Another Frontier: American Methodists and Natural History in Republican China

21 Sep 2023 04.30 PM - 06.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Florence Mok

Through the experiences of Harry R. Caldwell (1876–1970), a Methodist missionary whose hunting was central to his social evangelism, this talk explores how and why proselytism and scientific imperialism became intertwined in Republican China. With his rifle, Caldwell protected Chinese villagers from man-eating tigers, taught them how to hunt tigers effectively, and enabled them to reconceptualize their relationships with tigers and nature. By engaging the American Museum of Natural History in his specimen collection and hunt for the mythical "Blue Tiger," Caldwell introduced an economy of natural expeditions to the villagers who were hired--and converted--to support the hunt. He identified as both a Christian and a hunter and did not see these parts of himself as distinct. A comparison between Caldwell and his contemporary, the British naturalist Arthur de Carle Sowerby (1885–1954), accentuates America's construction of a religious and scientific empire by suggesting different national approaches to the growing professionalization of the naturalist in the early twentieth century.

Ying-kit Chan specializes in the intellectual history and natural history of late Qing and early Republican China. He served as a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University, and was a visiting scholar at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University, the Center for Chinese Studies, National Central Library (Taipei), and the University of Brunei Darussalam. He is the deputy chief editor of the International Journal of China Studies and sits on the editorial boards of Ming Qing Studies and the Malaysian Journal of Chinese Studies. He also serves as an editorial assistant for NAN NÜ: Men, Women, and Gender in China.