Project Canterbury

Mankind and the Church
Being an Attempt to Estimate the Contribution of Great Races
To the Fulness of the Church of God

Edited by H. H. Montgomery

London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907.

IV. The Contribution of the Church of China to the Body of Christ
The Right Rev. J. C. Hoare, D.D., late Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong

Chapter I. Characteristics of the Chinese

Bishop Hoare never saw the proofs of this article. He was drowned before they could reach him, and this was the last article of any length he ever wrote. Bishop Graves, of Shanghai, has consented to add a few notes.

The yellow peril or a yellow question--Intellectual calibre of the Chinese--Morals--Roman missions and statistics.

Not many months after the Boxer rising of 1900, Sir Robert Hart, whose intimate knowledge of things Chinese is certainly beyond question, penned the following sentence: "That the future will have a 'Yellow Question'--perhaps a 'Yellow Peril'--to deal with, is as certain as that the sun will shine to-morrow." A few pages later on in the same book ("These from the Land of Sinim"), in discussing the question of the Yellow Peril, the writer quotes a remark of Wen Hsiang, "the celebrated Prime Minister of China during the minority of Tung Chih in the early sixties," who often said, "You are all too anxious to awaken us, and start us on a new road, and you will do it; but you will all regret it, for, once awaking and started, we shall go fast and far--farther [239/240] than you think, much further than you want." To Sir Robert's mind the Yellow Peril was apparently the most important feature of the Yellow Question. He foresees that "in fifty years' time there will be millions of Boxers in serried ranks and war's panoply at the call of the Chinese Government: there is not the slightest doubt of that!" He foresees, too, that such a development "bodes no good for the rest of the world, but China will be acting within its right and will carry through the national programme." This seems to him to be inevitable. Only one of two things can hinder it. "Nothing but partition," he says, "a difficult and unlikely international settlement; or a miraculous spread of Christianity in its best form, a not impossible, but scarcely to be hoped for, religious triumph, will defer, will avert, this result."

Whether or not Sir Robert Hart is right in forecasting that the Yellow Question will resolve itself into a military peril must be a matter for speculation. The events that have taken place since the words were quoted; the marvellous development of Japan as one of the greatest military powers of the world; her steady course of victory, by land and sea, over the vast power of Russia;--these things certainly go far towards giving a very tangible shape to these visions of the future. For there can be very little doubt that the future development of China will henceforth, for many years to come, depend very largely upon the influence of Japan. Already China is turning to the formerly despised Japanese for guidance and instruction. The Yellow Question must be one concerning the future influence not of China only, but of the two great "yellow" races, the Chinese and Japanese. The two races will act together, and the influence of the two races, when both are thoroughly awakened, upon the world, must be enormous. And if it should be that the peace-loving Chinese should be permeated and [240/241] changed by the martial spirit of Japan, the result, it would seem, can be nothing but disastrous.

To my mind the vision of the Yellow Peril, considered as a military one, is not likely to find its fulfilment. The Chinese are not a martial race, nor have they the ambition to subjugate other lands and races. [The commercial and unwarlike spirit of the Chinese is often dwelt upon. We ought, however, to give weight to the facts, (a) that every page of Chinese history is marked by war; there have been constant wars within (Meadows remarks that the Chinese are "the most rebellious and least revolutionary of peoples"), and not infrequently the bounds of the empire have been extended by wars of conquest; and (b) that the Chinese are a people of tremendous energy, and that it is, after all, a matter of circumstances whether that energy is to find its outlet in one way or another--in a commercial or a military direction. The old Phoenicians, as Mommsen points out, were a peaceable and commercial race, but they waged great wars and produced a Hannibal.] It is one thing for a small section of the nation, stung to the quick by a succession of real wrongs, wrought by foreigners, to rise and endeavour to thrust forth the hated representatives of Western nations from their country; it is quite another thing for the nation itself to arm with a view to the invasion and subjugation of other lands. But that there must very soon be a Yellow Question, nay even a Yellow Peril, a peril, that is, of a non-military invasion of Western lands by the Yellow races, an invasion which will bring with it many complex and difficult, even dangerous, questions, commercial, social, intellectual, spiritual; that I consider to be beyond all doubt. For it is not likely that these two great nations will, when they feel their strength, continue to endure patiently the humiliating conditions at present imposed upon one of them by Western nations. Japan has already matched her strength successfully with one of the greatest of the world's powers. She has already asserted with success her claim to be treated on equal [241/242] terms by Western Powers. Is it likely that China when awakened, with her strong commercial instincts and her teeming millions of population, will submit to the present unequal relations which exist between the white and the yellow races? Will she continue to allow Europeans of all classes, and very often of most inferior classes, to wander at liberty throughout her land, whilst her own sons are either debarred from entry into other lands by stringent laws, or a prohibitive poll-tax; or are admitted only on terms of servitude, as beings of an inferior genus, for the purpose merely of physical labour, with every avenue of advancement closed to them? It will be a strange thing if these two great nations submit much longer to such conditions as these. It seems inevitable that "the open door" must admit of egress as well as ingress, and that if the white races claim the right to live, and work, and carry on commerce, in China and Japan, the same rights will be claimed, and in due time claimed successfully, by the two great yellow races.

And when this takes place, what will the result be? Will it be great, or will it be small? Will it be for good, or will it be for evil? Will the yellow be absorbed in the white? Or will it make its influence to be felt, and deeply felt, amongst those races with which it mixes? These are questions which it is not easy to answer. But it is well worth our while to consider them. As regards the countries of Europe, already thickly populated even to overflowing, it does not seem probable that the wave of Chinese immigration should ever become large enough to have any very great effect. But as regards countries like South Africa, Australia, or the Western States of America, and Canada, with a sparse population, a demand for labour, and vast unoccupied tracts of habitable country, it seems most probable that, if the present artificial barriers should be broken down, there may be [242/243] a flood of immigrants from China, which, if it does not swamp the white element, must at least seriously affect the commercial, social, and moral life of those countries. For it must be remembered that the Chinese, no less, certainly, perhaps even more, than the Japanese, are a powerful race even now--powerful, that is, in the force of character and in their capacity for affairs. No merchant in the East can afford to despise the Chinaman as a man of commerce. His industry, his ability, his reliability, all combine to make him a formidable rival to any European competitor; his power of combination for purposes of trade, and the manner in which he holds to his fellow-countrymen as against the foreigner, enables him, in his own land at any rate, to dictate terms to the European. And in other respects it is, I think, impossible to say that the Chinaman is inferior intellectually to the European. His method of education is different from ours, it has been very different for centuries, and it is the fashion to speak with contempt of his methods; but whether it be as the result of, or in spite of, his methods, the intellectual power of the present generation of Chinese is, without gainsaying, very remarkable. It would be interesting to hear how an advocate for the principle of heredity would explain the fact that a race whose educational training has been for centuries purely classical; whose standard of excellence, by which all candidates for office have been judged, consisted in the power of writing artificial themes in hieroglyphic characters, can at once turn to Western subjects and methods, and show themselves the equals of those whose ancestors have long given their minds to such subjects. I have myself, when engaged in educational work in China, frequently been amazed at the aptitude with which my pupils have addressed themselves to the study of mathematics. In the schools of Hong Kong, where we have English and Chinese boys working [243/244] side by side, the prizes are as commonly won by Chinese as by English, although the Chinese suffer from the grave disadvantage of being taught through the medium of a language which is not their own, and which they only partially understand. And many instances could be quoted of Chinese boys and men who have held their own and won prizes and honours in competitions in schools and colleges in England, Australia, and America. Either, it would seem, the principle of heredity is wrong, or the value of a purely classical training for developing the intellect of a race for general purposes must be greater than modern theories of education would admit. At any rate the Chinese and Japanese, whose educational system for centuries was conducted on much the same stereotyped lines, show that they are possessed of an intellectual power for scientific pursuits, and for practical affairs, which is in no respect inferior to that of Western nations.

Putting aside, then, for the purposes of this paper at any rate, the "serried ranks of millions of armed Boxers," the Yellow Question resolves itself into this, What will be the effect of the possible, it may be probable, immigration into countries now occupied chiefly by Europeans, of many millions of the yellow races, full of physical strength and vigour, active both in body and mind, of unsurpassed industry, and with an inexhaustible supply of their fellow-countrymen behind them, from which to recruit their forces? To my own mind--and I write as one who loves and admires the Chinese--the result both on those countries into which such an immigration should take place, and on the world in general, must be bad. I know indeed that the Chinese are a quiet, orderly race, well content to live under good laws, not even ambitious to have their share in the making of the laws. I know, too, that by their steady labour they would [244/245] increase, as they have done, for instance, in the tropical States Settlements, the material wealth of the countries in which they lived. But after saying all this, I am strongly convinced that the immigration of large numbers of Chinese into countries occupied by Europeans, would be to the injury of the moral and social life of the world. The only thing that would be likely to avert or to mitigate the evil would be the second of the two alternatives suggested by Sir Robert Hart, namely, "the miraculous spread of Christianity in its best form, a not impossible, but scarcely to be hoped for, religious triumph."

For it must be borne in mind that mere civilization is not sufficiently powerful to effect the necessary changes in the moral and social life of the Chinese. Civilization may lead them to adopt for their own use, and even to develop, the products of modern Western science. Civilization may lead them to change some of their habits of life, to wear different clothes, or to eat different food in a different way. But history gives us no instance of civilization changing the moral nature of a nation. It did not do so in Greece; it did not do so in Rome; it has not done so in modern nations which have adopted civilization without Christianity. Nor has it done so, so far as the experiment has been tried, amongst those Chinese who have more or less adopted Western civilization, whilst still untouched by the Divine life of Christianity. To take but a single instance, the matter of marriage and concubinage. Many a sad story could be told of women of Western race, who have married Chinese in England or Australia, under British law, and who have come to China to find that they are not even wives in name. And it is, I fear, undeniably true that amongst the wealthy non-Christian Chinese, who in places like Shanghai and Hong Kong have [245/246] adopted much of European civilization, or at any rate are largely influenced by it, the standard of morality as regards marriage and concubinage is certainly not higher than it is amongst the upper classes in China itself. It needs, as Sir Robert Hart has said, the spread of Christianity in its best form to avert the otherwise inevitable evil, which must attend a great influx of the yellow races into countries such as those which I have mentioned. [The longer one lives and works in China, the stronger becomes his conviction that, however much the Chinese may gain from Western civilization, there is no force except Christianity which can really renovate this race. In all their life and in all their undertakings it is apparent that the thing which is lacking is not intellectual ability, but moral and spiritual power--a power which Christ alone can give.]

Have we, then, any reason to hope for any such rapid spread of Christianity? Is it probable that the flood of emigration from China will be so permeated by Christianity as to render it innocuous, or even beneficial, to the world? It would seem that the answer to this question must be in the negative. I do not, of course, deny for a moment the power of the Holy Spirit of God to effect the conversion of the Chinese race within any limited space of time. But in treating of such matters we must be guided by the analogy of God's dealings in the past; and as we study the pages of history, we see that the conversion of nations has been a slow process; that it took centuries for the gospel to spread even through our own land, and that at a time when the population of England probably did not exceed that of many a single prefecture in one of the eighteen provinces of China at the present time. Unless, therefore, there should be some marked Divine interposition, a "miraculous spread of Christianity in its best form," we have every reason to expect that we shall have to face an emigration [246/247] of masses of those who are still in heathenism, who will carry with them the thoughts, the habits, the morals of heathen. We must look for the spread of heathen, not of Christian, Chinese throughout the world.

When I say this, I would not be thought for a moment to speak lightly of the present results of missionary work in China, or to undervalue the great things which God has done for us who are labouring for the spread of the gospel in that "Glorious Land." It is, as we know, the habit of some to depreciate the work of missions, and to speak of the results of such work as having no real value. But such people speak without knowledge, or from very imperfect knowledge, of facts. So far as my own reading of history goes, I consider that the history of missions in China fully justifies the statement that Christianity has spread, and is spreading in China, as rapidly and effectively as it has ever done in any civilized country in the world. In weighing this statement it must be borne in mind that continuous missionary work has only been carried on in China for a comparatively short time. It is true that so far back as the sixth century of our era, Nestorian missionaries made their way to the Far East and preached the gospel in Si-ngan Fu and elsewhere. And again in the thirteenth century, Friar John of Monte Corvino, the Franciscan, went forth as a pioneer missionary from the Church of Rome to China. His efforts, in spite of opposition from the Nestorians, appear to have met with marked success. We read of six thousand baptisms in eleven years, of the building of a church, and the translation of the New Testament and Psalter. But whether it was that the foundations were not laid deep enough, or whether it was that he did not receive sufficient support from the Home Church (a not uncommon fate of the missionary!), the work of Friar John did not long survive him. Seven Franciscan bishops [247/248] were consecrated by Pope Clement, and sent out to join him. Only two of them reached Pekin, and they, by the Pope's order, consecrated Friar John Archbishop of Cambalu. But after his death in 1330 no successor was appointed, and after the lapse of a few years the mission became extinct, owing in the first instance, it would appear, to the bitter persecution of the Christians in Eastern and Central Asia by the Turks and the Tartars. There is the record of the martyrdom of a bishop and many followers in 1362.

It can hardly be necessary to dwell here on the later establishment of the Roman missions in the sixteenth century. The story of Xavier dying on the rocky island of San Chuan opposite the mouth of the Pearl River, with his eyes fixed on the closed land which he yearned to enter, is familiar to all. The names of Matthew Ricci, who entered China just thirty years after the death of Xavier in 1582; of Adam Schaal, who succeeded Ricci as head of the Astronomical Board in Pekin in 1628; of Verbuist, who held the same post in the reign of K'ang Hsi, stand out as being only somewhat more conspicuous than other noted men of the Roman Church, who followed Xavier, and succeeded in obtaining an entrance where he had failed. Their eminent scientific and linguistic talents procured them entrance even into the Imperial City of Pekin itself; and during the last years of the Ming dynasty, and the early years of the present dynasty, their influence in the Imperial Court was very great; and in other parts of the empire the work of conversion proceeded rapidly. But difficulties arose amongst the Roman missionaries themselves. The Jesuits made Church membership easy by allowing their converts to continue the worship of ancestors and of Confucius, considering that these rites were merely civil and secular. The Franciscans and Dominicans, on the other hand, condemned [248/249] these practices as idolatrous. Further disputes arose about Christian terminology in Chinese, especially about the best term to be used for "God." The Jesuits appealed to the Emperor, the other party to the Pope. Three Popes in succession issued contradictory decrees about these questions. The last of these, Pope Clement XI., finally decided, in direct opposition to the Emperor K'ang Hsi, that no Chinese Christian should ever practise the rites and usages complained of. The result was persecution, in a comparatively mild form at first, whilst K'ang Hsi lived; but after his death, his successor, Yung Cheng, issued an edict proscribing the Christian religion, on the ground that the Christians would only obey their priests, and made themselves independent of Chinese law. From that time until the last century the Roman missions were carried on under great difficulties, and in the midst of a great deal of persecution. Nevertheless, the numbers of the converts continued to grow, and though it is often objected that they were but little instructed, and that their Christianity was but nominal, yet it must be remembered that, during the eighteenth century, many, not only of the European missionaries, but also of the Chinese converts, laid down their lives in martyrdom for their faith.

Since the year 1840, which witnessed our first war with China, and the consequent opening of the five Treaty Ports, the facilities for carrying on missionary work have been steadily increased, and the Roman missions have not been slow to avail themselves of them. Large and beneficent institutions have sprung up in important centres, and congregations have been formed in scattered places far and wide throughout the empire. Mr. Clement Allen, formerly of H.M. Consular Service in China, writing in "The East and the West," in April, 1905, states on good authority that "there are in China missions [249/250] under the direction of ten different orders. These contain thirty-eight bishops and vicars apostolic, two apostolic prefects, and 1622 priests, of whom 1141 are European and 481 native. The number of converts, without including catechumens, who are very numerous in some dioceses, amounts to over 783,000."

[The latest figures for the Roman missions will be found on pp. 675-677 of MacGillivray's "A Century of Missions in China," a work published by the Centenary Conference in China this spring (1907). They are as follows:--

Bishops 44
European priests 1206
Chinese priests 550
Christians 950,058]

Judging from these figures, Roman missions in China may certainly be credited with very considerable success. It is not, however, easy to estimate the true value of this work. I do not, in thus writing, refer to the matter of our doctrinal differences with Rome; nor indeed am I in a position to state how far the errors of Rome are allowed, in the ease of the majority of Chinese converts, to obscure the common and fundamental truths of Christianity. I leave, therefore, that matter untouched. The difficulty to which I refer arises from the political influence which the Roman Church has continuously exercised. With the French Government posing as the protector of Roman missions, the bishops and priests of that communion have assumed the status, and in many cases have claimed the authority, of mandarins. Their interference in the Chinese courts of justice in behalf of their adherents has been a chronic grievance with the Chinese Government, and has been not infrequently the cause of political disturbances. But it has made it a profitable thing, from the worldly point of view, to become an adherent, and it is a common practice in many parts of the empire for Chinese to [250/251] enrol their names on the list of adherents, in order that they may claim, and claim effectually, the help and protection of the Roman priest, both in civil and criminal cases. It may be that the Roman Church would defend this practice on the principle that thus "every kind" is gathered into the drag-net, and that only the "good" are gathered into the vessels and baptized, whilst the "bad" are cast away. But in any case the practice is a very dangerous one, and it makes it difficult to estimate the true value of Roman statistics. Moreover, the practice of baptizing large numbers of the children of heathen, many of them at the point of death, adds a further element of uncertainty as regards these figures. In the province of Si-chuan alone 85,000 children of heathen parents were baptized in 1899. The baptism of 41,000 pagan children at the point of death was reported by the Jesuit Mission at Shanghai in 1898. ["Christian Missions in the Far East," p. 53. S.P.C.K.] It would be interesting to know what place such baptisms take in the statistics quoted above.

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