionary’s attitude towards those who were not Christians and his educational philosophy, and explains the role of missionary schools in the creation of a new type of China-coast middleman.

    Christianity, like Buddhism, was brought to China from the West. Buddhism was introduced into China from India. Christianity came by...

    • 1 The Morrison Education Society and the Moulding of its Students
      (pp. 13-33)

      The Morrison Education Society was formed by foreign merchants at Canton in 1835 in memory of the Revd Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China. The Revd Samuel R. Brown was the first principal of the Society’s school, which was opened in 1839 at Macau and moved to Hong Kong in 1842. After Brown left in 1846 to return to the United States for reasons of health, the school continued under Mr William A. Macy for three years and then closed.

      The Revd Samuel Brown was an educationalist. Before being chosen by the Morrison Education Society to come to...

    • 2 The Formative Years of the Tong Brothers, Pioneers in the Modernization of China’s Commerce and Industry
      (pp. 34-51)

      The three Tong brothers, who were students at the Morrison Education Society School in Hong Kong in the 1840s, may be considered to be representative of a new class of commercial bourgeoisie that emerged in the China coast cities at the end of the Ch’ing dynasty. This new class within the Chinese social system was composed of entrepreneurs, business men, financiers, and industrialists. They were key figures in the industrial and commercial modernization of China following the impact of the West upon traditional China.

      The three brothers were Tong Mow-chee (T’ang Mao-chih) (唐茂枝) (alias T’ang T’ing-chih) (唐廷植), known in his...

    • 3 Translators, Compradores, and Government Advisers
      (pp. 52-74)

      Students who had learned English at missionary schools were sought after by government officials to serve as translators and advisers, and by the business community to act as compradores. They became middlemen between things Chinese and things foreign.

      In the several studies of Commissioner Lin and the Opium War the translators he used in his efforts to acquire a more adequate knowledge of the West are mentioned. The first notice of them is given in a postscript to an article, ‘Crisis in the Opium Traffic’, printed in the June 1839 issue of the Chinese Repository:

      The commissioner has in his...

    • 4 Friends and Relatives of Taiping Leaders
      (pp. 75-86)

      The Christian element in the Taiping rebellion has been of special interest to interpreters of the movement. It was this non-Chinese factor which made the rebellion different from all previous Chinese rebel movements. Through its Christian elements, the rebels were expressing one aspect of the effect of increasing Western influence on Chinese national life.

      The precise relationship between Christianity and the origin and development of the movement has been a matter of debate. One aspect of the problem is the relationship established between family members and friends of the originators of the movement and the missionaries. On the one hand,...

    • 5 Sun Yat-sen’s Baptism and Some Christian Connections
      (pp. 87-102)

      A significant event for Sun Yat-sen during his middle school-days in Hong Kong was his baptism by the American missionary, the Revd Charles R. Hager. This event influenced his future life and relationships. Immediately, it provided him with a surrogate family during his several years as a school-boy in Hong Kong. He entered an intimate fellowship bound together by a new commitment for, as a very small, new Christian congregation, its fellowship was close and binding. This congregation was the result of the missionary concern of overseas Chinese. The connection with overseas Christian communities was later used by Sun Yat-sen...

    • 6 The Emergence of a Chinese Élite in Hong Kong
      (pp. 103-138)

      The opening of the Tung Wah Hospital in 1872¹ marks the terminal date for this study of the emergence of a Chinese élite in Hong Kong. We are concerned, therefore, with the first thirty years of the colony’s history, from 1841 to 1872.

      The first decade was characterized by economic and social problems partially created by a shifting and generally irresponsible population. During this period there were, however, a small number of settlers who were establishing themselves and their families with the purpose of making Hong Kong their permanent home, of acquiring capital, and of investing in real estate. As...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 7 The English-educated Chinese Élite in Nineteenth-century Hong Kong
      (pp. 139-171)

      The Chinese élite of nineteenth-century Hong Kong consisted of interpenetrating advisory, financial, and professional groups. Members of this élite played an important role in bridging the social and cultural gaps between the Chinese and the British in the colonial society. In some cases, they played a further important role in the modernization processes of China. Yet they were almost all of humble origin. In this chapter the progress to élite status is examined, and the achievements of a number of members of this élite are recorded.

      Ho Ping-ti, in his study of social mobility in China,¹ argues that the most...

    • 8 The Hong Kong Church and Nineteenth-century Colonial Attitudes
      (pp. 172-181)

      The Church has held to certain basic beliefs since its foundation, but these have been subject to historical development and adaptation within different cultural settings. In the process, church thought and practice have interacted with the context in which they have existed.

      China provided a new context for an old faith, with a different language, different thought forms, customs, economic and political structures, and social institutions. The propagation of the Christian faith accompanied an aggresive foreign trade. Both were resisted by China, which maintained it needed nothing from the West.

      The missionary to China came from a tradition where civilization...

    • 9 The Hong Kong Situation as it Influenced the Protestant Church
      (pp. 182-194)

      How has the colonial status of Hong Kong affected the Chinese Christian Church? Have the attitudes and experiences of Hong Kong Christians been significantly different from Christians in China? The differences will be examined using four aspects arising from the colonial situation of Hong Kong: (a) Hong Kong as a place of refuge for those who wished to remove themselves from conditions in China; (b) the marginal character of the Chinese community in Hong Kong; (c) the relative absence of a challenge to the Chinese Christian to come to terms with his faith in relation to national identity; (d) the...

    • 10 The Early Hong Kong Church and Traditional Chinese Ideas
      (pp. 195-209)

      The place of the family in the development of the Hong Kong Protestant Church must be seen in relation to the traditional Chinese family structure. In what ways did Christian faith and the standards required of converts by missionaries conflict with the traditional structure of Chinese family life? Could the integrating factors of the old system be preserved within a different ideology? Have the adjustments and adaptations that have been made been consistent with the theological implications of Christian faith to family life?

      It is obvious that prevailing social patterns constitute a significant element in the adaptation of the Church...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 210-217)

    This volume has discussed various aspects of the Protestant Church in Hong Kong in the nineteenth century. The developments since then and a look at the future can only be briefly suggested.

    Before the Second World War, Pentecostal and Holiness groups had long been established in Hong Kong. Missionaries were sent out by other fundamentalist and faith groups, mostly American. There were also several congregations unrelated to any missionary body.

    After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, some of the main-line denominations that had not previously had congregations in Hong Kong, such as the Lutherans and the American...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 218-236)
  12. Index
    (pp. 237-252)