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Yangjiao or the “Other”? Christianity and Chinese Society in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

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This article explores the relationship between Christianity and Chinese society in the second half of the nineteenth century by re-examining the primary sources of anti-Christian movements. The first part shows how Christian churches broke the dominance of the Qing government over local society. Conflicts between Christianity and Chinese religion were often transformed into political confrontations between churches and the Qing bureaucracy. The second part analyzes how Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism interpreted Christianity, with an emphasis on how to understand the perception of Christianity in Chinese society. Exploring broader societal perceptions of Christianity—and not just those expressed in the writings of the Confucian literati—allows for a more nuanced understanding of Chinese interpretations of Christianity. The third part studies the relationship between churches and Chinese religious sects. On the one hand, in the language of anti-Christian movements such as those of the Zaili and Cai sects, Christianity was the hateful “Other.” On the other hand, in the process of preaching Christianity, churches themselves experienced a period of transmutation: they recruited into the church not only non-religious civilians but also the followers of popular religions. For a long period, Christianity was called yangjiao, the “foreign religion,” making it the “Other.” Missionaries started to feel an urgency to reject their identity as the “Other” after the harrowing experience of the Boxer Movement.


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