Christianity in China

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Week One
June 5-9
1:30 - 4:00

Class Price: 

This course opens up the fascinating but surprisingly obscure story of Chinese Christianity, from the earliest Syriac-Chinese documents of the eighth century through to the sermons and micro-blogs of house-church pastors in the twenty-first century. We will consider how the Jesuit mission of Matteo Ricci and his confreres paved the way for a rich Chinese theological literature in the sixteenth century, and the questions of accommodation and theological synthesis it raised. We will look at the huge printing and education industry of the Protestant mission in the nineteenth century, before sitting at length at the feet of Chinese theologians of the early twentieth century. We will read (in English!) some short essays by theologians like Zhao Zichen, and consider what the legacy of imperialism meant for the new Chinese church in the early Republic. The devastation of the church during the Cultural Revolution forces us to confront the choices of the 1950s and church-state allegiances, while the reopening of Christian seminaries and churches in the 1980s invites a closer look at the bitter split between the state churches and the unregistered churches in the present, and what these mean for the church Catholic and Protestant in the future. We will watch some video extracts, look at texts and read some brief materials together in class as we ponder questions such as: what is Chinese theology and how does it differ from Western systematic forms? What does the contemporary Chinese church have to say to the rest of the world church? And how did the church grow to 80 million in just a few years?


Chloë Starr is Associate Professor of Asian Christianity and Theology. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century and contemporary Chinese theology. Professor Starr’s latest book, Chinese Theology: Text and Context (Yale University Press, 2016), is a study of Chinese theological texts and their ties to literary forms. She is currently editing and translating a reader in Chinese Christian theology and working on a volume on Chinese Christian Fiction. Prof. Starr’s courses explore a range of approaches to East Asian Christianity, including theological survey, Chinese and Japanese Christian literatures, China Mission, and Asian American theologies. She taught previously at the universities of Durham, where she was Senior Tutor of St. John’s College, and Oxford, where she taught classical Chinese literature. Earlier works include Red-light Novels of the Late Qing (2007); a coedited volume, The Quest for Gentility in China (2007); and an edited volume, Reading Christian Scriptures in China (2008).

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Yale Divinity School

Chloë Starr