Western missionaries and origins of the modern Chinese press

Authored by: Yuntao Zhang

Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415520775
eBook ISBN: 9781315758350
Adobe ISBN: 9781317635925

10.4324/9781315758350.ch4

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Abstract

China can lay claim to being the oldest print civilisation in the world. However a modern culture of journalism and publishing was in fact a relatively late arrival, coinciding with the import of modern printing technology from the west. For over a thousand years, Chinese journalism was dominated by the official gazette called DiBao (Peking Gazette). This organ of the imperial state comprised edicts, news of government appointments and court affairs, and served a small privileged readership. It was not until 1815 that what could be considered the first modern periodical (though not strictly speaking a Chinese publication) was to appear in China (Zhang 2007: 12). This was the work of two British missionaries, Robert Morrison and William Milne, and it marked the beginnings of a process, spanning the nineteenth century, in which a group of predominantly British and American Protestant missionaries pursued a strategy of evangelism centred on the development of journalism, publishing and printing enterprises in China. This chapter aims to provide a short outline of this process and some reflections on its wider cultural consequences.

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