After the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, leading figures of the young Republic called for a spirit of modernity based on Western learning. As part of their attempts at national revival, they paid close attention to the concept of the family, so fundamental to the traditional Chinese social and ethical system. Christian values were now introduced into Chinese home life through Nü duo (1912-1951), the first and longest running Protestant woman’s periodical. This publication shows how the modern religious family evolved during a period of political, social, and cultural upheaval. It also reflects increasing tensions between women, domesticity, and the nation in the process of interweaving Christian ideals into local contexts. Christian women’s varied relationships with the nation and the ways in which Christian women responded to changing social and political circumstances reflect a lack of theological, historical, and cultural reference embedded in both mission history and Chinese history for women’s political and national roles.
This paper presents two understandings of how Christian women were involved in nation-building through the creation of a religious domesticity. First, it shows that Christian women were confined by Victorian notions of womanhood on the one hand and traditional patriarchal gender ethics on the other hand. Second, it argues that in the wake of Chinese nationalism there was a shift among local female converts from Western notions of Christian womanhood to the discovery of a specifically Chinese mode of Christian womanhood.
Zhou Yun is a PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU. Her research interests include the history of Protestantism in Republican China and Japan, mission history in Asia, and contemporary movements of overseas Chinese Protestants.