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The Protestant Quest for Modernity in Republican China Open Access


Other title
Twentieth Century China
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Barwick, John
Supervisor and department
Dunch, Ryan (History and Classics)
Examining committee member and department
Brook, Timothy (History--University of British Columbia)
Jay, Jennifer (History and Classics)
Debernardi, Jean (Anthropology)
Samson, Jane (History and Classics)
Claypool, Lisa (Provost and Vice-President)
Department of History and Classics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Elite Protestants were a very small group in Republican China, but were surprisingly influential among the ranks of Chinese modernizers, with Sun Yatsen as the preeminent example. They represented one of the most significant fruits of Sino-Western cultural exchange in the early twentieth century and left a lasting mark on China, yet as a group they have been largely overlooked in histories of the period. This dissertation, therefore, restores these individuals to history at the same time that it probes a deeper affinity between Protestantism and modernity that helps to explain the rise of this group and their particular vision of a modern China. The first three chapters of this work provide the theoretical framework and necessary background for the study. To start, modernity is carefully defined and its affinity with Protestantism is analyzed in such areas as individualism, modern education, nationalism, democracy, civil society, women’s rights, and the nuclear family. Following this, the role of Protestant mission institutions in transmitting modern ideas and practices into China is examined, with a particular focus on mission schools. Lastly, data on a group of 479 elite Chinese Protestants is carefully analyzed to generate a profile of them as a nationwide group, and they are also compared with Protestant modernizers in other parts of the world at the time. The last three chapters of this project consist of three separate case studies of elite Chinese Protestants in the Republican era that demonstrate concretely the larger themes of this work. The first of these studies is on a woman named Wang Liming, who led the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for many years in China and was a leading advocate of women’s rights. The second is on a prominent church minister and activist educator named Liu Tingfang, who was instrumental in the early history of Yanjing University and edited the leading Protestant journal of the day. And the final chapter is on Zhang Boling, founder of the renowned Nankai Middle School and Nankai University, as well as a prominent lay leader in the Young Men’s Christian Association. In closing, the conclusion explores the question of Protestants and modernity in contemporary China.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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