Fieldwork Notes 1st year (2017-2018)
In September 2018 I followed the invitation by the Centre for East-Western Cultural Exchange 中西方文化交流研究中心 at Central China Normal University 華中師範大學 in Wuhan. There I had ample opportunity to inspect archival collections, consult with historians engaged in research on Christianity in central China (including Sichuan), deliver a lecture on missionary sources in central China to historians from CCNU and other institutions and visit sites of Christian activity, past and present, in and around Wuhan.
My hosts explained how after the fall of Nanjing in the Second World War entire missionary congregations moved westwards along the Yangtse River to Chongqing, where they tried to escape warfare and reprisals by the Japanese forces. After the war, many of the rural Christians (as well as their writings and ritual objects) returned not to the countryside but to the industrial city of Wuhan.
In terms of documentary collections I managed to take a closer look at the archives within the library of Central China Normal University, which is relatively small in size but goes back to the very beginnings of the institution as a missionary high school (Boon College, founded 1903), subsequently transforming itself into the most significant Christian university of central China (known as University of Central China 華中大學). Contacts of Wuhan-based Christians and missionaries with Christian centres in other parts of China – first and foremost with Hunan and Sichuan – were particularly intense, which is visible from the archival collections in the city’s universities.
From the very beginning of my stay, I had the opportunity to explain the purpose of my research interest in the Christian communities of central China to a wide variety of scholars. The nodal point of research into China’s Christian past in Wuhan is the Centre for East-Western Cultural Exchange 中西方文化交流研究中心 at Central China Normal University (CCNU), currently coordinated by Prof. Ma Min 馬敏, who is originally from Chongqing and has a research interest in Christianity in central China. Crucially, I gave a lecture on the relevance of the SOAS missionary collections to Wuhan and the central Chinese region between Chengdu, Chongqing and the historical Huguang double-province to an audience of around one hundred historians and religious study scholars from both CCNU and Wuhan University. A highlight was to be able to speak at length with Prof. Zhang Kaiyuan 章開沅, the nonagenarian doyen of the Centre for East-Western Cultural Exchange and internationally respected authority in the history of Christianity in China.
Fieldwork Photos 1st year (2017-2018)