The Life and Legacy of George Leslie Mackay: An Interdisciplinary Study of Canada’s First Presbyterian Missionary to Northern Taiwan (1872 – 1901)
Editor: Clyde R. Forsberg Jr.
Date Of Publication: Jan 2012
George Leslie Mackay (1844–1901), the famous Canadian Presbyterian missionary who came to northern Formosa (Taiwan) in 1872 and preached specifically with aborigines in mind, is the subject of an interdisciplinary study by seven independent scholars interested in the nineteenth-century imperial project and Christian mission to China. Importantly, Mackay’s mission defies such binary opposites as East and West: the missionary a conduit of an earlier Scottish-Canadian spirituality adapted to Taiwan that allowed converts to appropriate the Presbyterian faith on their own terms; the mission field in which he operated a “biculture” of foreign initiative and aboriginal agency working hand in hand. Mackay’s ordination of aboriginal ministers, giving us the Northern Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT), was a bold departure from the imperial, Anglo-Canadian, Presbyterian norm. So, too, his marriage to a Taiwanese slave-girl, Chhang-mia, and the arranged interracial marriages that he performed between select Chinese ministers and female Taiwanese graduates (which included his two daughters). Mackay’s missionary writing and famous autobiography From Far Formosa—a fine specimen of the nineteenth-century heroic memoir genre—is notable for its defense of both gender and racial equality, and despite its unmistakable patriarchal leanings. Mackay’s repudiation of Darwinism and belief in an early type of creation science therein also locates the so-called “Barbarian Bible Man” opposite such virulent, racist theorizing as Social Darwinism and Eugenics. He was a dentist not an abortionist. A relative unknown to most Western scholars of religion, Mackay is Taiwan’s most famous native son, represented on the national stage in 2008 as a sky god and Taiwanese animistic deity of supernatural power and political influence par excellent. Although a product of the colonial times in which he lived, post-colonial scholars who ignore Mackay, his life and legacy, clearly do so at some peril.
Clyde R. Forsberg Jr. is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Aletheia University (Tamsui). He holds degrees in Religious Studies (Western Religions and the Nature of Religion) from the University of Calgary, taking his PhD in American, Canadian, and European Religious History from Queen’s University (Kingston). A Civic Education Project and Open Society Institute Fellow (Central Asia and Mongolia), his published works include Equal Rites: The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture (Columbia University Press, 2004), as well as articles and book reviews in the field of new religious movements.
“The first book of its kind on the fascinating and pivotal Victorian figure of George Leslie Mackay, this volume contains a rich interdisciplinary conversation on the history, context, and legacy of Mackay and his mission. The contributors root Mackay within complex transnational networks of ideas, people, organizations, and cultures. Scholars of multiple disciplines will find this book helpful to contextualize and understand the life and lifework of George Leslie Mackay.”
—Benjamin E. Zeller, American Religion, Brevard College, Brevard, North Carolina, USA
“Clyde Forsberg has expertly edited this collection of essays from a range of able scholars from different disciplines. Collectively they provide a valuable insight into Mackay’s life, background, and legacy, and the Taiwanese cultural background in which he worked. . . . The essays are scholarly, yet readable, and deserve to be read by all who have an interest in Christian mission or Taiwanese history and culture.”
—Dr. G. D. Chryssides, Contemporary Religion, European Research Institute, University of Birmingham, UK
“George Leslie MacKay may have been the most important little-known Canadian in Chinese history. This volume ensures that he will no longer be overlooked. It reveals how much this pioneering Presbyterian missionary from Ontario contributed to the transformation and modernization of Taiwan. Thanks to this collection of scholarly articles, MacKay will finally get the attention he deserves.”
—Don Baker, Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, Canada
“A fresh introduction to one of Canada’s truly exemplary 19th century pioneer missionaries, the eight original essays in this volume are each worth the price of the book.”
—Jonathan J. Bonk, International Association for Mission Studies, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
“A real treasure of scholarship about a man whose life and career are crucial in order to understand not only Christian missions to China but also Christian efforts to overcome racism and discrimination.”
—Massimo Introvigne, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), Torino, Italy
“Clearly, with this book, Clyde Forsberg renders a dynamic contribution to a new generation of scholarship and creates a study that raises meaningful questions furthering international awareness of the history of Christianity in Taiwan.”
—Ann Heylen, International Taiwan Studies and Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
“These essays boldly advance the study of Mackay and clearly show why he is such a central figure in recent Taiwanese history. They fill in a too-often ignored gap in the history of Christianity in East Asia. These essays address a significant range of issues concerning the history of religion, transnationalism, missiology and biography. I predict the book will also guide many in setting out the agenda for future studies of religion in Taiwan given the vast range of new questions these works propose about the relationship of cultures in a colonialist milieu.”
—Chris Hartney, East Asian Studies, University of Sidney, Australia
“This is a fascinating collection of essays about a fascinating Presbyterian in the classic tradition of nineteenth-century Scottish missionaries, albeit that it was from Canada that George Leslie Mackay set sail in 1872 for Taiwan, or Formosa as it was then known. Referred to as the Black Bearded Barbarian, Mackay was a true polymath, embodying a vast array of skills and talents, not least being his ability to master Chinese within five months. With his Bible in one hand and a pair of forceps for extracting teeth in the other, Mackay was intent not merely on saving the natives’ souls, but also on promoting their health and education, peppering the island with churches, hospitals, schools and colleges that, frequently bearing his name, flourish to this day. Approaching the life and times of this remarkable and influential man from a number of perspectives and disciplines, Clyde Forsberg has edited a book that will be enjoyed by students of history, missiology, theology, religious studies and, indeed, by members of the general public. And Mackay certainly deserves to be remembered – not least for his wonderfully life-affirming motto: “Rather burn out than rust out”.”
—Professor Eileen Barker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology of Religion, London School of Economics
Price Uk Gbp: 34.99
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Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)