Echoes of Victorian Hellenism in Mid‑Nineteenth‑Century China
Joseph Edkins’ Recurring Column “Western Literature” (Xixue shuo 西學說) in the Journal Liuhe congtan 六合叢談 (Shanghae Serial)
In the mid‑nineteenth century, the missionaries of the London Missionary Society founded the journal Liuhe congtan 六合叢談. Its varied contents included a recurring column titled “Western Literature” in English and Xixue shuo 西學說 (Explanations on Western learning) in Chinese. The section’s editor, Joseph Edkins, used it to inform Chinese readers about Greco‑Roman antiquity and its most important thinkers and writers. The role of literature in the spread of Western learning to China has not yet received much attention. This paper will analyse Edkins’ columns, his motives for writing them, and the topics he considered worthy of publication. This will give us insight into the cultural strategies the missionaries adopted in the era between the Opium Wars and also shed some light on the development of terms like Western Learning, philosophy and literature.