Making Chinese Evangelicalism Global: Transnational Chinese Evangelical Careers in a Global World, 1920s to 1960s

Making Chinese Evangelicalism Global: Transnational Chinese Evangelical Careers in a Global World, 1920s to 1960s
Sim Dao Wei, Joshua

Summary

Particularist approaches emphasising the native reception and adaptation of Christianity in the non-Western world have dominated studies in World Christianity and Chinese Christianity. Specifically, prominent scholars of Chinese Christianity like Daniel Bays and Lian Xi have utilised a China-centred approach to frame and study major evangelical figures and groups from the independent Christian sector in Republican China. While these studies have enabled historians to move beyond a mission-centred framework and focus on the Chinese as primary historical actors, the restriction of their focus to the territorial limits of China resulted in the neglect of important transnational work undertaken by many of these evangelicals.

Therefore, this thesis seeks to recover and foreground these transnational aspects by tracing the global careers of a selected group of evangelical leaders including Andrew Gih (Ji Zhiwen, 1901-1985), Timothy Dzao (Zhao Shiguang, 1908-1973), and Timothy Tow (Du Xianghui, 1920-2009). It examines how they received and appropriated Anglo-American evangelicalism, creating their own faith-based work in both a transnational and glocal manner across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. I argue that these leaders, whom I call transnational Chinese evangelicals (TCEs), constructed ethnic-based transnational versions of their faith which emerged as competitors to the discourses of liberal Christian theological movements. In order to reconstruct the careers of these TCEs, an extensive range of primary sources were consulted from multiple archives and libraries in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and America.

Four specific arguments are offered in this dissertation. Firstly, the study proposes that the ‘independent’ sector of Chinese Christianity should be revised, expanded and reconceptualised as the transnational ‘Chinese-speaking evangelical world’. This can be used to re-position the careers and faith-based work of these TCEs within a framework that considers both the local and global. Particularly, it shows how these TCEs created multi-centred religious communities and organisations, and utilised ethnic-based religious discourses as justifications to focus on China and the Overseas Chinese communities as primary subjects for evangelism and development. Secondly, I examine the conversion narratives of these TCEs and demonstrate how they reinterpreted notions of filiality and radical secular ideologies through a faith-based lens. This conversion process sensitised them to the ethnic, cultural, and ideological dimensions relating to their faith, priming them for their transnational careers. Thirdly, I suggest that TCEs who were more revivalistic/evangelistic in orientation constructed transnational faith-based organisations that effectively evangelised the Overseas Chinese and some non-Chinese communities across the world, implicitly demonstrating that they were able to match their more prominent Western evangelical counterparts at a certain level. Finally, TCE fundamentalists based in Singapore and Taiwan from the 1950s worked with the International Council of Christian Churches to formulate anti-ecumenical and anti-communist discourses that ‘fundamentalised’ their local ecclesiastical scenes (though to varying extents) and (in the case of Samuel Cheng in Taiwan) collaborated with the state to exert political pressure on the allegedly pro-communist mainline denominations. In sum, these TCEs were prominent contributors to Chinese religious transnationalism as they worked extensively to foster a faith-based global presence during the twentieth century.

Author

Sim Dao Wei, Joshua

Defended in

2020

PhD defended at

National University of Singapore, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of History

Specialisation

Humanities

Region

Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)
Inter-Asia
East Asia
Taiwan
Hong Kong
China
Southeast Asia
Indonesia
Singapore

Theme

Religion
History
Globalisation
Diasporas and Migration