Protestant ethics among Chinese missionaries, problems of indigenization, and the spirit of academic professionalization


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Some of Weber's descriptions and evaluations of Protestant groups and their ethos are employed to reveal dimensions of Protestant missionary activities and their contributions in early 20th-century China and Europe. The main focus is on the German missionary Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930). Wilhelm distinguished himself while living in the German colony of Jiāozhōu as an educator and missionary-scholar, specializing in translating ancient Ruist ('Confucian') and Daoist scriptures. After the outbreak of World War I, he began to study the Book of Changes, a major factor in his later spiritual pilgrimage. Leaving missionary work in 1920, he was later offered a position as a cultural attaché to the German ambassador, serving two years in Beijing. In 1924 he was made the first lecturer in Chinese at Frankfurt University. During the 1920s Wilhelm passed through a radical spiritual transformation, ultimately adopting a Ruified form of Christianity influenced by Quaker sectarian spirituality. All of these factors are considered in the light of Weber's thesis about the development and modern demise of the Protestant ethos.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-114
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Classical Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Missionary-scholar
  • Rationalization
  • Sects
  • Sinology
  • Voluntary associations
  • Wilhelm


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