Christianity in Rural China

Conflict and Accommodation in Jiangxi Province, 1860–1900
Volume 91
Alan Richard Sweeten
Revises earlier accounts of conflict between Christians and the Chinese state, showing through archival evidence that nonreligious problems were more often the source of intergroup conflict in Jiangxi in the late Qing dynasty


Delving into the archives of the Zongli Yamen—the Qing dynasty bureau that mediated conflicts between foreign missionaries, local Christians, and local communities—Alan Sweeten presents detailed accounts of interactions between Catholics and non-Catholics in the market towns and villages of Jiangxi. Sweeten pieces together a close view of tensions in the countryside, their eruption into violence, and as often, their peaceful resolution. He concludes that the sources of tension lay with day-to-day problems common throughout rural China, rather than with issues of religion per se. Although religious identity did play a role in local conflict during this forty-year period, personal or family disputes, poverty, and general alienation turn out to be equally important factors.

Earlier scholarship on urban anti-Christian incidents pointed to agitation by local elites against aggressive missionaries and the enclaving of Chinese Christians apart from their communities, yet this author's findings suggest that Catholics in rural Jiangxi were normally well integrated into their larger communities, and conflict with Catholics was more often a contest of personal interests among neighbors.

Alan Richard Sweeten teaches at California State University, Stanislaus, and has published numerous articles on Christians and Christianity in Jiangxi.

Praise / Awards

  • "This study provides valuable insights into not only the role of Christianity, specifically Catholicism, in nineteenth-century China but also the workings of the Chinese bureaucracy and local society during a time of general disintegration precipitated by, or least exacerbated by, Western intrusion.
    —Lawrence Kessler, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, American Historical Review, February 2003

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-89264-146-8

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  • $60.00 U.S.