Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0957-6851
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9838
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As relation between China and the West changed precipitately in the middle of the nineteenth century, there was a heightened demand in the West for knowledge about the “Flowery Kingdom”. But until well into the twentieth century, virtually the only direct source of information about China and the Chinese came from missionaries, in which respect they were often lauded as “cultural brokers”. As missionary communication of their experience provided Western readers with a vicarious experience of China, their cultural brokerage inexorably shaped Western popular perceptions of China and the Chinese in the West. These perceptions, when channeled politically, often had a defining effect on the nature and manner of the Western presence in China. This essay examines the China writing of John Macgowan, a veteran missionary from the London Missionary Society. What is interesting about Macgowan’s cultural brokerage is that unlike other missionaries (e.g., Arthur Smith) who often struggled with the difficulties between the missionary enterprise and Western expansionism, Macgowan uninhibitedly affirmed the intimacy between Mission and Empire. His writings on China and Chinese life — their social behavior and habits of thought, their relation with the living environment, the religious and cultural values by which they ordered their lives — therefore gave strong credence not only to the necessity, viability, and nobility of the christianizing project but ultimately to the sanctity of Western presence in China. In other words, Macgowan’s brokerage of his China knowledge exemplified the processes in which knowledge was legislated and communicated to establish the ideological conditions of the Western expansionism in China.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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