BA History and Sociology

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Chinese Christianities Jesuit Missionary Astronomers to the People’s Republic’s ‘Patriotic’ Churches

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32262
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module will examine the introduction and adaptation of Christianity to China, from the arrival of the Jesuits in the seventeenth century to the formation of Chinese government-controlled Christian organisations in the People’s Republic of China. The module will cover Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox missions to China, constantly comparing them to each other. It will engage with the complex notions of modernity, imperialism, and nationalism, touching on topics such as science communication, trade, education, diplomacy, and translations. It will move beyond the missionary-centred narratives of Christianity in China, focusing on Chinese Christians and Chinese Christian religious professionals, how they reconciled their religious beliefs with the roles that they were ascribed in the Chinese society and whether the forms of Christian religiosity they developed were different from Christianity elsewhere.


Restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).


  • Critical engagement with primary material and core historiographical debates surrounding the introduction and localisation of Christianity to China;
  • Develop understanding of complex notions of cultural imperialism, scientific modernity, and acculturation;
  • Confront competing ideas and beliefs on religion, education, modernity, and nationalism and encouraged to form their own nuanced and evidence-based points of view.


  • Jesuits in Ming/Qing China: A Scientific Mission?
  • The Rites Controversy: A Failure of Christian Diplomacy?
  • Missionary Diplomats: Orthodox Clergy and Sino-Russian Relations
  • Missionary Competition: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants in Nineteenth-Century China
  • The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom: A Chinese Christianity?
  • Christian Missionaries and the Rise of Chinese Print Culture
  • A Christian ‘Modernity’: The Rise of Missionary Education and Chinese Christian Middle Class
  • ‘Sinicising’ Christianity: A Fight for Chinese Representation in the Christian Churches
  • Patriotism and Persecution: Chinese Christianities in the Mao Era
  • Chinese Christianity after Reform and Opening Up

Teaching and learning methods

  • 1 x 3-hour Seminar per week
  • Seminar reading lists and sourcebooks will be made available on Blackboard
  • Lecture slides will be uploaded onto Blackboard
  • Oral feedback on a source analysis plan will be given  in preparation for the first assessment
  • All Coursework will be submitted and returned via Turnitin

Knowledge and understanding

1) Familiarity with the key milestones in introduction and adaptation of Christianity to China, as well as the processes that surrounded it;

2) Comparing and contrasting the way Christianity was adapted to China’s conditions across periods and various missions;

3) Examining how Chinese Christian identities and forms of religiosity were shaped, as well as how these processes fit into the broader context of modern Chinese history;

4) Evaluate the contested contemporary and modern perceptions of Chinese Christianities.

Intellectual skills

1) Understanding the key historiographical approaches to the history of Christianity in China;

2) Critically evaluating primary materials and identifying perspectives that they represent;

3) Identifying the major historiographical debates surrounding the topic and positioning own point of view within them;

4) Assessing the shifts in methodology and focus of historical research into Chinese Christianities.

Practical skills

1) Participating in debates and discussions on complex ideas and topics;

2) Independent research into these topic using library materials, online databases, and appropriate internet resources;

3) Critically analysing secondary literature and primary evidence to establish an independent point of view;

4) Effective written communication and presentational skills.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

1) Developing nuanced interpretations by performing independent research and analysis;

2) Critically thinking and analysing relevant information;

3) Communicating complex concepts and nuanced perspectives orally and in writing;

4) Working both independently and as part of a team;

5) Producing high-quality written work within deadlines.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
2) Thinking critically and analysing information;
Group/team working
4) Using these communication skills to effectively work in team-work settings (e.g. classroom discussion and debate), including in leadership roles;
Oral communication
3) Communication skills necessary to convey information and ideas efficiently (both orally and in written form);
1) Identifying relevant information, locating and organising evidence;
5) Using these skills to present independently developed work (e.g. independent research, seminar preparation).

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%
Set exercise 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Verbal feedback on group discussions/in-class tasks


Written feedback on coursework submissions via turnitin



Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hour or by making an appointment)


Recommended reading

  1. Gregory Afinogenov, Spies and Scholars: Chinese Secrets and Imperial Russia’s Quest for World Power (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020).
  2. Daniel Bays, A New History of Christianity in China (Honoken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
  3. Liam Matthew Brockey, Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579-1724 (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008).
  4. Ryan Dunch, Fuzhou Protestants and the Making of a Modern China, 1857-1927 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).
  5. Carl Kilcourse, Taiping Theology: The Localization of Christianity in China, 1834-64 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
  6. David Woodbridge, Missionary Primitivism and Chinese Modernity: the Brethren in Twentieth-Century China (Leiden: Brill, 2019).
  7. Albert Monshan Wu, From Christ to Confucius: German missionaries, Chinese Christians, and the Globalization of Christianity, 1860-1950 (Cumberland: Yale University Press, 2016).

Zheng Yangwen (ed.), Sinicizing Christianity (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2017).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anastasiia Akulich Unit coordinator

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