/**摘要：The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto approached him several times to act as its purchasing agent in China, but Menzies declined because he had no interest in sending art and artifacts out of China to be ‘preserved’ in the West. …… After Menzies refused the ROM’s request, his place was accepted by Bishop William Charles White, bishop of the adjoining Anglican mission in southern Henan, at Kaifeng. Between 1923 and 1934, White sent an astounding number of ancient and medieval Chinese art to Toronto, making the ROM Chinese collections supposedly the largest in the world outside of China.**/
Cross Culture and Faith: A New Study of James M. Menzies
Linfu Dong, Ph.D
In early 2005, the University of Toronto Press is to publish “Cross Culture and Faith: the life and work of James Mellon Menzies”, a book based on my Ph.D. thesis completed at York University in 2001. A number of studies on the same subject have been published sine my departure for Canada ten years ago. However, I feel very comfortable to claim that my work is the authentic one. This paper highlights not only the life and work of James Mellon Menzies, but also the major themes as studied in my forthcoming book: missionary collector, missionary archaeologist and missionary theorist.
As a China missionary, James Mellon Menzies and his family joined a select company of Canadians, British, American and others, who chose to perform religious, humanitarian and educational work overseas. He experienced the tides of twentieth-century history with his colleagues in North Henan and at Cheeloo University in neighbouring Shandong province. Arriving during the high tide of imperialism after Boxer rebellion of 1900, they watched as the Chinese Revolution seemingly swept away their work. Menzies’ life highlights the complex context of Christian missions and the multiple forces which Protestant missionaries had to ‘negotiate’ for their work in China. In contrast to conventional views, this study argues that China’s modern encounter with the West, particularly Christian missions, was not a linear process, but a dynamic and multi-dimensional discourse.
This study sets out to study the life of one individual missionary in the context of his time and space. By avoiding the constraints of generic theoretical interpretations, it attempts to capture what made James Menzies unique. Using both Chinese and English materials, it evaluates his life not simply from a Western ‘cultural imperialist’ perspective, but utilizing an integrative, representative and personal perspective. It historicizes his life, work and thought in the context as he experienced it. With the approach of contextualization, we are able to see the difficult ‘negotiation’ process that Menzies had at multiple levels and with multiple forces, including Chinese nationalism, Western imperialism, the evangelical Mission, and his own personal interest in Chinese archaeology within that world. Without categorization, it shows the interaction between these issues / forces, and their impact on Menzies’ life. If one simplistically put Menzies in a theoretical category, he might appear as an example of the single-dimension ‘impact and influence’ or ‘cultural imperialist’ theories, aiming to destroy Chinese tradition and culture. Such was definitely not the case, as our examination of his life and work has shown. At all times, he was an interactive medium at the very interface of two cultures, trying to embrace both.
The life and work of James Mellon Menzies
‘Early in the spring of the year Chia Yin the writer was riding his old white horse along the south bank of the Huan River north of Changte City in the province of Honan. The ground had just been harrowed for cotton planting, and the farmers had thrown the freshly ploughed up potsherds and rubble to the edge of the fields. A number of potsherds of a very early date attracted the rider’s attention, and led him on from sherd to sherd to a bend in the river… This was the Waste of Yin.’
The young man on the old horse was a Canadian Presbyterian missionary named James Mellon Menzies, and the year was 1914, the third spring of the Republic of China. The place was a village named Xiao Tun (old spelling Hsiao-t’un), literally ‘Little Village’, on the broad North China Plain in North Henan (old spelling Honan). Menzies was an unusual missionary for he was educated initially as a civil engineer and Dominion land surveyor who had spent his summers surveying the bush of northern Ontario. Although he had only been in China for three and a half years and at Zhangde (which he spelled Changte) for only a couple of months, he had heard of an ancient ruin nearby. As he made his evangelistic tours of the rural districts, he knew what he was looking for and when he found it, with eyes trained to see signs on the surface of the earth as indicators of what lay below the surface, he understood its significance. He believed he was guided by providence that day, for as he reflected years later: ‘God seemed to guide me when he placed in my hands the discovery of the “Oracle Bones,” the actual relics of the ancient religious life of the Chinese at 1400-1200 B.C.’
The discovery of the ‘Waste of Yin,’ and its excavation by the Academia Sinica after 1928 in the first full-scale scientific archaeological dig in Chinese history, was as important to the archaeology of ancient China as Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb  or Leonard Woolley at Ur of the Chaldees. More known is the more recent discovery of the pottery army of the First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, at Xian; the ‘Waste of Yin’ was equally spectacular and a thousand years older.
About 1395 BCE (traditional) or 1300 BCE (revised), China’s formative Bronze Age civilization known as the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BCE traditional, 1700-1045 BCE revised) constructed its seventh and last capital city at a bend in the Huan River about seventy miles north of the Yellow River. They called the place Yin and renamed the dynasty itself Yin, the Shang –Yin. Twelve Shang kings ruled at Yin for 273 years, until 1122 / 1045 BCE when the Shang was conquered by the Zhou people. The Zhou sacked the city so completely that it was known to history as Yin-xu, the Waste (or ruins) of Yin. The ancient records which survived the book-burning of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, are fragmentary and over the millennia the location of Yin was forgotten. Several centuries later, a city was built near the site: named Anyang, it was later renamed Zhangde and relatively recently has reverted to its old name of Anyang. By the beginning of the twentieth century, some historians even doubted the existence of the Shang, viewing it as best a ‘semi-legendary’ state, like its supposed predecessor, the Xia dynasty.
In 1899, an eminent Qing scholar named Wang Yirong made a startling discovery in Beijing. When an illness occurred in his family, the prescribed medicines included something called ‘dragon bones.’ These had been used in Chinese medicine as far back as the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 221 CE) to treat illnesses such as dysentery, gallstones, fevers and convulsions in children, internal swellings, paralysis, women’s diseases, and malaria. Similarly, ‘dragon teeth’ were also used to appease unrest of the heart and calm the soul. Since dragons do not exist, ancient bone fossils were used as substitutes in both north and south China.
To Wang Yirong’s great astonishment, he found primitive Chinese characters on the bones which looked like ‘chicken scratches.’ Although he was a scholar of ancient bronze and stone inscriptions, he could not decipher the characters except for a few simple ideographs. The Book of Shang in the Book of History, one of the five Confucian Classics, speaks of the Shang custom of divination using animal bones, usually the plastron (lower shell) of turtles or the scapula (shoulder blade) of sheep or oxen. Wang realized these inscribed ‘dragon bones’ were actually oracle bones containing the oldest form of Chinese writing. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of Wang’s discovery. It revolutionized Chinese palaeography, the study of ancient inscriptions, and paved the way for the development of archaeological science in China. He immediately ordered his servant to purchase all available inscribed dragon bones from drugstores in Beijing. Since the dealers were loath to reveal their sources, Wang never discovered that they came from the Little Village at a bend in the Huan River.
James Menzies, a shy, almost self-effacing man, never claimed that he had discovered the Waste of Yin; the villagers had known and used those ancient bones for centuries, after all. Rather he was, he claimed, ‘the first foreign or Chinese archaeologist to visit the Waste of Yin with a purely scientific interest in these objects.’ [Italics added.] Sherd by sherd, he became the foremost non-Chinese expert on Bronze Age China who helped decipher the oracle bone script. It started as a hobby, collecting potsherds and fragments of bone, so many that his missionary colleagues nicknamed him affectionately ‘Old Bones’; it became his obsession. Working with Western and Chinese colleagues, he helped create the field of scientific archaeology and taught the first related university course (in Chinese), at Cheeloo (pinyin Qilu) University in Jinan, Shandong province. Above all, he became a collector of oracle bone fragments and an expert on deciphering the ancient script. In the last hundred years, the Waste of Yin has yielded about 150,000 pieces of inscribed oracle bones. Excluding those destroyed by warlord soldiers, the extant inscribed oracle bones collected by James Menzies total 35,913 pieces, to which he added another 23,000 ancient artifacts. To put this in context, he gathered the largest private collection of oracle bones on the meagre salary of an ordinary missionary. It was mainly through his own economy that he helped collect and preserve these Chinese cultural treasures.
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto approached him several times to act as its purchasing agent in China, but Menzies declined because he had no interest in sending art and artifacts out of China to be ‘preserved’ in the West. With his strong religious motivation, he conducted his collecting activities according to a set of principles and ethical standards that set him apart from other collectors. He did not collect clandestinely. He bought from the peasants around him or simply picked up bits of bones from the fields outside his station at Zhangde. He collected in China, for China, and intended to leave his collection in China.
After Menzies refused the ROM’s request, his place was accepted by Bishop William Charles White, bishop of the adjoining Anglican mission in southern Henan, at Kaifeng. Between 1923 and 1934, White sent an astounding number of ancient and medieval Chinese art to Toronto, making the ROM Chinese collections supposedly the largest in the world outside of China.
Then the wars intervened. In 1936 James Menzies left for a furlough in Canada, without knowing he would never be able to return. The next year, North China was occupied by Japanese armies and Cheeloo University was forced to evacuate to Free China in Sichuan. Since he could not return, he utilized his ‘detention’ in Canada by volunteering his services to the ROM and registering at the University of Toronto as a Ph.D. candidate. Menzies wrote his dissertation on the Shang Ko (pinyin ge), the typical bronze weapon of the Shang, and received his PhD in 1942. He spent the rest of the war working first for the United States Office of War Information in San Francisco and then the State Department in Washington as a China expert. His working career was ended by two heart attacks in 1946. Until his retirement in 1953, he continued to push his mission board to send him back to China to complete his mission there. However, the rapidly changing political situation in China made his plans impossible to realise. To the very end of his life, Menzies kept his commitment to the missionary enterprise in China and an active interest in Chinese culture and archaeology.
Menzies is known as an oracle bone collector, but except for a few brief articles, no extensive study has been done about him as a collector. Consequently, there have been different interpretations about his motivations. In addition, the exact nature of his collection, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, has remained a mystery. With the help of unpublished family papers, archival and museum documents, we are able to present a detailed discussion and evaluation of Menzies as a world-class collector. The Menzies’ Collections – some 35,000 oracles and thousands of other ancient objects – are detailed in the Epilogue, entitled ‘James Menzies’ Legacy.’ As this study shows, Menzies distinguished himself from other collectors in terms of collecting motivation, method, and achievement.
The Menzies’ collections had a high monetary value. However, family and archival documents and the disposition of these artifacts indicate clearly that the motivation behind his remarkable collecting efforts had never been monetary but rather a mixture of religious and academic interest. As his children recall, he always followed the principle of ‘bu zuo mai mai’ (no business deals).
From the beginning to the end, Menzies kept the belief that his connection with the ‘Waste of Yin’ was ‘providential,’ that God had placed in his hands the oracle bones, the religious documents left by a people over three thousand years who were worshippers of Shangdi , the same name as the Protestants used to translate ‘Jehovah God.’ As he was a missionary, it is not hard to understand his claim that God appointed him custodian of his adobe city. Ever since the sixteenth century, both foreign and Chinese Christians had searched for a common ground or synthesis between Christianity and Chinese culture. The Jesuit Matteo Ricci had endeavoured to link Christianity to Confucius and Mencius by infusing Christian meaning into the loosely defined concept of Tian, or ‘Heaven.’ Some Protestant missionaries, such as Timothy Richard, tried to prove a commonality between Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism. In his search for a link between Christianity and the Chinese, James Menzies went back to the beginning of Chinese civilization before the time of Confucius and Gautama Buddha. He thought the inscribed oracles contained the key to a genuine synthesis between Christianity and ancient Chinese culture. This became the driving force in his passion for oracle bones and other archaeological artifacts.
This religious motivation had been nurtured and strengthened by Menzies’ growing interest in Chinese culture, aesthetic appreciation of Chinese artifacts, and the frustration he felt with rural evangelism and Chinese nationalism. Starting with Chinese language classes in North Henan, he developed a life-long bond with Chinese culture and arts. The lack of interest by educated Chinese in Christianity and particularly the anti-Christian movements in the 1920s galvanized him to seek a meaningful link between Christianity and Chinese culture. Collecting provided him with the necessary means to carry out this self-selected mission.
Menzies collected for his mission in China. This unique motivation led to unique collecting principles. By comparing him to other missionary collectors such as Bishop White, another Canadian missionary collector and scholar, we have been able to highlight two of Menzies’ collecting principles. The first was his scientific approach to collecting. As he was not collecting for museums or the art market, what was essential was not the artifacts’ artistic value but their scientific value, particularly the amount of information they revealed about China’s past culture and beliefs. Therefore, for Menzies a broken sherd of white pottery could be as important as an intact, beautiful vessel. As a direct result of this principle, he was able to build up a large collection with limited financial resources. This principle also determined that except for a small number of fine items, his collection was not well suited for museum exhibition as most items were broken. However, they were of high academic value because of the scientific ways in which they were collected and preserved as well as the knowledge accessed by the pieces themselves.
Menzies always believed his collection should remain with him in China. Since his commitment to the mission cause was life-long, he never made plans to send his collection out of China. The only institute to which he chose to donate his collection was Cheeloo University, a private arrangement to protect it after the Japanese invasion. Unfortunately, this did not materialise as planned because of his absence from China and the swift political changes during the Anti-Japanese War and the Civil War. A small part of the Menzies collection did end up in Canada, six boxes stored in Tianjin sent out by his colleagues after the North Henan Mission was disbanded in 1947. For years, these artifacts remained unpacked while Menzies and his wife were arranging for their return to China. Menzies gave some fine items from his collection to his family as presents on important occasions but the bulk remained together with academic study as its major motivation. In general, we think Menzies did stand by his self-imposed principle of keeping his collection in China. This was truly unusual for a collector at that time when foreign collectors missed no opportunity to export Chinese artifacts legally or illegally, paying no attention to Chinese sentiment and regulations.
What did Menzies accomplish as a collector? Many collectors have been remembered with museums or galleries named after them but Menzies did not earn such an honour. We could say that he never thought of that kind of recognition. Otherwise, he would have cultivated relations with museums in the West, something he eschewed except for personal relations with individuals and his troubled relations with the ROM. His achievement as a collector is of a different kind.
The artifacts he collected are of great academic value for the study of early Chinese culture and religion. Even though most are broken fragments, smaller than a finger-nail, their historic value was preserved by Menzies’ attempt to preserve earth samples on each artifacts whenever possible, and to attach a detailed registration note describing where and how they were discovered and his own evaluation. These artifacts, especially the oracles, fulfilled the mission that Menzies assigned for them. They provided him with rich information about the Shang people’s life and beliefs, leading to the conclusion that these early Chinese were truly worshippers of ‘God’ and therefore, in a religious sense, that fundamental premise of Christianity was not totally foreign to the Chinese.
Since the Menzies collections have been divided among five Chinese and Canadian museums, their academic value has been shared by both Chinese and Western scholars. In quantitative terms, the Menzies collection is one of the important collections of early Chinese archaeological artifacts. This is particularly the case for his collection of oracles. Excluding those destroyed by warlord soldiers, the extant inscribed oracle bones collected by Menzies total 35,913 pieces. In the last hundred years, the Waste of Yin has yielded about 150,000 pieces of inscribed oracle bones. Menzies collected more than one-fifth: that made him the largest private collector of oracle bones. The other artifacts that he gathered number about 23,000 pieces. To better evaluate the Menzies collection, we also have to consider the fact that it was put together by an ordinary missionary with limited financial resources. It was mainly through his own economy that he helped collect and preserve these valuable Chinese artifacts.
Thirdly, by following the principles of ‘no business deals’ and keeping the artifacts in China, Menzies set an ethical and practical example for foreign scholars to participate in Chinese archaeology. With few exceptions, Western collectors of Menzies’ time and earlier, missed no opportunity to grab and export Chinese cultural artifacts because of China’s political weakness and the lack of legal protection. For this they have been condemned as cultural imperialists and disliked by the Chinese. In the 1950s Menzies was also called a cultural imperialist but as this study shows, he was perhaps one of the few exceptions among foreign collectors. We have to recognize that he was the product of his time. Without the imperial intrusion into China, the Menzies collections would not exist; it was the effects of imperialism that made it possible for him to collect and preserve such a large collection of Chinese archaeological artifacts. But, we also have to recognize that the motivation behind Menzies’ collecting efforts and the final disposition of his collection distinguished him from collectors who were truly cultural imperialists. He collected for his missionary cause in China and kept his collection in China too. If it had not been for the wars, Cheeloo University would have become the sole recipient of his entire collection and library.
It is not my intention to say that Menzies was a perfect collector and did nothing improperly. But the new evidence provided in this study indicates it is a great mistake to paint him simply as one more cultural imperialist. To do justice to him as a committed missionary scholar, we have to acknowledge that he was an early pioneer of the principle ‘collect for knowledge and keep in China,’ which is now followed by foreign archaeologists participating in field excavations.
For the study of Chinese history and archaeology, the importance of the oracle inscriptions from the Waste of Yin cannot be overstated. Their discovery and identification as authentic ideographs written by the Shang people provided the first concrete evidence of a literate, urbanized Bronze Age in China. The excavation of Anyang by the Academic Sinica between 1928 and 1937 made the Waste of Yin the birthplace of modern Chinese archaeology.
The Waste of Yin was the central place of Menzies’ intellectual life, wherever he was actually located. Wandering in his ‘adobe city’ in the cool of the evening on his daily walk, he found the meaning of his mission in China. There he built up his collection of bits and pieces he picked up from the surface, and started the transition from rural evangelism to scientific archaeology. If collecting helped build steps to reach China’s past, archaeology provided him with the key to the door, to understand China’s ancient cultural and religious life.
Motivated by his self-proclaimed mission to indigenise Christianity in Chinese culture, Menzies became part of the drive for professionalism among Protestant missions in China. The difference was that his goal was not simply to introduce Western science and technology, but to prove through archaeological evidence the link between the Chinese and God, what he called ‘Grace.’ For this purpose, he was not satisfied with the status of an amateur archaeologist, but devoted himself with a strong spirit of professionalism. To serve his new mission, archaeology became his ‘social gospel’ and the Cheeloo Quarterly and university podiums because his pulpit. By the 1930s Menzies was one of the recognized archaeologists in China, a national and international authority on oracle bone studies.
In addition to his own collection of oracles and other archaeological artifacts, Menzies made significant contributions to the early development of scientific oracle bone studies. The foundation was the publication of oracle inscriptions which provided the basic materials for scholars. As a major collector, Menzies published Oracle Records from the Waste of Yin in 1917. A decade later, he had substantially completed ‘Oracle Records from the Waste of Yin, Part II,’ not published at the time but consulted in draft copies by many Chinese scholars. All the inscriptions in both books were from Menzies’ personal collection. While working at Cheeloo, he also published the collection of Paul D. Bergen. In total, Menzies drew or reproduced, translated, annotated, and published over five thousand oracle bone inscriptions.
For a while after Wang Yirong’s discovery of oracle bones in a Beijing drug-store in 1898, the value of these historical documents was doubtful because of the number of forgeries flooding the curio markets. With his years of experience in fieldwork, Menzies became one of the few experts at detecting forgeries. Of his five thousand inscriptions, only one forged oracle slipped past his eyes. His pioneering efforts helped establish criteria for distinguishing between real and forged oracles, thereby silencing the conservative historical school that challenged the authenticity of oracle bones.
Menzies also made significant achievements in matching broken oracle bones. After being buried underground for several thousand years, oracle bones broke into pieces during the process of excavation, shipping and rubbing. As a result, pieces of one bone ended up in different collections. Even though Menzies was not the first to recognize the value in matching broken bone fragments, he and his assistant Zeng Yigong were responsible for the establishment of matching oracle bone fragments as a field of oracle studies. Their publications restored the documentary value of many broken oracle bones.
As historical documents, inscribed oracles were dated according to the titles of Shang kings and queens. Wang Guowei first discovered this dating method and classified oracle inscriptions into historical periods. Wang made an important start but Menzies was one of the scholars who further developed Wang’s methodology of oracle periodization. In addition to correcting Wang’s misinterpretation of the names of the Shang kings, Menzies discovered other particulars for determining the time period of oracle bones. One was the name of the diviners, and another the pattern of chiselled hollows in oracle bones. Nowadays, these two particulars have become the basic criteria for dating oracle bones.
Ever since he stumbled into the world of oracle bones, Menzies remained obsessed with Chinese archaeology until the very end of his life. His years at Cheeloo University were his golden age as an archaeologist. Before he was appointed to Cheeloo in 1932, modern archaeology education did not exist there. He made Cheeloo the centre for oracle studies and taught the first course in ‘Oracle Bone Studies’ and ‘Archaeology.’ He was probably the first foreign professor to teach these courses in Chinese. As a part of his archaeology education efforts, he established a study museum on the campus, exhibiting some of the best pieces from his collection. This museum became a unique feature of the Institute of Chinese Studies and helped enhance Cheeloo’s international reputation.
Menzies was a ‘far-sighted’ scholar with an ‘inborn instinct’ for archaeology. This made it possible for him to play a pioneering role in several important areas of oracle bone studies. At Cheeloo, while continuing his work on oracle publication, identification and periodization, he also made efforts to apply the new information provided by oracle bone inscriptions to the study of Shang culture and religion. Among his publications was Jiagu Yanjiu (Oracle Bone Studies). Printed as a textbook for his oracle course, this was the best work of its type published during his lifetime. It was the synthesis of his knowledge and experience with oracle bone collection and study, accumulated over more than two decades.
Menzies carried on his interest in Shang culture and archaeology after his return to Canada in 1936. When working at the Royal Ontario Museum and doing his Ph.D. program at the University of Toronto, he expanded his research scope from Shang bone culture to Shang stone and bronze culture, with more attention given to the latter. The results were ‘The Bronze Age Culture of China’ and ‘Shang Ko’.
‘The Bronze Age Culture of China’ was a general synthesis of Menzies’ knowledge about ancient Shang culture. Although it has not been published, it remains a significant academic achievement. Unlike most publications, it was based upon primary archaeological and classical sources. The long bibliography of Chinese references and their application in the text are a testimony to Menzies’ expertise in Chinese classics. ‘The Bronze Age’ also shed new light on important issues concerning early Chinese culture. Its hypothesis and analysis of the ‘indigenous origin of Chinese bronze culture’ directly challenged the accepted theory by Western scholars of the ‘Western origin of Chinese civilization.’ He paid particular attention to the rivers of Siberia and northern route of ancient China’s connection with the Middle East and Europe. His image of gloves with their central palms and extended fingers, used to explain China’s cultural relations with other parts of the world, was brilliant and unforgettable. It showed his bold spirit in theoretical speculation and his capability to observe and visualize. He may not have been the first to articulate these ideas, but the contribution he made was to present them in a historical context constructed from both archaeological discoveries and Chinese classical records.
‘Shang Ko’ was originally the second part of ‘The Bronze Age Culture of China,’ separately revised and accepted as Menzies’ doctoral dissertation. At that time, it was the most detailed typological study of the ge (which he spelled Ko), the unique and most common Chinese bronze weapon. The primary source for this study was 177 bronze ge in the ROM collections which he classified into ten types and arranged in chronological sequence. Within this framework, he presented a grand picture of the Shang bronze industry, an enterprise controlled by the state and sustained with raw materials transported from as far away as Yunnan and Malaya. Menzies argued that ge was an indigenous Chinese weapon, similar to, but not a copy of, the European halberd. Its origin was the stone sickles used by farmers in north China. He was the first to introduce the concept of ge directly into English, instead of translating it into English. Menzies’ hypothesis about the Shang bronze culture may not be correct in every aspect, but his views about its origin, scale of influence and supplies of raw materials have been supported by recent archaeological discoveries in China.
For Menzies, the transition from rural evangelism to professional archaeology was not an easy one. Not only did he have to persuade his conservative colleagues in North Henan and Canada, but he had to re-educate himself in a very difficult subject. Sincerely believing in the possibility of discovering God in ancient China, he made himself an expert in Chinese archaeology. However, archaeology was never the end, but only the tool.
Evangelist: God in Ancient China
No matter how successful his efforts at archaeology and oracle bone studies, Menzies always regarded himself as a missionary. In fact, his primary aim was to harness his scholarship to the good of his mission work. The central thesis of his life was ‘God in Ancient China,’ which became the focus of his life and thought for half a century.
Menzies was initiated into mission policy and theory through his involvement with the YMCA and Student Volunteer Movement during his education at the School of Practical Science. In 1910, en route to China, he attended the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh where he was exposed to the highest levels of mission policy thinking. He developed his interest in Chinese culture almost as soon as he arrived at Zhangde and quickly developed his theory that the ancient Chinese were worshippers of ‘God.’ His evangelistic theory took shape in the late 1920s, influenced by two decades of rural evangelism in North Henan. He had a rich knowledge of the common people and their culture, to which he allied a liberal outlook on the volatile Chinese situation including a sympathy with Chinese nationalism and a progressive world view. He came to advocate a three-pronged theory – similar to the famous Three Self movement: indigenisation, Christian higher education, and Chinese leadership.
Today, the concept of indigenisation has become an indispensable idea of world Christianity. But at Menzies’ time, it was still a radical idea. His successful efforts at oracle studies and the anti-Christian sentiment among Chinese intellectuals and students made Menzies a committed advocate of ‘localizing’ the gospel in Chinese culture. He believed that the Christian church in China depended largely on Christian leaders to link the message with Chinese culture. Only an indigenized faith would be able to face up to the agnosticism of the Confucian tradition and the new anti-religious atheism and anti-foreign nationalism.
The theological foundation for Menzies’ thought on accommodation was his interpretation of Shang religion, which he defined with three main concepts. The first was the concept of Shangdi, or ‘God,’ as a personal spiritual power, almighty but caring, just and omnipotent, in control of nature and human affairs. The second was ancestor reverence. The Shang royal family revered their ancestors and held extravagant ceremonies in their memory, but Menzies argued that the rationale behind this was different from ancestor worship as expounded by Confucianism. The Shang people revered their ancestors because they believed they were the medium between the living humans and Shangdi. Since they had no independent power to answer the petitions from their descendants, the role of the ancestors was limited to that of intermediaries.
A third concept Menzies expounded was Tian (Heaven), or Tian Yi Shang (the ‘Heavenly City Shang’). Unlike the later Confucian concept of Tian, Menzies maintained that the Shang concept was not a fearful spiritual Heaven but a place where Shangdi dwelled with their ancestors. Because of this proximity, their ancestors were in the position to communicate directly with Shangdi on their behalf.
For Menzies, his theory of Shang religion was of great importance for the missionary enterprise. He believed he had found the response in archaeology to Chinese scholars’ assertion that the Chinese were non-religious and had never believed in God. More importantly, he came to the conclusion that if the Chinese once had ‘as good a primitive idea of God as the Hebrews before Moses,’ Christianity as the Western revelation of God should not be seen as totally foreign. What Menzies attempted was no less than a redefinition of the missionary enterprise. The role of foreign missionaries was not to introduce a ‘new’ belief to the Chinese, but to help in the rediscovery and enhancement of the faith originally followed by the Chinese. By overcoming its foreignness, Menzies maintained, it became possible to integrate Christianity with China’s unique past. In other words, the link between ‘God’ and Shang Chinese made it possible to indigenise the Christian gospel in Chinese culture. As Menzies wrote to his Knox College classmates in the early 1950s, ‘When one starts from the premise that God is the God of the Chinese and was so recognized by them, Christianity no longer becomes a foreign religion in the eyes of the Chinese and you have a firm foundation for your Christian preaching.’
The second component of Menzies’ mission theory was Christian higher education. The Christian colleges in China should train leaders for both the church and for Chinese society. He insisted repeatedly that a living Chinese Church needed well-educated leaders who were able to think and work independently and intelligently, and that Chinese society needed leaders with a strong sense of Christian morality. Although trained as a civil engineer, Menzies argued that science alone could not save China. Christian higher education should give students a broad and balanced education of ‘faith plus science plus Chinese culture plus Western social science.’ He particularly emphasized the importance of Chinese studies, but with both classical and modern focus, since a good basis would make it easier for graduates to integrate their faith into the Chinese society and make Christianity less foreign to the Chinese.
Menzies had a passion for Cheeloo University which he felt represented the ideal of Christian higher education. Yenching and the elite Christian colleges had lost touch by turning out Westernized ‘de-nationalized’ graduates who mainly aspired to make money and serve the interests of political powers. He believed the graduates of Christian colleges should be ministers, teachers, doctors and other educated young men and women with a ‘Christian character.’ In other words, they should be students committed to the Christian cause and willing to serve the common people.
Founding a living Christian church in China constituted the third component of Menzies’ missionary policy. Challenged by Chinese nationalism, he became an advocate of native leadership of the Christian movement. He believed that the days of missionaries as the leaders were over and clinging to leadership roles could harm rather than help the Chinese Church. Menzies was not a radical. He did not support unconditionally transferring power to Chinese leaders who were not well trained. As he wrote in 1934, ‘We have far too many half trained and half baked people in the Church now. It is our curse. They are at the mercy of all emotional, political, racial, communistic winds and follow whatever wind blows the hardest… Had they been better trained in history, culture, real knowledge of the world and its scientific advancement, they would never have allowed themselves to be so exploited.’ To prevent the church from being taken over by ‘half-baked people,’ Menzies argued for a gradual transition. As the first step, missionaries and their missions must trust their Chinese leaders. But more importantly, they had to empower them as partners by providing the best possible education. Only an educated Christian leadership able to think and act intelligently and independently would be able to preserve what Christian missionaries had achieved, and take the gospel to the Chinese people.
Menzies was not a ‘big’ leader of the missionary movement but he was a big thinker with an active mind. By turning archaeology to the service of his mission in China, he pioneered a distinctive path for himself. Some of his ideas, such as the concept of Shangdi and its relation with the Christian concept of God, are still a matter of debate, but his theories on Christian higher education and indigenization of the gospel did reach and influence a large audience.
To conclude, Menzies was a unique China missionary. Quiet and non-provocative but still a man of commitment, he had the patience and flexibility to ‘negotiate’ the forces interacting within his life. This made it possible for him to make successful shifts in his life path from engineering to evangelism and then to archaeology. His change from rural evangelism to archaeology was not a change of heart or abandonment of the Chinese commoner. Archaeology was his way to serve the mission cause in China as through archaeology he was able to link Christianity with the Chinese people. As he reflected late in life, ‘While I have counted 1,000 persons baptized and many more prepared for the catechumens, yet perhaps my work on the bones permeated deeper into Chinese life than my work among the schools and churches of North Henan.’ His theory of Shangdi meant that the gospel was no longer a foreign religion but also that the mission of the missionaries was not to ‘convert’ the Chinese. Rather, their role was to help the Chinese to rediscover the belief that their own ancestors followed. The concept of Shangdi, as believed by Menzies, provided a firm ground for the Chinese church to negotiate a legitimate space in Chinese society.
Menzies lived in two worlds, the secular and the religious. For him there was no wall between them. In 1907 he gave up engineering and chose to be a China missionary. From this time to the end of his life, his heart was with the evangelistic cause in China. However, this religious commitment did not prevent him from using secular means to serve his missionary cause. Today, Menzies is remembered for what he achieved as a collector and archaeologist, but what has been ignored and forgotten was his attempt to place his scholarship within his mission goals. But for Menzies, archaeology was just a tool for a higher purpose: to adapt the gospel to the Chinese context.
Menzies lived at the interface between two cultures. He made the journey to understand the Chinese; his goal was to indigenize Christianity within the Chinese context, to produce a living synthesis between Christianity and Chinese culture. This indicates his open mindedness and willingness to accept cultures different from his own. His accommodationist approach distinguished him from other missionaries who worked to ‘give’ the Chinese a belief and culture. However, his accommodation was limited to the culture and religion: it failed when confronted by Chinese nationalism. In other words, although Menzies went a long way to understand Chinese culture, in the end he never understood the real nature of the twentieth-century Chinese nationalism and revolution.
Sadly, the Chinese Revolution meant that James Menzies did not receive due recognition during his lifetime. Shortly after his death in 1957, his wife Annie and his son Arthur met with the directors of the Royal Ontario Museum to discuss the Canadian portion of the Menzies collection. The international situation was unstable because of the Cold War, and the Canadian government did not have formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. As the best solution to a desperate situation, the Menzies family agreed to sell a substantial portion to the museum. As part of this agreement finalized in 1960, the ROM and the University of Toronto established The Menzies Fund to publish his works and promote Chinese studies in Canada. It is appropriate, then, to end with a list of publications by James Menzies, which have ‘rehabilitated’ his memory in Canada and China.
? 1965, The Shang Ko was published by ROM.
? 1971, The Menzies Collection of Shang Dynasty Oracle Bones, Volume One, edited by James Chin-hsiung Hsü and published by ROM.
? 1972, Yin-hsü Pu-tz’u Hou-pien (Oracle Records from the Waste of Yin, II), edited by James Hsü and published by Yee Wen Press (Taiwan).
? 1972, Oracle Records from the Waste of Yin (originally published by Kelly & Walsh in Shanghai in 1917), reprinted by Yee Wen Press.
? 1976, The Menzies Collection of Shang Dynasty Oracle Bones, Volume Two, edited by James Hsü and published by ROM.
? 1989, Chinese Art from the Rev. Dr. James M. Menzies Family Collection, catalogue for an exhibition at The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
? 1996, Jiagu Yanjiu (Oracle Bone Studies), reprinted by Qilu Press, Jinan.
? 1999, the Menzies family donated James Menzies’ personal library, including his unpublished manuscripts and study notes, to Shandong University. The mayor of Qingdao, Wang Jiarui, the president of Shandong University, Zeng Fanren, and the Canadian Ambassador, Howard Balloch, attended the ceremony.
Cross Culture and Faith: The Life and Work of James Mellon Menzies
University of Toronto Press ? 2005
370pp /24 halftones
James Mellon Menzies (1885–1957) was a Canadian engineer, Presbyterian missionary, and archaeologist active in China in the 1920s and 1930s. In a tradition that saw archaeology as a means of gathering artefacts for the collections of Western museums, Menzies believed in collecting for the people of China. He also saw his archaeological work as an extension of his missionary work, connecting, through his discoveries, the religious beliefs of ancient China to those of evangelical Christianity.
In Cross Culture and Faith, Linfu Dong sheds new light on the modern encounter between China and the West through Menzies’s life, work, and thought. He elucidates the difficult ‘negotiation’ processes that Menzies endured on multiple levels and with multiple forces, including Chinese nationalism, Western imperialism, the evangelical Mission, and his own personal interest in Chinese archaeology within that world.
Despite his belief in assuring Chinese artefacts remained in China, some of Menzies’s personal collection was donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in British Columbia. This has assured his place in the cultural memory of both East and West – appropriate, since his life so often straddled the two worlds.
Linfu Dong is an associate professor in the School of Management at Ocean University of China, Qingdao.
Table of Contents
1 Rural Ontario, 1885-1903
2 Toronto, 1903-1905 21
3 From Commitment to Departure, 1905-1910
4 North Henan, 1910
5 The Early Years, 1910-1917
6 Somewhere in France, 1917-1920
7 Rest and Return, 1921-1927
8 Converts, Education, and Nationalism
9 The Waste of Yin, 1917-1927
10 Museums and Collectors
11 Interlude, 1927-1928
12 Marking Time, 1930-1931
13 Next Stage, the 1930s
14 Mature Archaelogist, the 1930s
15 Frustrating Exile, 1936-1941
16 American Interlude and Postwar Hiatus, 1942-1947
17 The Last Stage, 1948-1957
Epilogue: James Menzies’s Legacy
title: Cross Culture and Faith: The Life and Work of James Mellon Menzies
Author(s): Linfu Dong
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Publication Date: May 1, 2005
Subject: Biography / Autobiography