chapter  2
From ‘Christianity in China’ to ‘Chinese Christianity’: changing paradigms and changing perspectives
Pages 12

Introduction: studies of Christianity in China since the new China era I first visited China in 1981, almost 30 years ago and attended the first conference in Wuhan in 1989. I went into several bookstores in the early 1980s (Friendship Store and Zhonghua Shudian) and wanted to find some scholarly work on Christianity but could not find any, except a couple of books on Marxist views on religion. But now, 30 years later, we can find more than 3000 books on Christian studies or religious studies in most academic bookstores in China. Another thing we should note is that scholars in the 1980s could not approach Christianity from explicitly religious or sociological perspectives, because ‘sociology’ and ‘religion’ were still very sensitive terms, if not taboo subjects, in those days. That was why scholars had to start from historical studies. I myself was trained in the fields of religious studies, sociology and education. But still, I had to join the group as historian in the 1980s and started my research on the history of pre-1949 Christian higher education in China. We were later joined by educators, theologians and philosophers. And in the last 10-13 years we have scholars from the fields of cultural studies, anthropology and sociology. In this chapter, I shall discuss the shift of paradigms and changing approaches in the past three decades. These would shed light on our study of Christianity in contemporary China too.