Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

19th and 20th Century Cultural Transformations: Christian Missionaries' Hopes, Chinese Radicals' Revolutions, and Christian-Inspired Reflections on the Dynamic Nature of Culture

Author: Lauren PFISTER, Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy, Hong Kong Baptist University



This study seeks to juxtapose 19th and 20th century Protestant Christian missionary- scholars and modern Chinese revolutionaries by describing their different forms of counter-cultural transformative efforts. On the basis of the studies of the patterns in European revolutionary events elaborated by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, comparisons and contrasts are made between the counter-cultural efforts and influences of these two different kinds of counter-cultural transformative agents. Among the more constructive aspects of the Protestant missionaries’ work are the efforts of three key missionary-scholars, James Legge, Séraphin Couvreur and Richard Wilhelm. They rendered classical Chinese scriptures into foreign languages and established a firm basis for modern European Sinology and North American Chinese Studies. Their cross-cultural interests reflected different kinds of cross-cultural transformation, suggesting how a plurality of religious perspectives can produce different forms of cultural transformation.

In contrast, the complexities of the modern Chinese revolution followed patterns found also in European military revolutions, and so indicate how cultural transformation can not only be constructive of new forms of life, but also become destructive of past forms of life through periods of extremism. These various different perspectives on cultural transformation move us toward a new account of the dynamic nature of culture, an account deeply indebted to insights form Rosenstock-Huessy. On this basis a final theoretical suggestion is presented, that indicates why the extremist stage of the Chinese Cultural Revolution may have led to the emergence of religious openness among Chinese citizens in the latter part of the 20th century.



cultural transformation, Protestant missionaries, military revolution, the transformative dimension, culture


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