Title: 舶来与本土——1926年法国传教士所撰中国北方教堂营造之研究 / Building Churches in Northern China. A 1926 Handbook in Context
Authors: Coomans, Thomas 高曼士
Xu, Yitao 徐怡涛
Contributors: Wu, Meiping 吴美萍 (translator)
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: 知识产权出版社 [Intellectual Property Rights Publishing House]
Abstract: Building churches in China during the early twentieth century was a challenge for Western missionaries as well as for Chinese Christians. In what style and how identifiable should churches be in China’s varied urban and rural landscapes? Moreover churches had to be solidly built, the least expensive possible, and appropriate to religious use. Foreign missionaries came to China with their Western background and architectural references, but were confronted with Chinese style and construction techniques, which were totally different. The encounter between the missionary-builder and the Chinese builder is a remarkable contribution to the architectural exchanges between the East and the West, especially in rural areas where modernity had not yet penetrated. This encounter generated varied forms of cross-breeding and new technical combinations. From a stylistic point of view, Christian architecture in China evolved from more or less acculturated Western models in the late nineteenth century to an indigenised Sino-Christian style from the late 1920s.
Building Churches in Northern China. A 1926 Handbook in Context is the first comprehensive and richly illustrated publication on church construction in China. It is based on original research combining Western archives and fieldwork in China, resulting from collaboration between Peking University (School of archaeology and museology) and the University of Leuven (Department of Architecture and conservation).
The origin of this research is the translation in English and Chinese of an exceptional handbook about how to build churches in China, written by French missionaries and published in Xianxian in 1926 with the title “The Missionary-Builder, Advice-Plans”. The essence of the handbook is architectural knowledge based on long experience. It includes text and drawings about all the components of a church, from the foundations to the roof decoration, and critically compares Western and Chinese building materials, masonry, timber structures, styles, etc. The handbook also reveals a lot about how the missionaries understood Chinese building traditions as well as how they transmitted Western techniques to Chinese workers. Its illustration provides series of plans for 8 Western-style type churches of different sizes.
The present book is much more than just a translation and a text edition of the French handbook from 1926. It is built in three parts:
1. The handbook in context
After an introduction about architectural handbooks and pattern books of churches in general, an overview of the history of Christianity in China at the time of the Republic and the role of Western religion in the Chinese society in transformation are sketched. Identifying the authors of the handbook and their motivations in the context of the late 1920s helps understanding the role of the missionary-builders in Northern China. Thereafter, the structure and content of the handbook are analyzed as well as the perception of Chinese workers by Western missionaries. The issue of the style of churches in the 1920s in China, the time of Christian indigenization, deserves specific attention. The last aspect developed is the East-West encounter and the process of transfer of technology.
2. The handbook translated
The translation, both in English and in Chinese, is enriched with explanatory footnotes. The handbook’s original illustration is integrally reproduced after the translation of the text. The original French text is transcribed in appendix.
3. The handbook as built
Did the handbook reached its goal? Were churches built according to its recommendations? Research revealed that the handbook is based on the experience acquired during the construction of the church of Daming (Hebei province), a great Gothic brick church built in 1918-21 by French Jesuit missionaries ––listed ‘national heritage site’ of the People’s Republic of China in May 2013. Archival research and fieldwork, including the complete measurements of the church, confronts the theory of the handbook and the built result.
Description: Building Churches in Northern China. A 1926 Handbook in Context is a full bilingual and richly illustrated book. It addresses a wide range of readers interested in East-West transfers of cultural and technical knowledge, early modern architecture in China, missiology and religious history, building archaeology and construction history.
ISBN: 978-7-5130-4144-7
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IBa
Appears in Collections:Architecture and Society (+)

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