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Laamann, Lars (2017) 'The Christian Manchu Missions during the Qing period (1644-1911) – Perceptions and Political Implications.' In: Hertel, Ralf, Keevak, Michael and Weststeijn, Thijs, (eds.), Early Encounters between East Asia and Europe: Telling Failures. Abingdon; New York: Routledge, 101 -122. (Transculturalisms: 1400-1700)

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From both a numerical and a political viewpoint, the Christian missions to the Manchu populations of the Qing empire proved ineffectual. However, the missionary enterprise to the Manchus differed in significant aspects from that to the Chinese and was quite unlike the missions to the other minorities in the empire. The present article argues that the Manchu mission was different because it aimed at the ‘heart’ of China’s last dynastic state, as much as the attempt to take Christianity to the Chinese scholar official elite was aimed at its ‘head’. Its ultimate aim was thus to convert the Qing elites and to make the entire empire part of Christendom. Since such an undertaking was bound to have significant political ramifications, its progress and pitfalls were followed with great interest by both the domestic elite, as well as by the Western reading public. A question of central significance is also why members of the Manchu elite converted in the first place, given all the obstacles and dangers they faced. The perceptions and frequently extreme interpretations of the Manchu Mission are investigated in the following in its three most important components. The article begins by scrutinising the early Qing Catholic mission, focusing on the question as to why both the conversion of the aristocratic-military Manchu elite and that of the Chinese scholar officials ended in failure, prominent exceptions proving the rule. The Russian Orthodox mission is the next subject of analysis: Suspicion of subversion in view of Russian expansion plans amongst the Tungusic peoples of the Siberian east prevented Orthodox missionaries from penetrating the populations of the North. However, the numerous links between St Petersburg and Beijing gave the Manchu elite, as well as their language, a prominent role in all diplomatic contacts. The Protestant mission, finally, made a direct attempt to step into the footprints of the preceding Jesuits, by means of biblical translations, and as field missionaries after the 1870s. By the final decades of the Qing, however, the political role of the Manchu elite had been put into question and most Manchus had become more literate in Chinese than in Manchu. The ‘Manchu Mission’ was thus eventually subsumed by the Manchurian ‘China Mission’; and would, by the early 1930s, fall victim to the Japanese invasion.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History
ISBN: 9781472481672
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2016 16:48

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