Neo-Missionaries in Republican China. A Study of Selected Training Materials Mostly in Bilingual Format for the Divine Word Missionaries in Shandong

Anthony Hu

Modern Chinese education rose within the cataclysm of the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China. The efforts of Christian missionary congregations or institutions were crucial in this educational development. This presentation introduces the Chinese language training materials commonly employed by the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) or Steyl Missionaries for their newly arrived members in southern Shandong during the Republican period. In my presentation, I will first provide a general introduction about the mission of the Divine Word Missionaries in Shandong, especially their publishing activities and their materials circulated in the field of education. The second part of my presentation centers on selected language training materials for the newcomers. The focus will be on vari­ous sources for learning Chinese published during the Republican era, i.e., grammar books, dic­tion­aries, catechetical instructions, selected Chinese readings about local events, reports, scientific information or stories, and even a local travel guide for foreigners. While intro­ducing the writers and compilers of these printed books in bilingual or even trilingual format to some extent, I will mainly elaborate on the contents of the above-mentioned materials and the teaching and learning method applied there. The contribution concludes with a reflection about the overall formation process of the neo-missionaries with regard to their educative mission.

I. A General Background of the SVD Mission in Republican China

a) The SVD Mission in Republican China

The Society of the Divine Word is a Catholic missionary religious congregation for men. This very name and its abbreviation SVD is derived from its Latin name Societas Verbi Divini. In Chinese, it is called Shengyan hui 聖言會. Normally their members are called the Divine Word Missionaries or in a German-speaking context the Steyl Missionaries, which refers to Steyl, a small town in the Netherlands, not far from the German border, where Arnold Janssen (1837–1909), a German diocesan priest, founded the congregation in 1875 as well as two congregations for women, the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS) in 1889 and the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters in 1896. China was the first priority of Janssen’s missionary vision. Both the Divine Word Missionaries and the Holy Spirit Sisters did missionary work in Republican China.

On April 20, 1879, Joseph Freinademetz (1852–1908) and Johann Baptist von Anzer (1851–1903), the first two SVD missionaries to China, set foot on Chinese soil in Hong Kong. About two years later the SVD were granted the southern part of Shandong 山東 as their first mission territory, where only 158 Catholics were to be found. In the following decades, more missionaries arrived from Europe and the number of the faithful increased significantly. At the beginning of 1886, Anzer became the first bishop of the apostolic vicariate of that region together with Joseph Freinademetz who oversaw the SVD mission in Shandong. When German armed forces entered the Shandong Peninsula and established a colony in Qingdao in 1898, the SVD obtained additional districts under their ecclesiastical jurisdiction. All of the SVD missionaries made every effort possible to proclaim the Gospel, and indeed their mission was rather successful. In 1922, with their great missionary experience and capacity they accepted the Christian mission in Gansu 甘肅 Province, and in 1933 the mission of the SVD again extended to Henan 河南 Province. Until 1955, when all the foreign SVD missionaries were forced to leave the country, the presence of the SVD missionaries in Mainland China remained active in their respective parishes and mission stations. [more...]


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