Faith, Identity, and Nationalism: The Impact of the May Thirtieth Incident on China's Christian Colleges

John Barwick


The Christian colleges founded in China by Protestant missionaries in the early twentieth century constituted a major nexus of cultural exchange between East and West, but also raised complex issues of identity and power both for the missionaries and their students. The tragic killing of eleven student protesters in Shanghai by British troops in May of 1925, an event that came to be known as the May Thirtieth Incident, brought many of these tensions to the surface. Tin's paper examines the impact of this event on three of the Christian colleges—Yenching University in Beijing, St. John's University in Shanghai, and Lingnan University in Canton. The reaction of each school was different, reflecting not only the influence of geography and political factors, but the vision of mission education embraced by their respective leaders. In the end. however, none of the institutions were left untouched by the incident, which triggered a shift in lines of identity and power that favoured Chinese interests. The resulting changes at the colleges can be seen as a harbinger of a coming era in which Western imperial domination would meet a similar fate.

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