Title: "Make a Christian Out of Him": Muscular Christian Education and 1900-1940 Chinese Students at the American Academy
Author: Frank Zhou,'22
When a modest volume with a bold title made its debut on U.S. bookshelves in September 1935, Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People catapulted the Chinese Harvard alumnus to unlikely prominence among a 1930s literary community dominated by Anglo-American bylines. In the effusive words of The New York Times’ front page, Lin’s incisive survey of Chinese society “burst like a shell over the Western world.”
If Lin’s prose reached countless American literati, his identity—a U.S.-educated, prolific man of letters in both English and Chinese—etched the legacies of Chinese students in America into transnational history. This project explores the stories of Chinese students at Phillips Academy Andover as a case study in twentieth-century influences of the American Academy on Chinese students that passed through its gates.
Drawing from a survey of 1,900+ archival documents, this paper argues that Phillips Academy Headmaster Alfred Stearns (1871-1949) modeled rhetorical and actionable commitments to American Protestantism—writing not just about, but as the type of muscular Christian citizen he wanted the Chinese students to become. Stearns used this two-fold commitment to amplify Chinese constituencies’ faith in the Academy’s muscular Christian education. Chinese families’ ultimate adherence to muscular Christian values of patriotism, discipline, and athleticism evidenced Stearns’ successful dissemination of American Protestant rhetoric among his Chinese wards. This study then contextualizes Stearns’ evangelizing within concurrent Chinese reactions to American Protestant proselytization. This contextualization seeks to position Stearns’ transnational influence as a Christian writer within the twentieth-century canon of American Protestant rhetoric in China.
As an elite American secondary educational institution, Phillips Academy shaped its Chinese students into pious, patriotic ambassadors of cultural exchange. This project explores their stories to complicate the legacies of twentieth-century American Protestant cultural imperialism, Progressive-Era foreign policy, and Chinese Americans of the twentieth century.