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Christianizing Confucian Didacticism: Protestant Publications for Women, 1832-1911

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The printed Protestant missionary engagement with Chinese views of the role and proper conduct of women in society was more complex and ambiguous than scholars have often assumed. Publications targeted at women readers occupied an important place among Protestant missionary periodicals, books, and other printed materials in Chinese during the late Qing. Most publications for women and girls were elementary doctrinal works, catechisms, and devotional texts designed to introduce early readers to Christian belief, and light reading (fictional tracts and biographies) for women's spiritual edification, but there were some more elaborate works as well. After an overview of mission publications for women, this article focuses on two complex texts, one a compendium of practical knowledge and moral guidance for the Chinese Protestant "new woman," Jiaxue jizhen (The Christian home in China) (1897; revised 1909), and the other, a Protestant reworking from 1902 of the Qing dynasty didactic compilation Nü sishu (Women's four books). Together, these two texts give us a more multifaceted picture of how missionaries engaged with Chinese society and the role of women therein.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta


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