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Timothy Richard, World Religion, and Reading Christianity in Buddhist Garb 1

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This article examines some of the published works of the missionary Timothy Richard (1845 - 1919), and analyzes how his mission experience played a foundational role in his study of religion. It argues that his work and his approach to Chinese religions challenged established views of the relationships between the world religions held by his contemporaries. The latter section focuses on his studies of Mahāyāna Buddhism and how they sought a familiar religious revelation clad in foreign clothing. Finally it suggests that his experience might complicate our picture of orientalist scholarship in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Résumé Cet article se penche sur certaines publications du missionnaire Timothy Richard (1845 - 1919) et montre comment son expérience de la mission joua un rôle fondamental dans son étude de la religion. Le texte avance que son travail et sa perspective sur les religions chinoises remit en cause les approches dominantes de ses contemporains à propos de la relation entre les grandes religions du monde. La deuxième partie du texte se concentre sur ses études du bouddhisme Mahāyāna et sur la façon dont ces études cherchèrent une révélation religieuse familière par-delà une apparente étrangeté. L’article suggère que son expérience complique probablement nos vues sur l’orientalisme à la fin du 19e et au début du 20e siècle.

1. fn11) Research for this article was supported by a Columbia Faculty Fellowship, a Daniel and Marianne Spiegel Fund Grant, and a C. Martin Wilbur Fellowship. Thanks are due to my colleagues who participated in the graduate colloquium on Comparative Religion from which this article emerged, and the two anonymous reviewers for Social Sciences and Missions. I must especially thank Professor John Stratton Hawley of Barnard College, without whose careful supervision this project would never have been completed. Any errors or omissions are my own.
2. fn22) Eric J. Ziolkowski, A Museum of Faiths: Histories and Legacies of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), 137. Emphasis in original.
3. fn33) Ibid., 142. Consider as well the paper by the French Protestant minister Albert Réville, who asserted that “Man is by nature a religious being,” but also “what will change the religious complexion of humanity will be the civilization intellectually and morally dominant over the others.” Ibid., 85-88.
4. fn44) Notably, however, several other groups also asserted their own positions of primacy within the parliament. See, for example, the essays by Bartholomeusz, Ketelaar, Ziolkowski, and King in the Ziolkoski volume.
5. fn55) William Brenton Greene, Jr., Review of The New Testament of Higher Buddhism by Timothy Richard, Princeton Theological Review, Vol. IX, no. 1 (January, 1911): 474-475. The reference is to Acts 4:12. George Evans Moule (1828 - 1912) also criticized Richard’s position in a 1908 paper. See The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal, Vol. 42 (June, 1911): 347-357.
6. fn66) Richard translated the essay on Confucianism that was presented during the proceedings. See Rev. John Henry Barrows, ed., The World's Parliament of religions: an illustrated and popular story of the World's first parliament of religions, held in Chicago in connection with the Columbian exposition of 1893 (Chicago: Parliament Publishing Company, 1893), 596-604.
7. fn77) I also hope that this article will complement recent work on Richard by Lai Pan-Chiu and Gong Jun. See, for example: Lai Pan-Chiu, “Timothy Richard’s Buddhist-Christian Studies”, Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 29 (2009): 23-38; Gong Jun, “Yijingzhong de zhengzhi - Li Timotai yu Dasheng qixinlun” (The Politics of Translation: Timothy Richard and The Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith), in Sun Jiang, ed., Xinshixue - gainian·wenben·fangfa (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2009).
8. fn88) Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978); Philip C. Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 4-6, 139-141 and passim.
9. fn99) Charles Hallisey, “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism” in Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism under Colonialism, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 33.
10. fn1010) Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Post-colonial Theory, India and the Mystic East (New York and London: Routledge, 1999), 149.
11. fn1111) Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 10-13. See also Arif Dirlik, “Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism” in Genealogies of Orientalism: History, Theory, Politics, edited by Edmund Burke III and David Prochaska (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2008): 384-413.
12. fn1212) Even so, missionary accounts of Chinese religion tended on the whole to reproduce Western images and ideas. See Eric Reinders, Borrowed Gods and Foreign Bodies: Christian Missionaries Imagine Chinese Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).
13. fn1313) Timothy Richard, Forty-five Years in China: Reminiscences (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1916). William E. Soothill, Timothy Richard of China: Seer, Statesman, Missionary & The Most Disinterested Adviser the Chinese Ever Had (London: Seeley, Service & Co. Limited, 1924). E. W. Price Evans, Timothy Richard, A Narrative of Christian Enterprise and Statesmanship in China (London: The Carey Press, 1945.)
14. fn1414) Glanmor Williams et al., The Welsh Church from Reformation to Disestablishment, 1603-1920 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007), 310-315.
15. fn1515) E. Wyatt-Edgell, “On the Statistics of Places of Worship in England and Wales, Founded on a Table Compiled by the Rev. T. Blisse,” Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Dec., 1851), 343. Paul Richard Bohr, Famine in China and the Missionary: Timothy Richard as Relief Administrator and Advocate of National Reform, 1876-1884 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), 1. Evans, 15.
16. fn1616) Richard, Forty-five Years, 22. Evans, 16.
17. fn1717) Kenneth D. Brown, A Social History of the Nonconformist Ministry in England and Wales, 1800-1930 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 77-79. Richard, Forty-five Years, 25-26. When Richard visited the school fifteen years later, he found that these changes had been reversed. Soothill, 26.
18. fn1818) Dr. Rouse had gone to Calcutta under the auspices of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1861. Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 580. Rouse and Richard remained in touch after the latter had left for China. See Evans, 17.
19. fn1919) On Fanny’s husband Henry Grattan Guinness (1835 - 1910), see Alvyn Austin, China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905 (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007), 96-97. Richard, Forty-five Years, 29. Evans, 18-19.
20. fn2020) Austin, 107-120. On Chinese clothing, see Ibid., 1-3; 136-138; 120-123.
21. fn2121) Richard, Forty-five Years, 29.
22. fn2222) Evans, 20. On Moule see Anderson, 477.
23. fn2323) Brian Stanley, The History of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1792-1992 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992), 180. On Laughton’s death, see The Chinese Recorder, August 1870, pp. 83-84. On Brown see Evans, 22; Stanley, 181.
24. fn2424) Bohr, 6. The journey through Manchuria is described in Richard, Forty-five Years, 37-48.
25. fn2525) Evans, 24-26. Richard, Forty-five Years, 48. Stanley, 182. Richard also published Irving’s sermon and distributed it to missionaries in East Asia in 1887. Evans, 27.
26. fn2626) Arnold Dallimore, Forerunner of the Charismatic Movement: The Life of Edward Irving (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 62-63.
27. fn2727) “And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.” KJV.
28. fn2828) Evans, 27-28.
29. fn2929) Stanley, 182.
30. fn3030) Sidney A. Forsythe, An American Missionary Community in China, 1895-1905 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1971), 34-40.
31. fn3131) See for example his mention of reading Ernest J Eitel’s Buddhism: Its Historical, Theoretical and Popular Aspects (Hong Kong: Lane, Crawford, 1884) and Eitel’s Hand-book of Chinese Buddhism: being a Sanskrit-Chinese dictionary of Buddhist terms, words and expressions; with vocabularies of Buddhist terms in Pali, Singhalese, Siamese, Burmese, Tibetan, Mongolian and Japanese. (London, Tru¨bner & Co., 1888). On the theological works and Müller’s series, see Richard, Forty-five Years, 159. The SBE series was a landmark in the development of the discipline now called the ‘history of religions’. See the review of the 1962 paperback reprint by Joseph M. Kitagawa, The Journal of Religion, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Oct., 1964), p. 354.
32. fn3232) Bohr, 6.
33. fn3333) Richard, Forty-five Years, 48-49. Evans, 28-29, quotes from Richard but adds additional detail. Nestorian Christianity (Jingjiao 景教) had reached China as early as 635 CE, and survived in small local religious communities until about the fourteenth century, when these were dispersed by the new Ming government. Christian scholars and missionaries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made much of this historical precedent.
34. fn3434) Richard, Forty-five Years, 49-52.
35. fn3535) Evans, 29-30.
36. fn3636) Bohr, 10-11. Richard, Forty-five Years, 76. Richard is referring to Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism.
37. fn3737) Evans mentions that the region suffered from cholera and malaria. Evans, 40.
38. fn3838) Richard, Forty-five Years, 78-81.
39. fn3939) Richard, Forty-five Years, 86. Soothill, 76. Qingxin lu is better known as Xingmu Qingxin Lu 醒目清心錄 (Records to Awaken the Eyes and Clarify the Mind).
40. fn4040) Richard, Forty-five Years, 86. His troubles with an “anti-Foreign ex-Magistrate” are narrated on pp. 84-85. Soothill, 76.
41. fn4141) His meetings with Muslims are described in Richard, Forty-five Years, 86-89. Also see Soothill, 80-82.
42. fn4242) Richard, Forty-five Years, 88. Sale’s The Koran: Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed was first published in 1734. Rodwell’s The Koran was published in London in 1861.
43. fn4343) Richard, Forty-five Years, 89-93.
44. fn4444) Ibid., 94.
45. fn7845) For more information on Richard’s political writings and pamphlets, see the section on “Buddhism through a Missionary Lens” on my website, <>.
46. fn4546) Timothy Richard, Calendar of the Gods in China (Shanghai: Methodist Publishing House, 1906), i-iv. The Chinese text that Richard consulted was likely the one by Qin Jiamo 秦嘉謨 (fl. 1812 - 1818) and published in Jiangdu, Jiangsu province in 1812. Two major sources were Ernest J Eitel, Handbook of Chinese Buddhism, and Justis Doolittle, Vocabulary and hand-book of the Chinese language. Romanized in the Mandarin dialect. (Fuzhou: Rozario, Marcal and company; 1872.)
47. fn4647) Richard, Calendar of the Gods, viii.
48. fn4748) Timothy Richard, Guide to Buddhahood: Being a Standard Manual of Chinese Buddhism (Shanghai: Christian Literature Society, 1907), i.
49. fn4849) Richard’s cited source is referred to as a reprint edition in two volumes. It is likely Zhixu, Chongke xuanfo pu [Reprint of Manual of “Selection of Buddhas”], 6 fascicles ([Nanjing]: Jinling kejing chu, Guangxu 17 [1891]).
50. fn4950) Richard, Guide to Buddhahood, i.
51. fn5051) Zhixu, second page of unpaginated frontspiece. The caption is credited to one Lingcheng 靈晟 (d.u.), a disciple of Zhixu. See The Complete Works of Master Ouyi, Chronology of Master Ouyi, <>.
52. fn5152) Richard, Guide to Buddhahood, xxi-xxiii. See Carole Morgan, “The Chinese Game of Shengguan tu,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 124, No. 3 (Jul.-Sep., 2004): 517-532. Also see the chapter on “Playing with Karma: Ouyi’s ‘Selecting a Buddha’ Board Game” in Beverly N. Foulks, “Living Karma: The Religious Practices of Ouyi Zhixu (1599-1655),” Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 2009.
53. fn5253) Richard, Guide to Buddhahood, iii-iv. Hīnayāna meaning “small vehicle” is a pejorative term used by Mahāyāna Buddhists and has little meaning other than within this Mahāyāna-defined dichotomy.
54. fn5354) Chün-fang Yü, Kuan-yin: the Chinese transformation of Avalokites´vara (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 317-320.
55. fn5455) Nanjio Bunyiu [Nanjō Bunyū], A catalogue of the Chinese translation of the Buddhist Tripitaka… (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1883.)
56. fn5556) This translation of the title follows that of the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, “大乘起信論” (Article by Charles Müller), but subsequent references will use that used by Richard: The Awakening of Faith. Soothill, 321-323. John A.H. Dempster, The T&T Clark Story: A Victorian Publisher and the New Theology (Edinburgh: Pentland Press, 1992.)
57. fn5657) Timothy Richard, New Testament of Higher Buddhism (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1910), 2-3, 129. The “Essence of the Lotus Scripture” is based on extracts from the Kumārajīva translation; on the “Great Physician” see T 1748.37.150; The Heart Sūtra appears as T 8.251. Richard’s title was perhaps based on The Creed of Half Japan by Rev. Arthur Lloyd (1852-1911) of the China Missionary Society (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1911). See Soothill, 292. Takakusu Junjirō was one of the editors of the Taishō Canon.
58. fn5758) T. W. Rhys Davids, Buddhism: being a sketch of the life and teachings of Gautama, the Buddha (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. & J.B. Young & Co., 1894), 4-5. Richard also offers some estimates of religious populations in his Calendar of the Gods in China, ix.
59. fn5859) Richard, Higher Buddhism, 37-38.
60. fn5960) On Yang see Gabriele Goldfuss, Vers un bouddhisme du XXe siècle. Yang Wenhui (1837-1911), réformateur laïque et imprimeur (Paris: Collège de France, Institut des Hautes Études Chinoises, 2001.)
61. fn6061) Richard, Higher Buddhism, 44.
62. fn6162) Richard, Higher Buddhism, 46, 47. Suzuki’s translation is As´vaghosha, As´vaghosha's Discourse on the awakening of faith in the Mahāyāna… (Chicago: Open Court Pub. Co., 1900.) Richard’s translation was first published in Shanghai by the Christian Literature Society in 1907. Wanfa guixin lu was written by Zuyuan Chaoming 祖源超溟 (fl. 1676), and a one-fascicle edition was printed in 1889.
63. fn6263) Wanxu zangjing 卍續藏經, Vol. X65, No. 1288: 398c02-04. The preface is by Deng Jitai 鄭際泰 (1642 - 1726), a jinshi 進士 degree holder and Hanlin scholar.
64. fn6364) Lin Yizheng, “Ru-Fo huitong fangfa yanyi (A Discussion of Confucian-Buddhist Methods of Understanding),” Foxue yanjiu zhongxin xuebao (Vol. 7, Sept. 2002), 201.
65. fn6465) Richard, Higher Buddhism, 47; 39.
66. fn6566) Ibid., 49.
67. fn6667) Ibid., 26-27; 7-8.
68. fn6768) George Abraham Grierson, “Modern Hinduism and its Debt to the Nestorians,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1907: 311-335. Cited in John Stratton Hawley, “The Bhakti Movement - From Where? Since When?”, India International Centre, Occasional Publication 10. My thanks to Professor Hawley for bringing this source to my attention.
69. fn6869) See Lauren Pfister, “Re-thinking Mission in China: James Hudson Taylor and Timothy Richard,” Position paper, University of Cambridge, North Atlantic Missiology Project, no. 68. (Cambridge: North Atlantic Missiology Project, 1998), 24-25. Though Pfister asserts that this trend was short-lived, works such as Müller’s mentioned below indicate a longer history.
70. fn6970) Max Müller, “The Last Results of the Persian Researches in Comparative Philology” in Christian Karl Josias Bunsun, Outlines of the Philosophy of Universal History Applied to Language and Religion (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1854): 110-127; also see the subsequent chapter in that volume on Sanskrit and South Asian religion.
71. fn7071) Richard, Higher Buddhism, 33-34.
72. fn7172) Richard, Xin Zhengce (New Policies) [originally published 1895] in Hu Bin, ed., Wu xu bian fa (Shanghai: Xinzhishi chubanshe, 1956), Vol. 3: 232-241.
73. fn7273) The committee was part of that year’s World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.
74. fn7374) Timothy Richard, “Commission IV: The Missionary Message in Relation to Non-Christian Religions, Correspondent of the Commission Complete Report”, MRL 12: World Missionary Conference, 1910, Series 1, Box 15, Folder 1, The Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary, New York City.
75. fn7475) Cited in Goldfuss, 118. Yoshito S. Hakeda raised a similar critique, cited in Pfister, 25.
76. fn7576) His A Mission to Heaven, New Testament of Higher Buddhism, and Guide to Buddhahood were all included on a list of recommended reading for missionaries to prepare themselves for work among Buddhists. See National Christian Council of China, National Christian Council of China: Annual Report, 1923-24, in MRL 6: NCC of China, Series 1, Box 1, Folder 1, The Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary, New York City.
77. fn7677) See, for example, his “Conversion by the Million”, The Chinese Recorder, Vol. 38, Oct. 1907: 540-542.
78. fn7778) J.J. Clarke, Oriental Enlightenment: The Encounter Between Asian and Western Thought (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 133-134.

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Affiliations: 1: Columbia University, New York, USA


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