What has Jesus to do with Modernity in Republican China?

Visiting Scholar Talks

Apr 5, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Chu Xiaobai | Professor, Department of Chinese Literature and Culture, East China Normal University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Chloë Starr | Professor of Asian Christianity and Theology, Yale Divinity School

Seating is limited. Masks are required for all in-person audience members.

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Studies on Christianity in Republican China have established modernity as a core issue. These studies tend to research Chinese modernity in a “modernization paradigm,” that is, they mostly describe how China modernizes in this period under Western influence, from an external and institutional viewpoint. While this viewpoint is important, it flattens out the roles and experiences of local individuals in the process. If one wants to put Chinese agency on the map of Chinese modernity, the image of Jesus provides a formidable crossover-point to study local voices in all their diversity. Chinese individuals in reality related to the image of Jesus in multifaceted ways during the Republican era. The image attracted not only Chinese Christians, but also non-Christians, and even opponents. It inspired grassroots and elites alike, poets and painters, disparate camps of intellectuals and political factions. Analyzing the image of Jesus in literature, paintings, and rituals allows us to observe how Chinese modernity evolves in various discourses in the Republic. By introducing several case studies, this talk will try to elucidate how these modern discourses influence, and are in turn influenced by, the image of Jesus.