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Historiography of the Chinese Catholic Church: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

* edited by Jeroom Heyndricks, cicm. K.U. Leuven: Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, 1994, 511 pp.

This is a unique and valuable collection of forty-nine articles by European, Chinese and American scholars, all but three of them written in English, others in French.

Jeroom Heyndricks, a well known Catholic sinologist, is the guiding force behind the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, founded in 1985, and based at Leuven University. While the primary focus of the Foundation is research on the history of relations between the Low Countries and China, it has become the organizing centre for a worldwide group of China scholars who specialize in the history of the Catholic Church in China.

Many of the research papers published in this volume were first presented at five biennial international conferences convened by the Verbiest Foundation. This, the first volume in their planned Louvain Chinese Studies series, is without question the definitive resource for anyone wishing to know what is going on among historians specializing in the history of the Chinese Catholic Church. While many of these articles are complete in themselves, others are excerpted from works-in-progress, or are summaries of unfinished projects.

There are three main sections: the Catholic Church in Mainland China, the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, and a final section containing reports on twelve archival or mission history projects.

The main body of this work, with thirty-five papers covering 364 pages, is found in section one, "The Church in Mainland China." After four introductory essays on the writing of mission history, the remainder focus on specific themes: essays on a specific period; essays on Chinese Church personnel; essays on a specific person; essays on institutions or organizations; and essays on religious congregations. The annex to this section contains brief reports on the missionary activity in China of six religious congregations.

While these essays, seven of them by Chinese authors, average only eleven pages each, they contain a wide span of fascinating information derived from archives, interviews and other primary sources. Topics range from studies of individual priests, both Chinese and European, to a history of the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood, and compact histories of several congregations of religious sisters.

The articles in section two, "The Catholic Church in Hong Kong," are written by two Chinese Catholic scholars living in Hong Kong. One presents an overview of "the six ages" of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, beginning with the British occupation in 1841. The other, which focuses on the anglicizing of education in the Catholic schools of Hong Kong, raises this salient question: Will histories written by mission societies help the local Christians of China become more conscious of their own history and selfhood; or will mission societies be concerned primarily with preserving the good name of their own congregation? The essays published in this volume have the ring of authentic scholarship.

Donald MacInnis was coordinator for China Research with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, 1980-1990. He is the author of Religion in China Today: Policy and Practice, Orbis Books, 1989, and co-translator of Religion under Socialism in China, edited by Luo Zhufeng and published by M.E. Sharpe, 1991.

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Author:MacInnis, Donald
Publication:International Review of Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1997
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