The Significance of the Zheng-ding Catholic Church Massacre To the Study of Christianity in China
Prof. Xu Yihua Department of International Politics, Center for the Study of Religion and International Relations, Fudan University
Abstract:It is well known that most of the “rules of game,” methods of narratives and terminologies in the study of Christianity in China have been set up by Western missionaries and scholars. Not only those analytical observations, such as the three devolutions of power, Sino-Western Protestant establishment, opposing evangelical lines exemplified by Timothy Richard and Hudson Taylor, but also those observational analyses, such as the impact-response model, tradition-modernity model, cultural imperialism, the three different types of Christian movements represented by the independent, native and indigenized churches respectively, all have originated from the West. Therefore the de-westernization of the study of Chinese Christianity, an issue raised by Western scholars themselves, seems to be an extremely difficult research agenda.
“The Zheng-ding Catholic Church Massacre” was not an isolated case of sacrifice by Bishop Frans Schraven and 8 other Western clergy, but a cruel and heroic episode of the War of Assistance Against Japan. What Christian churches (both Protestant and Catholic churches) presented and contributed during the War, were not only those famous Western missionaries such as Bishop Frans Schraven and his subordinates, the Western missionaries who protected the Chinese refugees during the Nanking Massacre, and the French Jesuit priest Robert Jacquinot de Besange who established a security zone for refugees (La Zone Jacquinot) in Shanghai, but also numerous and often unknown Chinese and Western Christians who suffered together with the Chinese and even devoted their lives to the war cause of the Chinese people. The overall performance of the Christian churches during the War of Assistance Against Japan is a shining point in the history of Christianity in China.
From the perspective of the history of Christianity in China in the first half of the 20th century, we have witnessed three major congruencies of interests between the Christian churches and the progressive causes of the Chinese people. The first major congruence occurred around the time of the Revolution of 1911, during which the Christians and Christian organizations played a leading role. The Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s trigged the second major congruence, during which the Christian churches became almost entirely united with the resistance cause of the Chinese people. The third major congruence refers to the “Three-self Patriotic Movement” of the Protestant churches and “Anti-Imperial Patriotic Movement” of the Catholic Church in China in the early 1950s. These movements have made both the Protestant churches and the Catholic Church in China to become entirely Chinese social organizations.
This paper attempts to reexamine “the Zheng-ding Catholic Church Massacre” from this three-congruence analytical framework, and the significance of this tragic incident to the study of Christianity in China.