Mission to Modernize Higher Education in China: Lincoln Zhang and West China Union University, 1890-1955




Zhou, Kefen

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This biographical case study examines the life and career of a prominent Chinese Christian, Lincoln Zhang, from late Qing times to the early 1950s. It documents his determination and actions to secularize, indigenize, and sinicize a Chinese Christian higher-educational institution and thereby contribute to the nation’s modernization. It contributes to the broader argument that it was Chinese Christian educators, not solely Christian missionaries, who played the decisive role in the creation of modern Christian institutions of higher learning in China in the early 20th century. The efforts of such Chinese Christians brought about the transformation in Christian colleges from prioritizing religious teaching to promoting wide-ranging academic learning, from accepting foreign domination to promoting Chinese ascendancy in decision-making and teaching, and from simply applying Western methods to reinterpreting Chinese culture and history in terms of world civilization. Applying a historiography that stresses agency, this study explores Lincoln Zhang’s intentions and actions to illustrate the motivations behind his educational initiatives. Through the lens of cross-cultural studies, it demonstrates that cultural encounters between China and the West in the first half of the 20th century resulted not only in conflicts but also in cultural stimulation and infusion, even in a rapidly changing society caught up in a vortex of international tensions. The dissertation investigates one particular Chinese intellectual’s efforts and contribution to China’s educational modernization in a way, which illuminates the political and cultural conditions of his times.



Chinese Christians Modern China Higher Educational Efforts, Secularization, Indigenization, Sinification