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5. Hierarchical Modernization

Tianjin's Gong Shang College as a Model
for Catholic Community in North China

Richard Madsen

As practiced by ordinary Chinese Catholics today, the Catholic religion in north China abounds in paradoxes. On the one hand, it seems profoundly antimodern, sacralizing and idealizing the values of rural life. Most of the devout Catholics whom my colleague Fan Lizhu and I interviewed in Hebei Province in 1993 expressed their commitment by rejecting not only Marxism but much of modern science, as well as modern commerce. They warned their children against any claims of natural science, especially theories of evolution, that would contradict a literal reading of the Bible. As a thirty-three-year-old priest put it, "The education our youth have received [in government-run schools] is materialistic and atheistic. Where do people come from? Does God create people or do people create God? Do people come from monkeys? Never!"

They are also opposed to many of the values of the modern market economy. Says the leader of a village Catholic association, "I agree with what our bishop said [in his Christmas sermon yesterday]: ‘Blessed are the poor.’ The purpose of living in the world is not to seek enjoyment…. Catholic teaching is contrary to human desires. I'm not opposed to making money by working hard. But I feel confused about how to reconcile making money with obeying the teaching of God. I always teach my children not to be too greedy." Finally, the "true believers" among the Catholics were often opposed to urbanization. As a woman studying to be a nun put it, "If Catholics live outside the village, they will forget God, because no one will remind them."[1]

In the first half of this century, however, north China was the home of some of the most progressive thinkers in twentieth-century Catholicism. For example, one of the priests attached to the same French Jesuit community that inculcated the conservative ideas quoted above, was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit paleontologist and theologian who boldly and controversially attempted to reconcile modern theories of evolution with Catholic theology.[2]


The conservative rural Catholics whom I quoted above lived in Hebei's Xian county, which even today is 97 percent Catholic and the site of one of the greatest concentrations of Catholics in China. Xian county had been evangelized by French Jesuits from the province of Champagne beginning in the mid-1800s. The Catholic vicariate of Xian county was the center of French Jesuit missionary activity in north China. Although most of the French Jesuits were confined to the rural villages of Xian county, the Xian county Jesuit community also ran an institution for higher education, Gong Shang College (College of Industry and Commerce), in Tianjin, about four hours by car from the famous cathedral in Zhangzhuang, which was the spiritual center of Xian county. It was at this college—one of only three Catholic colleges in China—where Teilhard de Chardin resided and where in 1939 he composed his most famous theological essay, The Phenomenon of Man. The bishop of Xian county today, Bishop Liu Dinghan, who gave the sermon about the blessedness of the poor cited above, received his vocation while attending that college. Although run by the Jesuits of the Xian county community, that college appears at first glance to have represented a vision of modernity completely opposite to that of the antiurban, antiscientific, and anticommercial vision of the rural Catholics in Xian county.[3]

The college was devoted to educating the sons of the bonne bourgeoisie of Tianjin in the subjects of commerce and engineering. In the 1930s, it published a weekly newspaper, Daoguang, which propagated popular science and celebrated modern trends around the world. And it was connected with the world renowned, Jesuit-run Beijiang Museum, which was the research base of Frs. Pierre Licent and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

In their rural base, then, the Jesuits tried to protect Catholics from modernity, while in their urban outpost they tried to prepare Catholics for modernity. The French Jesuits did not seem to see any inconsistency in the two approaches. But how could such different approaches be part of the same Catholic community?

The answer lies in a traditional European Catholic understanding of community. The kind of European Catholicism brought to China in the early twentieth century shared with most Protestant and even secular Europeans a commitment to modern science, technology, and industry, but it possessed a different conception of community, a conception more consistent with traditional Chinese views than with Protestant or secular views. Built on individualistic assumptions, these latter—which are by and large still the views of modern Western social science— see community as based on common beliefs: a community is a group of individuals who cooperate with one another because they share the same ideas and interests.[4] If one defines community in this way, it would be difficult to see how the rural Catholics of Xian county with their antimodern ideas could be part of the same religious community as the sophisticated urban Catholics connected with the Jesuit college in Tianjin.

But the Counter Reformation church brought to China by European missionaries in the nineteenth century defined itself less as a community based on shared

ideas than as one based on status within a common hierarchical authority. A person could be a Catholic in perfectly good standing without knowing much doctrine, and Catholics from different social levels with different levels of education could have very different ways of understanding their faith. Furthermore, Catholics could in practice adhere to many different moral standards, because the community inevitably contained a wide array of saints and sinners as well as ordinary flawed people with mixtures of good and bad qualities. There were fervent Catholics and lax Catholics, but lax Catholics were still Catholics as long as they did not completely reject the authority of the church. To be a Catholic, then, was not primarily a matter of intellectual belief or even of virtue, but of living under a chain of authority that descended from the pope down through the episcopacy to local parish priests. This was, moreover, a view of hierarchical community that was still imbued with the aspirations of Christendom. The church would make society whole by integrating all social institutions with its divinely constituted hierarchy.[5]

Sociologically, this hierarchically integrated community could take very different forms, depending on the social ecology within which it was implanted. A crucial factor affecting the forms that the Catholic community took was how it maintained its boundaries—what did its leaders think they had to do in order to protect their flock from those parts of the world that the church could no longer control? The ways in which the French Jesuits ran their school in Tianjin were determined, I argue in this essay, by their perceived need to maintain effective boundaries between their school and a rapidly changing, secular urban environment. They perceived this need because they accepted the assumptions of Counter Reformation European Catholicism that it was the mission of the church to bring as many social institutions as possible under the sway of an ecclesiastical hierarchy—in effect, to recreate medieval Christendom. And insofar as it could not do this, the church should effectively seal off from the non-Catholic world those parts of society under its embrace. The urban environment of the first half of this century posed special challenges to this form of mission. Perhaps unintentionally, this paternalistic, defensive conception of mission reinforced hierarchical and paternalistic tendencies within Chinese culture and thus contributed to a distinctive Chinese way of responding to the challenges of modernity.

In telling this story, I hope to add some complexity to standard accounts of the ways in which Chinese became modern in the twentieth century. Insofar as modernization has meant some degree of Westernization, we must recognize that the "West" is enormously diverse, Western culture extremely variegated, and Western visions of modernity often contradictory. Chinese who wanted to modernize by emulating the West had many different Wests to choose from. The religious, cultural, and social models presented by the French Jesuits in north China were clearly different from those presented by, say, liberal Protestant universities like Yanjing. A Chinese alumnus of Beijing's Yanjing University recently remarked, "When we visited the [Catholic] Fu Ren University [which was in fact less conservative

than Gong Shang College], we used to say that it was like going from capitalism to feudalism."[6]

Moreover, in the changing contexts of the first half of this century, the Western models evolved in ways that their proponents could not have anticipated, the Chinese reactions to them took forms that neither Chinese nor Westerners could have foreseen, and this led to patterns of meaning and configurations of social structure that no one could have envisioned.


According to the Counter Reformation model of Catholic life that was seemingly adhered to by most of the French Jesuits who established Gong Shang College, church authority should ideally be intertwined with all the major social institutions that constituted a Catholic's environment. The church should control the major schools and newspapers, it should patronize the arts, it should be connected with the political authorities, and it should have enough economic power to sustain its cultural institutions and to be the chief source of help for the poor and sick. Catholic missions in rural China tried to realize this "integralist" ecclesiastical vision. It was not enough to convert individuals. The church had to build whole social environments that were under the authority of ecclesiastical hierarchies. So missionaries strove to create whole villages, or at least whole lineages within a village, that were Catholic. And when they were really successful, as the Jesuits were in Xian county, they created a whole region in which all major aspects of life were dominated by the Catholic Church. Even today, in Xian county almost every village is marked by a church spire. Before the Communists took power, almost all elementary schooling was in church-run schools, health care was provided by a Catholic clinic, and economic aid in time of disaster was provided by church-dispensed charity. Local political leaders were Catholics. Local social life revolved around the church. Catholics were under great pressure to marry fellow Catholics. Church festivals provided the most important community activities. To be a Catholic, the people of Xian county say even today, is to live in the "world of God."[7]

In Xian county, the boundaries of that world were fixed by a natural rural social ecology. It was easier to meet most of one's economic, social, and cultural needs by dealing with fellow Catholics than with non-Christians. The major marketing center for the region was in the town of Zhangzhuang, which was also the site of an imposing cathedral.[8] In the compound surrounding this cathedral were concentrated the major cultural and social welfare institutions of the county, all under church control: a seminary, a famous Catholic library, a convent, a clinic, elementary and middle schools, and a Catholic cemetery renowned for its excellent fengshui. These physical spaces were infused by the rhythms of religious time, marked by daily prayer and Sunday Sabbath observance, by great periodic community

festivals like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and by Catholic life-cycle rituals of baptism, confirmation, matrimony, and burial. Since the county was almost exclusively Catholic, residents could be put under considerable social pressure if they sought to fulfill economic or political ambitions that would be against the interests of the Catholic majority. In such an ecological niche, the boundaries between the world of God and the world of non-Christians were clear and secure.[9]

Inevitably, though, when the church sought a Catholic presence in a city like Tianjin, the boundaries between church and world could not be defined in such a clear way. But for all the surface differences between the Catholic life centered on the Jesuit college in Tianjin and the villages of Xian county, there was a fundamental similarity in understanding of Catholic community. As in the villages of Xian county, the Jesuits strove to build a world of God in which as many aspects of life as possible were assumed under the authority of the church. Catholic students, future leaders of society, would study together in a school controlled by the Fathers, live together in dormitories supervised by the Fathers, worship together in a school chapel at mass celebrated by the Fathers. But the boundaries between this world and the non-Christian world were perforce more ambiguous. The Catholic students would have to attend classes together with non-Christian students, for it was neither economically nor politically possible to construct a college solely for Catholic students. The college itself would have to be part of a larger system of non-Catholic academic institutions. To survive and flourish it had to interact constantly with non-Catholic political authorities and to gain the support of non-Catholic social elites. As a modern institute of higher learning it had to teach about ideas in natural and social science, not to mention literature and philosophy, that had been developed by non-Catholics. The challenge faced by the Jesuits was how to keep this non-Catholic social and cultural environment from loosening the grip of church authority on the fledgling urban Catholic community. In other words, how would they maintain the boundaries between the educated Chinese Catholic community and the non-Catholic community? The nature of this challenge was constantly changing as the political and social environment of the college changed.

The twenty-seven-year history of the Jesuit college in Tianjin can be divided into three periods, each characterized by a different way of maintaining the boundaries between this part of the Chinese Catholic community and the non-Christian world. From internal documents written by the French Jesuits for their superiors and supporters, we get a sense of how they tried to preserve their school's Catholic identity by building different kinds of barriers between church and world to adapt to different circumstances. From school yearbooks and catalogues, we can get a sense of how the Jesuit attempt to preserve a Catholic identity influenced the ways in which both Catholic and non-Catholic members of the school—students, faculty, and alumni—constructed their Chinese identities.[10]



The official name of the school changed in the course of its history. Eventually, in 1933, when it was officially accredited by the Nanjing government's Ministry of Education, it was called Tianjin gong shang xue yuan, which in English documents of the time was rendered as "Tientsin Kung Shang College." But in its first years, the school's official name was not a Chinese but a French name, L'Institut des Hautes Etudes Industrielles et Commerciales de Tientsin. The school was a French school in China, not a Chinese school founded and maintained by French priests. It was by socializing Chinese into French culture—and preparing them for jobs in French-run government or commercial agencies—that the Jesuits hoped to separate them from their non-Christian Chinese world and bring them into the hierarchical embrace of the church.

In 1919, the papal encyclical Maximum Ilud had warned missionaries about the dangers of identifying their faith with their country, [11] but the French Jesuits in the 1920s still resisted the warning. Ever since the mid-nineteenth century, the French government had been the official protector of Catholic missions in China, using gunboats if necessary to defend the right of Catholic missionaries to evangelize, and expecting in return missionary support for French imperialistic interests. In the mentality of the French Jesuits, it seemed indeed as if God spoke French. In a publicity statement (probably written for the French press) issued from the school in 1924, its first year of operation, the Jesuits emphasized the role of the French language in their curriculum: "Of six hours of class every day, three are devoted to French…. The assignments in the other courses tend gradually to be done in French. Later the courses in the upper division [facultes superieures] are given in French. As a matter of fact, in all of north China, the Institut des Hautes Etudes is the only French establishment giving secondary education to Chinese students."[12] This was important as a counterweight to the predominant influence of "Anglo-Saxons" in north China. "In the big cities of the North, there are a number of large educational establishments directed by Anglo-Saxons. The American influence is considerable…. English is extremely prevalent in the ruling class. A course in English is obligatory in middle schools; in the Universities, teaching is given in English. French is being placed on a lower level."

The press release concluded with an appeal for French government subsidies: "An enterprise like this cannot be crowned with success without the help of the French government…. Obviously we do not seek any personal profit. It seems good that this work is to the great benefit of France." The Far Eastern branch of the French Chamber of Commerce stated what kind of benefit was envisioned. French business in China needed Chinese managers and engineers who could speak French and were familiar with French ways of working. And the French commercial attaché in China wrote, "Above all, the best agent of French propaganda in China is a technical school of French education," just like the one the Jesuits were establishing (emphasis in the original).


Of course, the ultimate purpose of the school was not supposed to be political or commercial, but religious. As the Jesuits saw it, the main problem with the Anglo-Saxon schools was that they taught Protestantism. The Protestants were making a huge effort in Chinese higher education and had gained a great deal of influence in government establishments. Although they had achieved "minimal success in terms of changing hearts," they had gained "considerable…prestige among the learned classes." Unfortunately, however, "among the upper classes, Catholicism seems to be the religion of the poor and ignorant, in spite of its brilliant role under Kangxi. It is essential to demonstrate to people who take legitimate pride in their ancient civilization and who prize new progress that the Catholic religion is capable of surpassing every other religion in the domain of spiritual culture and moral formation." Besides counteracting the unfortunate influence of Anglo-Saxon Protestants, the school was urgently needed to defend against the even more baleful influence of secularism. The state universities were having a "deplorable influence on the future leaders of China." "Atheism, rationalism, Bolshevism—every sort of unfortunate fruit is found in the new education."[13]

As early as 1910, the Jesuit superior of the province of Champagne had visited Xian county and recommended the creation of such a school. Instability in China and the world war in Europe delayed these plans. But by 1919, the Jesuits received a charge from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei) to construct an institution of higher learning in Tianjin for children of the upper classes (pro filiis nobilium). The need now seemed urgent. The influence of both Anglo-Saxon Protestants and secularist Chinese had increased since the Great War.[14]

Thus, the Institut des Hautes Etudes was finally established on Tianjin's Racecourse Road in the autumn of 1923. Although commonly called "Hautes Etudes," the school actually began as a college preparatory upper-middle school and then expanded to include genuine higher-level education, housed in a handsome stone building set in a neatly tended, walled-in campus. In the school's first year of operation, the student body consisted of fifty students, all but three coming either from "Mandarin families" or commercial and banking circles. "Our vision," wrote the Jesuits, "is to attend to the intellectual elite of the country."[15] In practice, they seem to have identified "intellectual elite" with "social elite."

Established concurrently was the Institute of Research in Natural Science, staffed by Frs. Licent and Teilhard de Chardin and including the Beijiang Museum of Natural History. (In a conference held to celebrate the establishment, Teilhard lectured on a special research project he was carrying out for the museum in collaboration with French scientific circles.)[16] Although Fr. Licent said that the students of the Institut de Hautes Etudes would be the primary beneficiaries of the museum and research institute, the students in fact seemed to have had rather little direct relationship with the latter. Frs. Licent and Teilhard did not teach classes in the school. Although students who were studying geology could

use the library and perhaps some of the lab facilities of the museum, their curriculum did not include much of the pure science that was the museum's specialty.[17] The main benefit that the museum brought to the school was reflected prestige. The museum became world renowned. Frs. Licent and Teilhard both eventually won international honors, including awards from the French and Belgian governments and from the Japanese government. Their fame may have indirectly helped the school by attracting the attention of would-be donors.

The academic structure of the school was thus hierarchical in a way that reflected the logic of the church's religious hierarchy. At the top was a research institute, staffed by committed Jesuit priests, that was engaged in pioneering dialogue with the most advanced levels of secular scientific thought. Under this was a school whose students and faculty had little contact with the potentially heretical ideas being explored by the institute. The Jesuits at the research institute patrolled the boundary between the church and the world and potentially even risked their faith in the process. Underneath them, less advanced students were kept segregated from such dangerous activities while benefiting from the intellectual shelter provided by their superiors.

The "Catholicity" of the Institut des Hautes Etudes was assured by the composition of its faculty—six French priests, one Italian layman, and four Chinese alumni of the Jesuit Aurora University in Shanghai. The initial student body was not so predominantly Catholic, however. Only about one-fourth were members of the church. In accordance with Vatican regulations, the Catholic students lived in a special dormitory and even used a study hall separate from that of the non-Catholics, although Catholics and non-Catholics attended classes together.[18] The school thus protected its Catholics from the world by providing a place where they could be segregated from non-Christian influences under the watchful eye of the Fathers—but one in which they could also be prepared to engage with the world by interacting with a relatively safe buffer population of fellow students who were non-Christian but Francophone and presumably Francophile.

Besides French, the curriculum contained the standard courses of a European-style upper-middle school: mathematics, philosophy, physics, geography, Chinese literature, design, and typing. As the school expanded into higher education, it specialized in business management and a variety of types of engineering. The only place where Catholic teaching might be directly inserted in the curriculum was in the philosophy course, which dealt—it seems in an orthodox, Catholic Thomistic fashion—with "liberty, responsibility, conscience, and moral practice."[19] The view of the French Jesuits seemed to be that what constituted a Catholic education for upperclass Chinese was not mainly the content of the curriculum, but the formal structure of the institution within which the curriculum was enacted. It was hierarchical, with priests at the top. It was French, with people of French nationality in charge and with most of the non-French faculty members having been educated in French universities. Moreover, the French language was at the center of instruction. The Jesuits seemed to assume that even without imparting

any formal religious instruction, a hierarchical, clerically controlled, French institution would transmit the true faith because it was the very embodiment of that faith.

The most important sign that students were being receptive to that true faith would be that they converted to Catholicism. Only a relative few did. The first convert was baptized in 1927, three years after the school was established, and after that, even as the numbers of students expanded to over a thousand, only a handful of students were baptized every year. (Overall, however, about 25 percent of the student body was Catholic, mostly from old Catholic families around Tianjin. This was a higher percentage than the percentage of Protestants in typical Protestant universities.)[20] But even though most students remained non-Catholic, the Jesuits still pointed to the school spirit as evidence that students were being influenced for the better by the Catholic faith. One of the most admirable characteristics of the students, the Jesuits thought, was their docility: "The work is serious. Discipline is imposed without difficulty. We like the students' docility, their good spirit, their respectful deference to their teachers."[21]

During the nationalist movement of 1925, the students at the Institut des Hautes Etudes remained calm and refrained from participation in the agitation sweeping intellectuals throughout the country. This quiescence set a standard for the school. Students from the Institut des Hautes Etudes refrained from actively participating in all of the great movements in the Republican era. In college yearbooks, the students themselves expressed pride in this lack of activism. Even for non-Catholic students, it was a mark of the well-disciplined character of their school.

In its very institutional structures, then, the Institut des Hautes Etudes embodied a common early-twentieth-century European understanding of the nature of the Catholic faith and the mission of the church in the world, a vision of faith and mission that was firmly rooted in sixteenth-century Counter Reformation theology. In that vision, Catholic faith and practice were virtually identified with submission to a clerical hierarchy. To bring people into the Catholic faith was to bring them under the scope of this hierarchy and cultivate within them the virtues that made obedience to hierarchical authorities easy. Furthermore, the faith was deeply identified with national Catholic cultures. In countries like France, where much of the population was abandoning Catholic practice, the Catholic hierarchy often identified the essence of Catholicism with those aspects of national culture that resisted revolution and modern social change.

In this vision, however, not all kinds of revolution and all kinds of modern social change were bad. A revolution such as had occurred in China might be good if it swept away conservative leaders who resisted being influenced by Christianity. Basically, revolution was bad if it diminished the power of ecclesiastical authorities, good if it opened the possibility of extending such power. Social change resulting from advances in science, technology, and industry was by no means bad in itself. The church supported institutions of higher learning such as the

Institut des Hautes Etudes in order to contribute to such advances. But these were potentially bad if they increased human pride, which took the form of decreasing respect for the natural hierarchies of life—which could eventually lead, of course, to disobeying ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Consonant with this vision, it was salutary to offer a clerically supervised higher education to filiis nobilium. The scientific parts of this education might enable them to contribute to the progress of their societies; the humanistic parts might enable them to provide sophisticated leadership in complex societies; the moral parts might nurture a spirit of noblesse oblige. But it might not be good to broadly offer lower-class people the same kind of education. The scientific and technological parts of such education might too quickly raise their expectations and make them dissatisfied with their place in life. The humanistic parts might confuse them and render them skeptical about the moral verities that sustained them within their families and communities.

As long as one accepts the hierarchical view of life central to Counter Reformation European Catholicism, the French Jesuits were not being inconsistent in promoting an antiscientific, unreflexive folk piety in Xian county and a modern scientific education in Tianjin. Different classes of people should have different kinds of knowledge, different levels of sophistication in the understanding of the faith. In fact, these very differences reinforced one of the most important bulwarks of the Catholic faith, a healthy respect for hierarchy.

Catholicism of the kind propagated by the French Jesuits in north China in the 1920s and 1930s was antimodern only in an ambivalent, ironic sense. It in fact helped develop some of the principal institutions of modernization—science, technology, and industry—and it encouraged its believers to contribute to the building of a modern Chinese state. At the same time, though, it maintained an unmodern ideology. Unlike mainline Protestantism or Deweyan liberalism or revolutionary Marxism, it did not encourage, in principle or in practice, a flattening of hierarchies, an approval of social mobility, or a generalized skepticism of traditional authorities. It accepted as natural the deep cultural differences between city and countryside. Its solution to problems posed by such differences was not to try to make everybody the same but to encourage everybody to be satisfied with their station in life. The poor were to be helped by the moral responsibility inculcated in the rich. As long as men were kept aware that they do not live by bread alone, all would be benefited by the material goods made possible through scientific and economic progress.

In the first stage of the existence of the Institut des Hautes Etudes, this traditional, hierarchical vision of Catholicism was seen as virtually inseparable from French culture, at least conservative strands within that culture. By the 1930s, however, a new stage in the life of the school began. The Republic of China was finally gaining enough strength and coherence to set the terms under which foreign educational institutions could work in China. The Institut des Hautes Etudes could no longer be a French institution on Chinese soil. It had to become a Chinese institution,

registered with the state and adhering to Chinese government educational standards. Moreover, the influence of French culture steadily declined because of a lack of French priests available to staff the institution and a lack of funds from depression-ridden France to sustain it.

Under these circumstances, the Jesuits had to confront the question of how to preserve the Institut's Catholic character while discarding its French character. This involved refining their view of what were the boundaries between the Catholic community and the world. As they did so, their changing vision interacted with changing aspirations of the Chinese students who were attracted to the school.


The first part of the school's French identity to be diminished was its devotion to the French language. Students would be attracted to a school that used French as its principal language of instruction, it had been thought, because they would have special access to jobs as engineers for the French-owned railroads or as managers in the French commercial houses. But in north China, the political and economic power of France was waning. As a "Note on French Influence in the Tianjin Institute" observed in 1933, "Railroads that utilize French-speaking engineers have gone into Chinese hands. As far as commerce is concerned, even in the French houses, there is not much place for people who speak only French and no English." Moreover, in the middle schools that were the primary source of recruitment to the Institut des Hautes Etudes, the primary foreign language was English, not French. Therefore, the primacy of the French language was "paralyzing the development of the school."

For a way out of this problem, the Jesuits solicited the opinions of competent persons, "in particular members of the French colony [sic]." They agreed that "English [not Chinese!] was the language of commercial affairs and industry in China." The Jesuits decided, therefore, that they had to adopt English as the school's principal foreign language. "If an evil, this is a necessary evil."[22]

They took great pains, however, to assure their French friends and supporters—and perhaps to assure themselves as well—that, even without the language, the school would still purvey French culture. The school would still use "French methods, French books, translated into English or Chinese[,]… Chinese professors trained in France, and a total system of general education completely different from the American system of departments and the Chinese system, which is a copy of the American." The school had a reputation of being French, and the students who came to it demanded, "if not an education in French, at least the education of France."[23]

The school could maintain a French-style education, however, only if it controlled the shape of its curriculum. In 1933, this capacity, too, was taken away. The school was forced to seek accreditation under the Nanjing government's Ministry

of Education, and to gain accreditation it had to structure its curriculum in accord with Nanjing's educational system—which was, really, as the French Jesuits noted with displeasure, the "systeme Americain."

At first the Jesuits were reluctant about seeking accreditation from Nanjing. From the beginning they had prided themselves on the independence of their school from Chinese political control—though not from French government approval and support. As a condition for Chinese government approval, they would have to appoint a Chinese president and a Chinese prefect of studies and ensure "equal treatment for Chinese personnel." Furthermore they would have to officially register the school's name—a Chinese name—with the Ministry of Education. The formal control of the school would pass from French to Chinese hands, and the formal identity of the school would become Chinese.[24]

In the long run, though, there was no way to resist the need for accreditation. Without official recognition for their degrees, the students could not get jobs in Chinese organizations. Though they could get jobs in foreign firms, these were gradually being taken over by the Chinese; and it was clear that the days of the foreign concessions were numbered. The French Jesuits would be acting within a world in which they could no longer rely on French culture to provide the buffer separating their Catholic community from the non-Catholic world. Finally, the argument for accreditation was sealed by appeal to political and ecclesiastical authority: "the French foreign ministry recommends it"; and Cardinal Constantini, the Vatican's Apostolic Delegate to China, approved it. Thus in 1934, the school was duly registered in Nanjing under the name Gong Shang College.

In the thinking of the French Jesuit missionaries, however, the school could fulfill its religious mission only if it were at least informally under French clerical control. To facilitate the accreditation, they had named as president a Chinese Jesuit with a doctorate in philosophy from Louvain, Fr. Francis Xavier Zhao Zhensheng. Fr. Zhao was chosen, the official Jesuit history says, "to legally represent the Institut in its official relationships."[25] From the tone of their discussion, it seems clear that this talented Chinese priest was only a figurehead. The person really in charge of the college was not the president, but the rector, Fr. Rene Charvet. Once accreditation was granted, Fr. Zhao was replaced as legal president by a Mr. Hua, who had been working in the service of one of the French priests, was "well in the hand" of this priest, had been educated in France, and was a "Francophile."[26] The French Jesuits remained firmly in control of the college.

But their ability to exercise their control gradually waned, not because of anything the Chinese government did, but because of a lack of Jesuit personnel and funds from France. Although the lack of funds caused by the depression in Europe was serious, even more serious was the lack of manpower. Even as the Gong Shang College had expanded in size and complexity—in the 1930s, for instance, it added departments of architecture and chemical engineering—fewer Jesuits were available for the mission in China. Out of fifty faculty members, only six were Jesuits. A report written in 1937 by Fr. Pollet, the vice rector, noted that only 33 out

of 323 hours of instruction given weekly was given by Jesuits. All too often, students were "abandoned into the hands of untrustworthy laity."[27] Priests like Fr. Pollet seemed to have the idea that what now made their education Catholic was simply the presence of a French Jesuit giving instruction. Even if a priest taught engineering or some such subject with no direct religious content, his very presence would ensure a significant connection between the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the academic institution.

The attenuation of priestly influence now meant, Fr. Pollet thought, that the school had to be more discriminating in the work that it undertook. When the Jesuits first established their Institut des Hautes Etudes, they were unclear as to their goals. Now they had to define more clearly what they were about. For instance, the college had recently added a department of civil engineering, even though there were no Jesuits trained as civil engineers to be part of such a department. Should they refrain from adding new departments if there were no priests to be part of the staff?

In response, Fr. Charvet, who served several stints as rector of the college, wrote that the addition of new departments should be based on national need rather than simply the availability of a priest. For instance, it was important for the college to have a chemical engineering department, even though there were no Jesuits available who were trained in that field. Chemical engineering was important for the development of Chinese industry—for making Chinese products meet international standards.[28] It seems that Fr. Charvet's view prevailed.

What was going on in this debate was a further shift in the Jesuits' understanding of how they should draw the boundaries between their Catholic academic community and the world. Now that the distinction could no longer be based on French culture, it was based more exclusively on French clerical authority. The school was Catholic not because it formally taught much that was distinctively Catholic and not even because it inculcated a way of life that made its students visibly different from non-Catholics. It was Catholic because it was controlled by priests, who were themselves under the authority of the Catholic hierarchy.

This way of thinking can be understood in terms of the sociological distinction made by Ernst Troeltsch between church and sect. These two forms of religious life have contrasting styles of origination justified by contrasting ways of thought.[29] The mentality of the French Jesuits in charge of Gong Shang College was typical of that in Troeltsch's model of a church.

Unlike the ideal typical sect, which is an exclusive group of active believers out to change the world, the church is an inclusive institution that conforms to the world. The leaders of a sect would deem themselves successful to the degree that they get all of the members of the sect to fervently believe and practice its common teachings. The leaders of a church would not expect all of the church members to be fervent believers, because the church is inclusive—it embraces good and bad people alike. The success of the church is measured by how many people it brings within its realm. As long as they are within that realm, some bad people will

become good, some indifferent people will become faithful. But this will happen in God's own time through the mysterious grace of God. If few people become fervent believers and fewer become saintly, that is not the fault of the leaders of the church. They will have done their part simply by expanding the sphere of influence of the church, even if this entails making compromises with the world. In the mentality of Counter Reformation Catholicism—which was a typical example of the sociological model of a church—this sphere of influence was conceived of in an even more authoritarian way than before. It was desirable that members of the clergy live exemplary lives and be able to influence the laity by personal inspiration, but it was not essential. What was essential was subsumption under duly constituted ecclesiastical authority. Even when the Gong Shang College could not provide enough priests to exert direct personal influence on its students, it could at least claim that it brought them within the scope of an institution connected at the top to ecclesiastical structures.

But without French cultural or political influence to back up their ecclesiastical authority, the priests had to work harder to patrol the boundary between the Catholic community and world. In the meantime, it became easier for Chinese currents of culture and politics to pour into the school. To an ever greater degree, in other words, Chinese students shaped the school for their own purposes. Nonetheless, they could never completely ignore the boundaries established and still shakily maintained by the Jesuits. The school amplified certain aspects of Chinese culture and dampened others.

Whether they were Catholic or non-Catholic, did the kinds of students attracted to Gong Shang College tend to understand their identity and role in society in ways different from students who attended Protestant or state-run schools? The best available source to consult in order to assess student mentalities is the annual yearbooks issued by the school—I have editions from 1937, 1939, 1940, 1948, and 1950. Like yearbooks in American colleges, these were edited by graduating seniors, under the supervision of some faculty members—usually including, in the case of Gong Shang College, one of the priests. However, the entries have a freshness, a naïveté, a spontaneity that suggest they represent authentic attitudes.

One of the most striking qualities of the yearbooks is what they leave out. There is hardly any mention of religion. Even on the pages of pictures of the school, there is hardly anything—perhaps only a single small picture of a statue of the Blessed Virgin in a campus grotto—that would suggest the college was a religious school. In the 1937 yearbook (published in June, just a month before the outbreak of war with Japan) students each state what person they most admire and wish to emulate. Twenty out of forty-eight students mention Chiang Kai-shek. A half dozen mention Sun Yatsen. Some invoke foreigners like Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln. A few cite Confucius or Zhuangzi. Only one says Jesus.[30]

The yearbooks have more to say about morality, but it is not very profound. They are prefaced with platitudinous moral exhortations from the Jesuits. For example, Fr. Pollet, then serving as dean of studies, urges, "Believe what you think to

be true. Do what you think to be right." A commencement speech by one of the Jesuits talks of the need to subordinate the "small self" to the "big self" of the community. Students write that they have learned that having a strong moral character is just as important as having knowledge.[31]

Socially, the students seem naive and sheltered. Consider their accounts of the two months of military training mandated by the Nanjing government, at a military camp near Baoding during the 1936–37 school year. The Jesuits were unhappy with this requirement—concerned about the disruption to the academic year, worried about how the students would suffer from being away from home and living in primitive conditions, and anxious about temptations to the Catholic students' faith and morals. But many of the students seemed to have found this training to be one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. The yearbook contains a long essay describing one student's experience, and there are a number of shorter references to the training. It is apparent from these accounts that most of the students had never traveled far from home, and certainly not lived in the countryside. They are moved by the poverty and primitive living conditions of the countryside. The long essay describes at great length the barracks, bathing facilities, and meals at the military camp, which were considerably harsher (though probably not nearly as harsh as most peasant accommodations) than anything the writer had experienced before. But the students felt that they gained tremendous benefits from this training. It had toughened their bodies, strengthened their wills, and given them a patriotic way of thinking. One of the students wrote a poem upon reaching a summit after a day's march: "Who says that north China produces traitors and running dogs. / We are still the sons of China who will construct China. / Sleep! / We will use our blood and sweat to cleanse away our fatherland's shame. / Don't forget! / This is a day to remember." Several accounts spoke of the students weeping bitterly when the training was over.[32]

In this extracurricular training, the students gained a toughness and a patriotic determination that their college had not provided. When they expressed their aspirations in the 1937 yearbook, the graduating seniors now talked in the nationalistic, patriotic terms that most of their young contemporaries would have used on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War. One difference between the patriotism developed at Gong Shang College and that expressed in places like Yanjing or Beida, however, was that the Gong Shang students were less willing to take matters into their own hands; they did not want to challenge duly constituted government authority.

For instance, according to a student narrative of the principal events of 1936, "the most satisfying part of this year was the attitude of our fellow students. Anybody who knows anything about society knows about the 1936 student movements. What use would it have been to have carried on demonstrations and to have boycotted classes to indirectly express unhappiness because of some unnecessary events? This was simply an opportunity for some leaders to achieve a kind of success. All of the members of our class—more than sixty of us—knew the futility of boycotting classes and demonstrating. We thought that any agitation that

kept students from carrying out their work under the leadership of the government was irresponsibly disruptive. Therefore, even though we were in the midst of a great tide of student unrest, we did not move, we calmly attended classes. This is undoubtedly because of the training we received in the slogan ‘Seek the truth from facts.’ It was also because the students in our class truly understood the direction of today's youth!"[33]

In their own history of the college, the French Jesuits took pride in having discouraged student activism. However much neighboring university campuses like Nankai University might have been convulsed by nationalist movements of 1925, 1931, 1935–36, the Jesuits managed to keep the trouble out of their campus. It seems that the kinds of students who came to Gong Shang College were mostly willing to internalize this Jesuit attitude. The confluence between Jesuit convictions and student aspirations produced an apolitical school atmosphere. It sustained a vision of China in which intelligent elites of good character who worked hard within the established political system would make China into a better place, for the greater glory of God.

It was a vision that did not challenge the prevailing class system. The students of Gong Shang College were a privileged, indeed pampered, elite. Nothing the Jesuits taught suggested that they would have to give up those privileges. The logic of the school's religious orientation was protective rather than socially activist. If the social gospel encouraged students in Protestant universities to enter Chinese history so as to transform it (as suggested by the Yanjing University motto, "Freedom through Truth for Service"), the Counter Reformation Catholic vision institutionalized in Gong Shang College encouraged students to escape from Chinese history so as to be saved from it. When the Jesuits did encourage the students to engage in social service beyond the walls of the school, they did this only for the school's spiritual elite, a special association of the most devout Catholics among the student body. Members of this association not only attended mass daily but also participated in works of charity, such as visiting prisons, bringing Christmas toys to orphanages, and so on.[34] But it was charity aimed at smoothing the rough edges of a harsh society without challenging the structure of that society and carried out under careful supervision so as to keep its practitioners from being sullied by that society.

In philosophy and social science courses, the Jesuits provided an intellectual rationale for this stance. A course on sociological theory offered in the 1940s was centered on "the social problem: critical examination of the various solutions that have been proposed (liberal, socialistic, Catholic doctrines)."[35] I do not have any more detailed information about the content of this course, or about the content of an article one of the Jesuits wrote in the 1930s—in Beichen (Ave Maris Stella), a magazine for Catholic intellectuals established at Gong Shang College in the late 1920s but later moved to Beiping's Fu Ren University—about applying the teaching of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum to Chinese society. We may assume, however, that the Jesuit thinking followed closely the principles promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 Rerum Novarum and Pope Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical

Quadrigesimo Anno. The social teaching of Leo XIII was against unfettered liberalism and called for the state to intervene to ensure a just wage and decent working conditions and for workers to form voluntary associations to overcome their individualism. Forty (quadrigesimo) years later, Pope Pius XI extended Pope Leo XIII's critique of liberalism to the conditions of the Great Depression. The solution to these unprecedented problems, the pope taught, was not in socialism, because of its collectivist, materialistic, and atheistic orientation. The solution lay in a morally motivated cooperation between capital and labor, a kind of corporatism, but one that avoided the suppression of freedom that had come with Mussolini's fascism.[36]

I doubt whether Gong Shang College students, especially the non-Catholics, were deeply influenced by hearing lectures or reading articles on this Catholic social theory. But the ethos of the school, its cultivation of the bonne bourgeoisie, its discouragement of political activism, its emphasis on moral character development and ameliorative noblesse oblige, constituted a living instantiation of this teaching. Unfortunately, such a vision of society was of little relevance to the brutal struggle that was about to engulf China as the Sino-Japanese War began.


With the outbreak of war, the faculties and many of the students of the great state universities of the north fled to southwest China to continue their intellectual work in such a way as to aid in their government's resistance against Japan. Yanjing, the American Protestant university in Beiping, was closed after Pearl Harbor, and its core students and faculty also went to the southwest. But like Fu Ren University, the Catholic University in Beiping, Gong Shang College remained open where it was. The Jesuits seem not to have given any serious thought to moving to the southwest.

Now the challenge of maintaining the boundaries between their urban university and a wartorn world was more difficult than ever. The Jesuit solution was to defend the boundaries more energetically than ever, even if this meant bearing the moral burden of making personal compromises with worldly powers in order to protect the students behind their walls.

There were good Catholic theological reasons for rationalizing that it was more important for the church to be present in the midst of a troubled society, offering its sacraments to Catholics and incorporating as many social institutions as possible under its hierarchy, than for the church to be effective in pursuing any particular human cause. Thus the Jesuits of Gong Shang College focused their attention on the sheer survival of their institution, and were willing to make what compromises were necessary in teaching and behavior in order to ensure that survival. There was a logic, a moral integrity to this position. But to outsiders unsympathetic to the church, it would look dangerously like collaboration with the enemy.

In other Catholic institutions, theological reasons were found for a more active resistance. Notably, behind the walls of Fu Ren University in Beiping, Chinese

faculty members organized an underground resistance group that later carried out Guomindang work in the area.[37] But it does not seem that the members of the Gong Shang College community did anything comparable. Some students, at least, did want to participate in the resistance, but the Jesuits seem to have discouraged this. Their strategy for coping with Japanese occupation was first of all to avoid doing anything that would invite Japanese reprisals. As the Jesuit history put it, "The presence in the school of elements capable of inciting incidents and the patriotic imprudence of the young, were able at any instant to cause grave difficulties." When such events occurred, "the Fathers of the house were not capable of giving the Japanese the desirable explanations." So, compromising their long-held position regarding the French character of their community, the Jesuits of Gong Shang College asked their Father General for some outside help: "Can we get a priest from [the Jesuit-run] Sophia University in Tokyo to establish a liaison with the Japanese authorities?…a priest knowledgeable in Japanese. Preferably a German."[38]

Thus, in 1938, there arrived from Japan a Fr. Borsch, the first in a series of German Jesuits who would be assigned to the Jesuit community at Gong Shang College to help the Jesuits mediate with the Japanese occupation forces. Fr. Borsch and his successors also ministered to the spiritual needs of Catholics in the Japanese military community. He said mass for them, heard their confessions, and offered spiritual counsel. If the Jesuit educational mission in Tianjin was no longer identified with French culture and politics, it was no longer unambiguously identified with Chinese culture and political aspirations either. Serving China's enemies, as well as Chinese themselves, it projected a vision of Catholicism as standing above all culture and politics. The survival of the church—and the major institutions affiliated with the church—was an end in itself. Even if the church could do nothing, would do nothing, directly to help the Chinese people fulfill their greatest immediate historical need—the need to resist Japan—the church, by surviving, by maintaining a presence through Gong Shang College among the upper classes of Tianjin, could in the long run, in God's mysterious ways, bring them eternal benefits.

In the meantime, the Jesuits did what they could to alleviate some of the misery of the war. They distributed food and clothing to refugees streaming into Tianjin. They continued to carry out baptisms—they rejoiced to report thirty new baptisms in 1938—and to administer the other sacraments. And in Tianjin, they continued their educational enterprise.

In ways the Jesuits could perhaps never have anticipated, that enterprise indeed flourished. Since Gong Shang College was the only institution of higher learning still open in Tianjin, it drew in more students than ever before, students whose affluent families were willing to pay the high tuition necessary to support the college. The number of students in the handsome campus on Racecourse Road went from about six hundred in 1937 to almost two thousand by 1945. In 1943, the expansive tide was running strongly enough that the Jesuits opened a new women's division

of the school. Focusing on a liberal arts rather than a commercial or technical education, the women's division reached about two hundred students by 1945.[39] In spite of the disruption of war, the Jesuits were even able to improve their facilities. In 1938, for instance, they installed a handsome new marble altar in their chapel, the gift of some wealthy Tianjin Catholics.[40]

To all external appearances at least, the school atmosphere remained completely apolitical. There is something eerie about reading the school yearbook for 1940. It is full of stories of athletic contests waged, friendships formed, technical skills acquired, eternal verities learned, good traits of character— "honesty, energy, straightforwardness" —developed. But there is almost nothing that would suggest that a war was raging in China, and for that matter in Europe. The closest one gets to a feeling that there is something amiss is a poem written by one of the graduating students: "We are now preparing to enter a dark [heian] society. We have to change it—make it glorious…. We have to make a new society—or at least not allow ourselves to be corrupted by an evil society. Before you, you see thorns and wild beasts—but this is your chance for glory. Take up sword and spear, and hoe."[41] Whatever agonies such a student would face, however, would come after he left the sheltered walls of the college. Gong Shang College was an island of light and serenity in a dark and storming world.

The Jesuits kept it that way by, among other things, keeping all books "critical of a certain country" out of the parts of the library open to public access.[42] If such books were to be consulted, they could be done so only by specially approved students, and the books could not be taken back to dormitories. Besides suppressing any public criticism of the Japanese, the Jesuits acceded to the Japanese demand that study of the Japanese language be required for graduation. A Japanese teacher sent from Japan was added to the faculty for this purpose. The Jesuits also submitted themselves to regular scrutiny by Japanese inspectors. They seemed to develop good rapport with the inspectors. In 1943, they even received a visit— which "went very well" —by a delegate from the imperial household.[43]

Some students nonetheless carried out anti-Japanese activities, including it seems, in 1944 at least, sabotage against Japanese property. When the Japanese became suspicious of some of the students residing in the school and came to investigate, the Jesuits protected the students by getting rid of any evidence that would have compromised them. If the evidence had been found, "this would have led to the ruin of the University and the condemnation to certain death of the students." Because the Jesuits protected the anti-Japanese students in this way, "some of our students were not willing to accuse us, as they were pressured to do later, of being imperialists and enemies of China."[44]

The Jesuits were indeed eventually accused by the Communists of being Japanese collaborators as well as imperialists. They might claim that they did nothing to advance the Japanese war effort and cooperated with the Japanese only enough to ensure the survival of their college and their mission. They would point to the way that they shielded some anti-Japanese students from prosecution. But they also did

their best to discourage such "youthful imprudence," and in their account they seemed concerned about the fate of the students because of its possible effect on the fate of the school. Was passive survival a sufficient goal for a Catholic institution during the Sino-Japanese War?

Protestants such as those who ran Yanjing University might have answered in the negative. They might have thought that no institution is indispensable for conveying God's grace, since God speaks directly to each believer's heart. They could justify moving their institution away from Beiping to Chengdu so that it could carry out its work without compromise. For Catholics, God becomes present through the institution of the church. The church has to be present in all of its essential hierarchical order in every place under every circumstance for sacramental grace to be conveyed. Therefore the fundamental institutions of the church had to be preserved in north China, had to remain available to the faithful no matter what hardships this might cause its ministers, even if this entailed compromising with the principalities and powers of a sinful society. Of course, there is nothing in Catholic theology that says a church-run college is a fundamental institution of the church. But it is easy enough for people who have invested their lives in building up such an institution, in a belief that this was part of their God-given vocation, to tell themselves that it was God's will that their school continue at all costs.

If for the French Jesuits the effort to keep the school open sprang from a theologically inspired vision of maintaining the presence of the church, for many of the Chinese who attended the school and taught in the school it presented a practical opportunity for making the best of a bad situation. The college was not as good as, say, Nankai, but it presented an opportunity to continue one's education or to practice one's profession in a hard time. Almost all of the nonclerical foreign teachers who had been at the school during the 1930s left at the outbreak of the war. The school provided job opportunities for an increasing number of talented young Chinese scholars. For its increasing numbers of students, the school provided a good technical education and a living space with some serenity and security. During the war years, Gong Shang College became more Chinese than ever. The proportion of non-Catholic Chinese students to Catholic students increased, as did the proportion of secular Chinese faculty to foreign Jesuits. The school gained a place in the hearts of wealthy Tianjin families who in other times would have sent their students to Nankai or Beiyang Universities. But the school became Chinese in a way that associated it with a particular kind of Chinese identity—a kind that would not fare well in the ideological campaigns of the Maoist era.

Whatever the theological rationale for staying in Tianjin, the paternalistic, protective orientation of Gong Shang College provided Chinese urban middle classes with a model for being Chinese in a time of great stress. If you cannot avoid a situation, then passively accept it, make some compromises to stay close to those family members and colleagues for whom you bear special responsibility, try to escape the vicissitudes of a bad time by dwelling on timeless truths, conceal your true feelings from those hostile to you, keep yourself under control—and wait. While the

students and faculty of Gong Shang were waiting, the Communists in Yanan and even the Guomindang in Chongqing were taking a more activist, more heroic posture—striving to change the world, not merely keep it at arm's length.[45] Drawing on the legacy of their most heroic moments, they have represented the true twentieth-century Chinese identity as that of an activist. Over the long run, though, perhaps the wartime stance of the Jesuits of Gong Shang College rings truer to the common sense of the majority of the Chinese people about how best to cope with the calamities visited upon them by the excesses of the activist minority.


Ironically, the Jesuits' religiously motivated effort to keep the world at bay had brought Gong Shang College its greatest degree of worldly success. During the war, it had more students and faculty than ever before and more influence even among non-Catholic social circles in Tianjin. But that very success compromised its religious mission. The success brought the world into the community. Most of the increasing numbers of students were not in Gong Shang College because they were loyal to its religious principles or even to the priests who were in charge. They were there because the college provided a convenient space to get started on their careers in spite of the war. Once the war was over, and better opportunities for advancing their careers presented themselves, they would leave the school.

Soon after the surrender of Japan, the faculties of Gong Shang's major rival universities, Nankai and Beiyang, returned from their exile in the southwest. In an effort to revive these universities, the government provided subsidies that enabled them to simultaneously provide higher salaries and charge lower tuition than Gong Shang. Large numbers of Gong Shang students deserted the school for Nankai or Beiyang, and most of the faculty did so as well. Gong Shang College was forced to replace its well-credentialed teachers with recent alumni who had no more than an undergraduate degree.

While losing its ability to maintain a loyal student body, the college was also losing its ability to gain outside financial support, especially from warravaged France. Then, in the spring of 1946, the last contingent of French soldiers left Tianjin, marking the end of extraterritoriality. The last vestiges of the French protectorate over Catholic missions were gone. The Jesuit who wrote the official history of Gong Shang College did not see this as a victory for the Chinese people. The end of extraterritoriality opened the way to a completely arbitrary form of liberty, he thought: "The Communists were above all the main beneficiaries."[46]

Perhaps it was especially difficult for missionaries steeped in the hierarchical tradition of the Catholic Church to give up a paternalistic sense of control over Chinese Catholic institutions. In any case, the time of the foreign missionaries was coming to an end in China. In response to the Chinese tide of nationalism, the Vatican was finally turning over direction of the Chinese church to a Chinese episcopate. The Chinese church was still extremely hierarchical, but now it was controlled

by Chinese who had no special respect for French hierarchy. In 1945, Bishop Thomas Tian Gengxing of Beijing was made the first Chinese cardinal.[47] Chinese Jesuits, and later in the 1940s Chinese diocesan priests, increasingly took control of Gong Shang College.

Cardinal Tian visited Gong Shang College in May of 1946. The priests at Gong Shang held a grand reception for him, attended by all the elite of Tianjin— "all the civil and military authorities, directors of schools and banks, our entire professorial faculty, and two American diplomats."[48] Over two decades, the work of Gong Shang College had indeed established the connections necessary to call upon all of the established leaders of the city. As stated in a mimeographed report issued by the Jesuits at the end of 1946, "Of the seven Bureaux of Public Works in Tianjin, four are directed by our former students. In all important banks and all large commercial enterprises, one finds our alumni. Because of this, we everywhere find people sympathetic to our work."[49] Unfortunately for the Jesuits, most of their prominent alumni worked for an establishment soon to be overthrown by the Communists.

As they had over the years, the Jesuits of Gong Shang strove to keep themselves aloof from Chinese popular politics. At the end of 1946, large, leftist-inspired demonstrations against American troops stationed in the city swept the student communities. Once again, the priests were able to keep most of their students from participating (though to do so they had to close the college for several weeks). In January of 1947 two inspectors sent by the Guomindang government praised the discipline of the Gong Shang students in the face of temptation to participate in such movements. The approval of the government paid off in 1948, when the college was favorably reviewed and reaccredited under the Guomindang government's new educational system. The Jesuit go-between in this process, as in the earlier accreditation application, was Archbishop Yu Bin of Nanjing, who was and would remain extremely closely tied to the Guomindang. In the process of accreditation, the college's name was once again changed—this time to Jingu College.

The Jesuits had worked hard to get this accreditation, and they thought it was good news. But as they looked at the overall context of their work, they could see that it was a useless piece of good news. Communists were advancing into Xian county, and put their superior, Father Charvet (who had once been rector of the college) under arrest. Priests were fleeing from Communist-occupied rural areas and coming to live in the Jesuit residence at the college. A new world of Chinese nationalism was coming into being, and it was overwhelming any barriers the Jesuits could build against it.

In May of 1948, as the "political sky darkened and the storm approached," and practical efforts to barricade against the storm failed, the Jesuits decided to make special recourse to the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady Queen of China. This is what the villagers of Xian county had done a half century before, during the Boxer uprising. Then, the legends said, as frightened Catholics huddled within their church compounds, the Virgin had appeared atop their church steeples in glorious power

and broken the Boxer siege.[50] Praying for a similar deliverance, the priests of Gong Shang carried a statue of Our Lady Queen of China in a great procession around the college, accompanied by a fervent crowd of Catholics from throughout the city. But during the Boxer troubles, the Catholic communities of Xian county had been relatively self-sufficient villages surrounded by sturdy mud and brick walls. The Catholic community of Gong Shang was part of a large, complex city and, especially now that the French protectorate was gone, its barriers against the unbelieving world were composed of religious symbols and social connections, not sturdy physical stuff. The political sky continued to darken. On January 15, 1949, the Communists took control of Tianjin, and in the semester that followed, there began, as the Jesuit chronicler puts it, "l'agonie des Hautes Etudes."

The Communist Party established a school "soviet," or administrative committee, composed of Chinese professors, administrators, students, and staff. Under the committee's guidance, the students became what they had never been before—political activists. "Liberated" from the supervision of the Jesuits, the students filled the walls of the college with posters "attacking the Americans, attacking religion, attacking our authority, which was put under the name of imperialism." The Jesuits saw this as an example of what happened when impressionable young people were deprived of proper supervision. More accurately perhaps, it was an example of what the Communists could do by manipulating people through their own more aggressive forms of hierarchical supervision.

By the middle of 1949, the new government of Tianjin had made the teaching of materialism obligatory in all schools. They began a violent campaign against Gong Shang College, and by the end of the year they tried to force the dismissal of all Jesuits from the faculty and administration. Employing the "Chinese way," the Jesuits called upon their friends in the Tianjin elite. They gained a temporary victory: the mayor of Tianjin wrote a long letter praising the Fathers for the success of the college and the help given to its students. This temporarily forestalled the dismissal of the Jesuits. "But this was a ‘loss of face’ for our adversaries. In China, this is unpardonable, and must eventually be paid for."[51]

The Jesuits held on in spite of great sacrifices because they felt a responsibility to give protection, help, and comfort to their Catholic students as long as possible. But they could no longer erect adequate barriers between their students and the world. They could no longer even protect themselves. In January of 1951, all of the Jesuits were finally dismissed from their jobs. The priests were placed under surveillance and subjected to long, excruciating interrogations. Some were arrested. The others dared have no further contact with Chinese friends, even with the Catholic students, for fear of compromising them. On July 11, 1951, all the Jesuits were expelled from their residences behind the walls of the college, and, soon after, all the French Jesuits were expelled from China.

The yearbook for the class of 1950 contained no pictures of any priests. Written by the "School Administrative Committee," the preface made no mention of Christianity, but it was full of exhortations for students and faculty to become the

People's intellectuals, not the exploitative intellectuals of the old society. If the college's students, faculty, and alumni followed the principles of Marxism-Leninism, served the people, and followed the mass line, it promised, they would lead the motherland to a glorious future.[52]


In the early 1950s, Gong Shang College was dismantled and its libraries and other resources used to form the basis of the three main institutions of higher education in Hebei Province—Hebei University, which occupied the Gong Shang campus in Tianjin, Hebei Normal University, which was built in Shijiazhuang after 1953, and Hebei Normal School, which is located in Zhangjiakou. During the Cultural Revolution, Hebei University was moved from Tianjin to Baoding. The campus built by the Jesuits is now used by the Tianjin Foreign Language Institute, although a small part is still used to house Hebei University students and faculty who need to do research in Tianjin.[53]

For a few years after the Jesuits left in 1951, the public chapel remained open and one of the Chinese priests came daily to offer mass. Control over the Chinese Catholic Church steadily tightened, however. The government began a movement to force Catholics to renounce foreign ties and to submit to "Catholic reform committees" controlled by the government's Religious Affairs Bureau and the Communist Party's United Front Work Department. Eventually, by the mid-1950s, the government had set up a mass organization called the "Catholic Patriotic Association" to be the liaison between Catholics and the government. The Vatican denounced these arrangements. The government arrested bishops and priests who supported the Vatican, a persecution that reached a high point during the anti-rightist campaign. At the same time, a small percentage of China's priests and bishops supported the Patriotic Association. One of the most prominent among them was the Jesuit Bishop Francis Xavier Zhao Zhensheng, the first Chinese figurehead president of Gong Shang College, who had in 1937 been ordained a bishop and made the Vicar Apostolic of Xian county. In 1957, several Chinese bishops carried out ordinations of new Chinese bishops, who had been elected by the Catholic Patriotic Association but not approved by the Vatican.[54]

Thus was born a tragic split within the Chinese Catholic Church between those who supported the Patriotic Association and were allowed to continue to worship publicly and those who resisted and were forced to carry out their religious activities underground. Most bishops and priests who supported the underground were put into prison, becoming in the minds of most Chinese Catholics martyrs for the faith.

During the Cultural Revolution all religious activity, even that associated with the Patriotic Association, was suppressed, and all churches were closed. In the post-Mao era of "Reform and Opening," the government allowed public Catholic religious life to resume. This led to an extraordinary resurgence in Catholic life.

Newly opened churches were packed with enthusiastic worshipers, churches destroyed during the Cultural Revolution were rebuilt, seminaries and convents were reestablished, new bishops and priests were ordained. All of this was allowed, however, only as long as it was carried out under the official auspices of the Patriotic Association. At the same time, the underground church revived and became bolder, more vigorous, and better organized than ever. This has led not simply to renewed confrontation with the government, and to the arrest and punishment of many underground clergy, but to a bitter, sometimes even violent, split within the Catholic community between those loyal to priests associated with the "public church" and those loyal to priests in the underground. In Tianjin today, there are currently three men each claiming to be the legitimate bishop of the diocese, one a bishop approved by the Patriotic Association (although he himself began his career as an underground bishop) and two underground bishops. Each has his followers, and this has led to a greatly troubled Catholic community.

The troubles of this new situation are the result of the confrontation between a new political situation and the older forms of community we have seen exemplified in the history of Gong Shang College. Now, as then, Catholic identity is defined in terms of status within a hierarchical structure of authority. Now, as then, an important part of the responsibility of the priests and bishops who occupy higher levels of the hierarchy is to patrol the boundaries between church and world and to protect ordinary Catholics from that world.

In the current political situation, protecting one's Catholic flock confronts Chinese bishops and priests with terrible dilemmas. Should they—as the Jesuits did at Gong Shang College under the Japanese—make compromises with the powers of this world in order to protect a space for Catholics in their charge? Or should they resist heroically, even though this might invite a hostile government to completely suppress their community? Many of the bishops and priests who have cooperated sufficiently with the Catholic Patriotic Association to be allowed to work aboveground are not opportunistic collaborators but simply people who are doing their best to protect the church under difficult and ambiguous conditions.

Because the Chinese Catholic community sees itself in such a hierarchical fashion, enormous responsibility is placed on the shoulders of these clerics. But now it is doubly difficult to fulfill that responsibility, because the authority of many of the clerics is questionable. In the first half of this century, during hard times like the Sino-Japanese War, the difficult decisions made by priests like those at Gong Shang College were not open to debate by those under them. But now the Chinese Catholic community bitterly debates the decisions made by its priests. Still following a Counter Reformation model of the church, many of the laity might say that they ought to give unquestioning obedience to a legitimate priestly authority. But it is unclear who is legitimate, because the Vatican has no diplomatic relations with the People's Republic and it cannot send a papal delegate to adjudicate between the claims of, say, the three bishops who claim to be the legitimate authority in the Tianjin diocese.


Although one way to solve this problem would be to reestablish a clear chain of command to the Vatican, another way would be to deemphasize the importance of hierarchy in the Catholic Church. This could be done by emphasizing a biblically based vision of the church as a "people of God." If taken seriously, this would lead to a less paternalistic kind of church, one that did not try to protect believers from the world but inspired each believer to take an active, mature responsibility for his or her actions in the world. In line with the principle of Catholic social philosophy called "subsidiarity," which emphasizes the need for responsible authority to be exercised at the lowest practicable levels, this vision of the church would also encourage believers to govern themselves in most matters from the bottom up, rather than wait for authoritative commands from the top down.[55] In the mid-1960s, the Second Vatican Council, inspired in part by the theological vision reached by Teilhard de Chardin while he was in Tianjin, called for just such a new understanding of the church—a Catholic community that would not try to dominate the world or to set itself apart from the world, but would learn God's will by discerning the signs of the times within the history of the world. Because of its long isolation under the Communist regime, the Chinese Catholic Church is only now, very slowly, beginning to assimilate this modern Catholic vision.

The problems of the Chinese Catholic Church are in some ways reflective of problems of contemporary Chinese culture as a whole. Chinese cultural traditions are very complex, and there are strands that could support an open, entrepreneurial modern society as well as strands that would support a relatively closed, static society. In the twentieth century, the Maoist Communists played on the latter, in effect combining some of the worst of East and West into a political culture that, though changing now, still shapes life in Mainland China. There are many strands too in Catholic traditions, some of which are quite compatible with open, pluralistic modern societies. But the version of European Counter Reformation theology that was propagated in north China in the first half of this century resonated with some of the more defensive, authoritarian strands of Chinese culture—indeed, some of the same strands that Communist ideology resonated with. The Catholic idea that paternalistic authority figures must protect those passive subjects under them has its parallels with Confucian paternalism. The concern about building barriers between the church and the world has its parallel in a Chinese obsession—encouraged also by conservative Communists—with building walls to keep out foreign influences and unsettling thoughts.[56]

And the crisis of China at the end of the twentieth century is parallel with the concurrent crisis of the Chinese Catholic Church. Too much of the population is too oriented to authority, inclined to be politically passive, never having had the opportunity to develop habits of responsible self-governance. But at the same time, they can no longer accept the legitimacy of the authorities governing them. Out of such painful dilemmas, we may hope, might come new forms of religious and political reformation that will combine some of the most forward-looking elements

of Chinese humanism with some of the most flexible strands of Western politics and culture.


1. These quotes are taken from ethnographic fieldwork conducted by Fan Lizhu and myself in the suburbs of Tianjin and in Xian county, Hebei, in 1993, with the support of a Luce Foundation grant. The results have been published in Richard Madsen, China's Catholics: Tragedy and Hope in an Emerging Civil Society (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998). [BACK]

2. Teilhard de Chardin wrote a number of scientific monographs on the excavations of "Peking Man" at Zhoukoudian. He is best known for his theological works, however. The most famous of these, The Phenomenon of Man (English trans. by Bernard Wall [New York: Harper and Row, 1959]), was written in 1939 in Tianjin while he was confined to the Jesuit residence and unable to do his scientific research because of the Sino-Japanese War. Like his other theological works, this was deemed heretical and its publication forbidden by the church. It circulated in mimeographed form among a small circle of Teilhard's friends and was finally published in France in 1955, after his death. For biographies in English, see Robert Splaight, The Life of Teilhard de Chardin (New York: Harper and Row, 1967); Paul Grenet, Teilhard de Chardin, the Man and His Theories, trans. R. A. Rudorff (New York: P. S. Eriksson, 1966); Leon Cristiani, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: His Life and Spirit, trans. Martin Jarrett-Kerr (New York: Macmillan, 1960); Henri de Lubac, The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1966).

There were other important progressive priests and intellectuals who made a base in Tianjin in the first half of this century—people whose work was more directly related than Teilhard's to contemporary Chinese politics. Notable was the Belgian Lazarist Vincent Lebbe, who advocated an identification of Christianity with Chinese nationalism and pressed for the establishment of a church under the direction of a Chinese episcopacy rather than foreign missionaries. Lebbe was controversial, and many Catholic missionaries, especially the French missionaries discussed in this chapter, were not very sympathetic to his approach. Although in the long run Lebbe's vision has been very influential, in the 1920s and 1930s the kind of Catholic vision that I discuss in this chapter represented the mainstream of Catholicism in China. For a good introduction to the life of Lebbe, see Eugenio Menegon, "Catholic Intellectuals in Republican China and Their Search for National Identity" (manuscript, 1995). [BACK]

3. The other two Catholic institutions were Shanghai's Zhendan (Aurora) University, which was also run by the French Jesuits, and Beijing's Fu Ren University, which was established by the American Benedictines but in the 1930s was taken over by the German-based Society of the Divine Word. Zhendan was similar to Tianjin's Gong Shang College in its use of the French language as a medium of instruction and its adherence to French educational methods with emphasis on professional education rather than liberal arts. Zhendan, in fact, clung to the use of the French language longer than Gong Shang because there were more opportunities for French-speaking Chinese in Shanghai. Fu Ren University placed a greater emphasis on the liberal arts and in practice put more emphasis on integrating Chinese and Western cultural traditions. Although there is an extensive scholarly literature on the sixteen Protestant institutions of higher education in China, the contribution

of Catholic higher education to China's modernization is a neglected topic. One of the few articles on the subject is Ruth Hayhoe, "A Chinese Catholic Philosophy of Higher Education in Republican China," Tripod 48 (1988): 49–60. [BACK]

4. See Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985). [BACK]

5. For a sociological analysis (as distinguished from theological and historical analyses, of which there are a vast number) of the Counter Reformation Catholic Church, see Victor M. Perez-Diaz, The Return of Civil Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 109–83. The classic sociological study still remains that of Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, trans. Olive Wyon (London: George Allen, 1931). [BACK]

6. Comment made at the conference "Yanjing University and Chinese Higher Education," Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, Calif., May 22–26, 1996. [BACK]

7. Madsen, China's Catholics, 62. [BACK]

8. For recent Chinese histories of the Zhangzhuang Cathedral and its associated community, see Zhang Pingyi and Kang Yu, "Xianxian Zhangzhuang Tianzhu Jiao Congjiaotang de Fandong Huodong yu Dai Dongnan Renmin de Fan Di Ai Guo Yundong," in Hebei Wenshi Cikan Xuanji, vol. 1 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei Renmin Chubanshe, 1980); and Pei Shulan, ed., "Tianzhutang zai Xianxian deng chude Tianchan," Jindaishi Cikan (Review of modern history). [BACK]

9. See Richard Madsen, "The Catholic Church in China: Cultural Contradictions, Institutional Survival, and Religious Renewal," in Unofficial China: Popular Culture and Thought in the People's Republic, ed. Perry Link, Richard Madsen, and Paul G. Pickowicz (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1989), 103–20. [BACK]

10. For a complete list of sources, see Edward Malatesta, "Resources at the Jesuit Archives in France Pertaining to L'Institut des Hautes Etudes Industrielles et Commerciales de Tianjin" (paper presented at "International Symposium on Historical Archives of Pre-1949 Christian Higher Education in China," Chinese University of Hong Kong, December 1993). The most important parts of this material were photocopied by Fr. Malatesta and are available at the Ricci Institute of the University of San Francisco. About half the documents are in French, half in Chinese. The French documents include a ninety-five-page typewritten manuscript on the history of the Institut, "L'Universite Tsinkou, Ecole des Hautes-Etudes de Tientsin, Histoire d'Un Quart de Siecle," by Paul Bornet, S.J. This manuscript was written between 1949 and 1951 and based on diaries kept by the Jesuits at the school, as well as on the personal memories of Fr. Bornet, who served on the school's faculty. This history was written for internal use, not for external publication. In the archives, there is a letter to Fr. Bornet from his superior telling him to include the shadows as well as the bright spots in his chronicle. The archive also includes internal memos debating school policy, as well as press releases and brochures written to solicit French support. The Chinese documents include yearbooks, several school catalogues, a report written in support of accreditation, copies of the school newspaper Daoguang (published weekly between 1930 and 1937), and copies of the tables of contents of the religious journal Beizhan, the Gong Shang Xuezhi, and academic journals on engineering and on Chinese law published at the Institut. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the French or Chinese are by myself. [BACK]

11. Quoted in George Minamiki, S.J., The Chinese Rites Controversy from Its Beginning to Modern Times (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985), 190. (See also Eugenio Manegon, "Catholic Intellectuals in Republican China" [manuscript, Department of History, University

of California at Berkeley, 1995], 3.) Issued by Pope Benedict XV, this encyclical was deeply influenced by the views of Fr. Vincent Lebbe. It represented an attempt by the Vatican to circumvent France's position as protector of Catholic missions. Many French missionaries resisted, as will be apparent from this essay. For the political context of the encyclical, see Jean-Paul Wiest, Maryknoll in China (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1988), 45–47. [BACK]

12. This four-page typewritten document is dated Tianjin, 15 February 1924. [BACK]

13. Typewritten draft of a brochure about the Institut, 1931. [BACK]

14. Paul Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 1–5. [BACK]

15. Report dated 15 February 1924. [BACK]

16. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 6.2. [BACK]

17. This is acknowledged in the school catalogue published in May 1935. [BACK]

18. Typewritten draft for a brochure on the Institut, 1931. [BACK]

19. French description of school, 15 February 1924; Chinese catalogue, 1935. [BACK]

20. See Jessie G. Lutz, China and the Christian Colleges, 1850–1950 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971). [BACK]

21. French description of school, 15 February 1924. [BACK]

22. "Note sur l'Influence Francaise de l'Institut de Tientsin," 13 February 1933, typewritten. [BACK]

23. "Note sur l'Influence Francaise"; the Chinese catalogue for 1935 speaks of the French influence in terms of a style of education: thorough and practical, proceeding in a methodical manner, and not emphasizing pompous abstractions. [BACK]

24. Memos concerning a consultation of February 1931 on whether official recognition should be requested. Also, Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 19–22. [BACK]

25. Ibid., 21. [BACK]

26. Ibid., 26. [BACK]

27. Fr. Pollet, 8 January, 1937. [BACK]

28. "Extraitades remarques du P. Charvet sur le rapport du P. Pollet," n.d. [BACK]

29. Troeltsch, Social Teachings, vol. 1, 328–82; and vol. 2, conclusion. [BACK]

30. Yearbook, 1937. [BACK]

31. Yearbook, 1939. [BACK]

32. Yearbook, 1937. [BACK]

33. Ibid. [BACK]

34. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 30–31. [BACK]

35. Catalogue of the newly established Women's Division, 1943. [BACK]

36. Jean-Yves Calvez, S.J., "Economic Policy Issues in Roman Catholic Social Teaching: An International Perspective," in The Catholic Challenge to the American Economy, ed. Thomas M. Gannon, S.J. (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 15–26. [BACK]

37. Menegon, "Catholic Intellectuals," 26–28. [BACK]

38. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 42–43. [BACK]

39. See the enrollment chart presented in a report by Frs. Charvet and Denys, 10 December 1946. [BACK]

40. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 45. [BACK]

41. Yearbook, 1941. [BACK]

42. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 53. [BACK]

43. Ibid., 60. [BACK]

44. Ibid., 74. This section of Fr. Bornet's history, recounting events that took place between 1942 and 1946, is less detailed than the rest of the document. According to a note in

the manuscript, the original fifteen pages dealing with this period were destroyed in June of 1951, just before the French Jesuits were expelled from Tianjin, because they made mention of persons connected with Bishop Yu Bin, who had been declared a traitor by the Communists. The new version was written without benefit of the diaries and reports used in the old version. [BACK]

45. See David E. Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao's Republic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994). [BACK]

46. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 76. [BACK]

47. Before the establishment of a national episcopate, China was considered a mission territory under direct control of Propaganda Fidei in Rome. Its regions were called Vicariate Apostolates and, though headed by bishops, some of whom were Chinese, were not dioceses. With the establishment of a Chinese episcopate, China was now considered to be a national church, governed (under Vatican supervision) by its own conference of bishops, in the same way as, say, the Catholic Church in France or the United States. The conferral of the status of cardinal on Thomas Tian was part of the recognition of this new status for the Chinese church. Eric Hanson notes that the Vatican gave the red hat to Thomas Tian at this time, rather than to Yu Bin, because Yu Bin was considered too closely tied to the Guo-mindang. Eric O. Hanson, Catholic Politics in China and Korea (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1980), 95. [BACK]

48. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 78. [BACK]

49. Report by Frs. Charvet and Denys, 10 December, 1946. [BACK]

50. Information from ethnographic fieldwork reported in Madsen, China's Catholics, 91. [BACK]

51. Bornet, "L'Universite Tsinkou," 89. [BACK]

52. Yearbook, 1950. [BACK]

53. This information was graciously provided to me by Wang Xiaoqing, a graduate of Hebei University who worked on a project to compile its history. [BACK]

54. See John Tong, "The Catholic Church from 1949 to 1990," in The Catholic Church in Modern China, ed. Edmund Tang and Jean-Paul Wiest (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1993), 7–27. [BACK]

55. Such theological issues are thoroughly discussed in Kim-Kwong Chan, Toward a Contextual Ecclesiology: The Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China (1979–1983): Its Life and Theological Implications (Hong Kong: Chinese Church Research Center, 1987), 333–412. [BACK]

56. See the discussion in the 1988 Chinese TV series Heshang. For English translation and commentary, see Su Xiaokang and Wang Luxiang, Deathsong of the River: A Reader's Guide to the Chinese TV Series Heshang, trans. and ed. Richard W. Bodman and Pin P. Wan (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia series, 1991). [BACK]

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