James Legge (1815-1897) and Chinese culture : a missiological study in scholarship, translation and evangelization
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The primary objective of this study is to re-tell the story of a largely neglected figure in the history of Christian missions in China, James Legge (1815-1897), from a modern missiological perspective. As a Scottish missionary from the Congregational (nonconformist) church background, Legge worked for the London Missionary Society in Hong Kong, a British Crown Colony, for almost thirty years. He later became the first Professor of Chinese at the Oxford University and probably the most important sinologist of the nineteenth century. This study tries to apply the "translation principle" proposed by A. F. Walls to illustrate that the career of Legge in scholarship, translation and evangelization has undergone a process of "conversion" and "transformation" which resulted in Legge' s constant revision of his viewpoints on Chinese cul tu re. Legge' s genuine appreciation and sympathetic understanding of the Chinese cultural heritage grew gradually and as a "converted" missionary Legge was willing to criticize severely the deed of all "Christian nations". Through the monumental task of translating the Chinese Classics into English, Legge not only served as a bridge-builder between two spheres of culture; he also came to the conclusion that the ancient religion of China was monotheistic and that the teaching of the Chinese sages like Confucius, Mencius, and Lao-tze (Laozi) would suggest valuable lessons to those who claimed themselves as Christians. He also declared that the terms "Shang Ti" (Shangdi) and "T'ien" (Tian) found in the Chinese Classics actually stood for the idea of the one true God in the Christian Scriptures. Several of Legge's Chinese colleagues like Ho Tsunshin (1817-1871), Wang Tao (1828-1897), and Hung Jen-kan (1822-1864) were involved in the two way translation of integrating Western ideas into the social, religious, cultural and political scene of nineteenth century China as well as assisting Legge to let the West know more about China. Moreover, though Legge failed to develop any kind of Chinese theology himself, with its emphasis on restoring one's historical past, his legacy still serves to remind the present-day Christians in mainland China and Hong Kong to remember and to revive their own cultural traditions. Along with all the overseas Chinese Christian communities, they have to dig their own wells so as to drink from their own spiritual fountains which would serve as a solid base for a more inculturated and liberating Chinese Christianity.