To the Victorians, the Chinese were invariably "inscrutable." The meaning and provenance of this impression—and, most importantly, its workings in nineteenth-century Protestant missionary encounters with Chinese religion—are at the center of Eric Reinders's Borrowed Gods and Foreign Bodies, an enlightening look at how missionaries' religious identity, experience, and physical foreignness produced certain representations of China between 1807 and 1937.
Reinders first introduces the imaginative world of Victorian missionaries and outlines their application of mind-body dualism to the dualism of self and other. He then explores Western views of the Chinese language, especially ritual language, and Chinese ritual, particularly the kow-tow. His work offers surprising and valuable insight into the visceral nature of the Victorian response to the Chinese—and, more generally, into the nineteenth-century Western representation of China.
Eric Reinders is Assistant Professor of Religion at Emory University.
"This is truly a multidisciplinary work. Reinders raises profound questions about how people from one culture view people in another. The materials Reinders richly mines in this book reveal to a Western readership so much about itself. Skillful and crisp, Borrowed Gods is extremely well written, and will no doubt appeal to an audience of students, scholars, and lay readers alike."—John Berthrong, Boston University School of Theology, author of All Under Heaven: Transforming Paradigms in Confucian-Christian Dialogue
"Eric Reinders's Borrowed Gods testifies to the vitality of recent works on the study of Chinese religion. Especially exciting is Reinders's fascinating, and at times quite humorous, dissection of the Protestant missionary enterprise in China — strong evidence that the much neglected and trivialized history of nineteenth-century missionaries is finally starting to receive its due. Engagingly well written and theoretically sophisticated, this is a study that is brilliantly and viscerally insightful about both our knowledge of China and that peculiar missionary body of Western interlopers. Most of all, this is a work that significantly contributes to a more subtle and nuanced approach to intracultural understanding."—Norman Girardot, University Distinguished Professor, Lehigh University