Frontiers of Architectural Research vol:3 issue:2 pages:89-107
In 1926, French Jesuit missionaries from Daming published at Xianxian (Hebei province) a little handbook for church construction in Northern China: “Le missionnaire constructeur, conseils-plans” (“The missionary builder: advice-plans”), containing 67 pages of text and 54 plates. After a short introduction about handbooks and pattern books of churches, this paper describes and analyses the handbook׳s content and its different practical aspects about building materials, masonry, roofs, etc. The book, however, is more than a compilation of technical hints and reveals a lot about the missionaries’ perception of Chinese building traditions as well as the transmission of Western techniques to Chinese workers. The paper also contextualizes the handbook and tries to identify both the authors and the addressees. In the mid-1920s, the Vatican launched the Christian inculturation process in China, which concerned architecture too. Nevertheless, many missionaries resisted, preferring Gothic or Italianate architecture to a new Sino-Christian style. The handbook participated in this debate.