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Title: Conversion or protection? : collective violence and Christian movements in late nineteenth-century Chaozhou, South China.
Author: Lee, Joseph Tse-Hei.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3607 128X
Awarding Body: School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2000
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This doctoral thesis examines the relationship between Protestant Christianity and collective violence in rural China during the turbulent period of the late nineteenth century (1860-1900). It focuses on the creation of some Chinese Baptist and Presbyterian village communities in the prefecture of Chaozhou in Guangdong province. Set in this highly competitive and violent environment, this study singles out intra-lineage and intra-village conflicts as a key to understanding the Protestant expansion into the interior. It argues that Protestant Christianity advanced in some inland areas with a long history of rural violence. Conversion, especially of an entire lineage segment or a substantial number of villagers, often followed the pre-existing communal divisions and rivalries. When the American Baptist and English Presbyterian missions became entngled in the longstanding intra-lineage and intravillage conflicts, they added a new dimension to the competition. The missionary presence enabled the local Christians to mobilize external resources to strengthen themselves against their rivals. Apart from appealing to the missionaries for help, the Christians also took the initiative to integrate the church into the extensive kinship, lineage and territorial networks. It was through these networks that the Christians could come together to form a regional church alliance for mutual support and protection. In this process of church-building and alliancemaking, the Baptist and Presbyterian communities emerged as some kind of protective organizations and created a new balance of power in the local politics. This political nature of the Protestant movements not only fits well with David Faure's characterization of popular religious activities as "a demonstration of power" but also permits a comparison with Maurice Freedman and Hugh D. R. Baker's studies of lineage politics in southern China. This argument is tested against four incidents of collective violence. In the Zhazi (1878) and Caikou (1898) cases of intra-village disputes, the rival segments split into Christian and non-Christian factions. When the non-Christian power holders sought to get rid of a handful of Presbyterian worshippers, the Presbyterians had to rely on the English mission for help. In the Kuxi (1896) and Liugang (1897) cases of intra-lineage conflicts, the hostile lineage segments divided into the Baptist and Catholic, as well as the Baptist and Presbyterian camps. They continued to struggle against each other under the respective covers of the churches. In all the cases, the Christian communities employed conversion as a political strategy to pursue their own agendas, which were different from the religious concern of the missionaries. In this perspective, many incidents of violence involving local Christians should better be understood in the wider context of communal conflicts in southern China generally, and not just be seenas the results of anti-imperialism, anti-foreignism and cultural antagonism between Confucianism and Christianity. The violence was in fact the manifestation of factional struggles which had long predated the arrival of the Baptist and Presbyterian missions. This research has consulted a wide range of primary sources, ranging from the Baptist and Presbyterian missionary accounts to the American and British consular correspondence, and from the Chinese local magistrates' reports to some ethnographic data which was collected in several Christian villages in 1998. By supplementing the archival materials with the ethnographic data, this study has been able to probe more deeply into the inner dynamics of the Christian communities than have many current studies of Chinese Christian movements. It has also gone beyond the conventional focus on inter-group violence to explore the significance of intra-group fighting at the grass-roots level.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Christianity; Social; Communal; Conflict