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.