Making Nanyang a ‘Chinese’ Mission Field: Chinese Evangelical Missionaries to Southeast Asia, 1920s to 1950s

  • Dao Wei Joshua SIM (Speaker)

Activity: Conference/talk/lecture/symposium/speech/workshop, etcEvent organized by non-HKBU units


Paper presented as part of Chinese missiology panel.
The emergence of Chinese evangelicals as missionaries in the first-half of the twentieth century is an understudied topic. This paper thus seeks to foreground these Chinese missionary voices by focusing on their Southeast Asian evangelistic work. It proposes that Chinese missionaries like Jason Linn (1903–1986) and Timothy Dzao (1908–1973) were eager to stake their own claims of legitimacy within the global evangelical missionary enterprise by demonstrating that they were racial and religious equals of the Western missionaries who were capable of conceiving an effective non-paternalistic mode of missions to the Chinese diaspora and indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia. By drawing on publications related to several Chinese missionary enterprises, such as the Chinese Foreign Missionary Union, this paper makes three arguments. First, it argues that these evangelicals sought to carve Nanyang (the historic Chinese geographical term for Southeast Asia) out as a ‘Chinese’ mission field by constructing narratives that emphasised an intrinsic Chinese Christian obligation to evangelise the region. Second, these evangelicals added a racial dimension to these narratives by claiming that they were more racially and culturally suited to evangelise the peoples of Nanyang than Western evangelicals. Third, this study scrutinises the ethnographic-missiological data produced by various missionaries like Linn and Dzao to show how they practiced a culturally-egalitarian missionary approach that eschewed missionary paternalism. Nevertheless, this did not mean they were free of racial biases as they perceived themselves as more ‘civilised’ than their evangelistic targets. In sum, this paper opens a way of moving beyond Eurocentric framings of missions by attending to Chinese missionary voices.
Period8 Jul 2022
Event titleInternational Association of Mission Studies Conference 2022 -
Powers, Inequalities, and Vulnerabilities: Mission in a Wounded World
Event typeConference
LocationAustralia, New South WalesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese missionaries
  • Chinese Christianity
  • Nanyang