This work focuses on the 19th-century mission conducted by Chinese evangelists among the Hakka, an ethnic minority in south China. The principal part of the text comprises the autobiographies of eight pioneer missionaries who offer insight into village life and customs of the Hakka people.
The Basil Society's China mission, one of the ore successful Protestant missions in the nineteenth century, was distinguished by the fact that most of the initial proselytizing was conducted by Chinese converts in the interior rather than by Western missionaries in the treaty ports. Thus the first viable protestant communities were not only established by Chinese evangelists, they were established among an ethnic minority in south China, the Hakka people.
The autobiographies of eight pioneer Chinese missionaries featured in this book offer an unusual opportunity to view village life and customs in Guangdong during the mid-nineteenth century by providing details on Hakka death and burial rituals, ancestor veneration, lineages and lineage feuds, geomancy, the status of Hakka women, widespread economic hardship, and civil disorder.
The authors' commentary addresses the issue of conversion, which was fueled by individual desire for solace and salvation, the building of a support community amid social chaos and the possibility of social mobility through education. Despite an expanding role by Western missionaries, the Chinese origins, the rural interior locale, and the status of the Hakka as a disadvantaged minority contributed to successive generations of Christian families and to early progress toward an autonomous Hakka church.