The Application of Treaties in Late Qing: Focusing on the Prohibition of the Preaching Right of Japanese Monks

YAN Liyuan


From 1904 to 1908, China and Japan had a fierce debate on the rights of Japanese Buddhist missionary in China. Until the Qing Emperor abdicated (1912), Japan had not got the rights of treaties. Meanwhile, some Chinese local governments prevented Japanese monks’ missionary activities within their jurisdiction according to treaties.


Main text

1. The Treaty Right of Christian Preaching in China

The treaty rights of Christian missionary works in China were first regulated in Treaties of Tientsin 1858, which were signed in Tianjin (Tientsin). The Second French Empire, Russian Empire, United Kingdom, and the United States were the parties involved. Article VIII of Sino-Russian Treaty, Article XIII of Sino-French Treaty, Article VIII of Sino-British Treaty, and Article XXIX of Sino-US Treaty were the similar provisions of missionary rights in China.

Example 1.1: The Christian religion as professed by Protestants or Roman Catholics, inculcates the practice of virtue and teaches man to do as he would be done by. Persons teaching it, or professing it, therefore, shall alike be entitled to the protection of the Chinese authorities, nor shall any such, peaceably pursuing their calling, and not offending against the Law, be persecuted or interfered with.(Sino-British Treaty of Tientsin 1858, Article VIII.)

Example 1.2: The principles of the Christian religion, as professed by the Professed by the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, are recognized as teaching men to do good, and to do to others as they would have others do to them. Hereafter, those who quietly profess and teach these doctrine shall not be harassed or persecuted on account of their faith. Any persons, whether citizens of the United States or Chinese converts, who according to these tenets peaceably teach and practice the principles of Christianity shall in no case be interfered with or molested.(Sino-US Treaty of Tientsin 1858, Article XXIX.)

Example 1.3: It shall be promulgated throughout the length and breadth of the land, in the term of the Imperial Edict of the 20th of February,1846,that it is permitted to all people in all parts of China to propagate and practice the ‘teachings of the Lord of Heaven,’ to meet worship; further all such as indiscriminately arrest (Christians)shall be duly punished; and such churches, schools, cemeteries, lands, and buildings, as were owned on former occasions by persecuted Christians shall be paid for, and the money handed to the French Representative in Peking, for transmission to the Christians in the localities concerned. It is, in addition, permitted to French missionaries to rent and purchase land in all the Provinces, and to erect buildings thereon at pleasure.(Sino-French Convention of Peking 1860, Article VI; cf. Vi Kyuin Wellington Koo, The Status of Aliens in China, New York: Columbia University, 1912. p.293.)

Then, the treaty rights of Christian preaching in China included:(1)the right of professing and teaching in interior of China as well as in the open ports freely; (2)the right of being protected by Chinese authorities;(3)the right of Christian Churches which could rent lands, build churches and so on. And the key point is that Christian missionaries’ preaching to Chinese people had been authorized by treaties.

2. Whether the Japanese Buddhist had the Treaty Rights

The western Christian missionaries had the treaty rights to teach Chinese persons religion doctrines in China. Whether the Japanese Buddhist had the same treaty rights? Japanese said yes, but China said no. Both China and Japan tent to be focus on Article IV (Building Churches in Open Ports) and Article XXV (The Most-Favored-Nation Clause) of Treaty of Commerce and Navigation 1896.

Article IV: They are allowed to rent or purchase houses, rent or lease land, and to build churches, cemeteries, and hospitals, enjoying in all respects the same privileges and immunities as are now or may hereafter be granted to the subjects or citizens of the most favoured nation.

Article XXV:The Japanese Government and its subjects are hereby confirmed in all privileges, immunities, and advantages conferred on them by the Treaty stipulations between China and Japan which are now in force; and its subjects will be allowed free and equal participation in all privileges, immunities, and advantages that may have been or may be hereafter granted by His Majesty the Emperor of China to the Government or subjects of any other nation.

Its related issues including:(1) whether the article IV in the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation(1896)included the Buddhist Church or not;(2)whether the article XXV in the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation(1896)equitably included the right of preaching or not. Japan insisted that it was not necessary to give special provisions for Buddhism and the Most-Favored-Nation Clause included the right of preaching Buddhism. China argued that it was not necessary to preaching Buddhism in China that already had her own Buddhism and the Most-Favored-Nation Clause just included business interests not including the right of preaching Buddhism.

These arguments were happened around the Guangxu 30th Year (1904), because the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs strongly urged that the Qing government should protect Japanese monks’ in some missionary cases in China. The Chinese Minister of Beiyang and Nanyang, the governors of Fujian, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Guangxi, Shandong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi and other southeastern coastal China were involved in the major discussions. They said Japanese monks were forbidden in the local places. The debates continued until Guangxu 34th Year (1908).

3. Prohibit or Protect to Japanese Monks’ Preaching

The rights of Japanese monks’ preaching in China sparked heated debates between China and Japan. At the same time the related Japanese monks’ missionary cases continued to occur. Qing Government began to seizure the Japanese monks’ monastery in China, and to repatriate the Japanese monks abroad on the basis of their interpretation on the treaties between China and Japan. Japanese monks had been involved in the construction of the temples, schools and educational administrations in Fujian, Guangdong, Beijing and other places during the period.

Moreover the Xinghua government posted a notice to ban the Japanese monks’ missionary activities. This notice was written by the magistrate of XingHua Prefecture (兴化府), named LIANG Guancheng(梁冠澄),who had studied the law for two years from a lawyer in HongKong. The notice pointed that: (1) the treaties between China and Japan did not regulate the rights of Japanese monks’ preaching to Chinese. (2) Japanese monks’ preaching activities in China were illegal.(3)so he banned Japanese Buddhist preaching in China. Japan’s consulate in Amoy named SEGAWA Asanoshin(瀨川淺之進)protested to SONG Shou(松寿)who was Viceroy of Min-Zhe, a higher governor. Japan’s consulate argued that Japanese temple had been built in Xinghua about 10 years ago. At that time, the Chinese magistrate had protected Japanese temples and there were protective notices. But SONG Shou(松寿) replied that: (1)the protective notice was a mistake understanding of the treaty.(2)waiting for the negotiation result between the governments of China and Japan.(3)there was no need to debate again and again. The reply was almost to say that the prohibitive notice was not wrong.

4. Rethink China's Actions According to Treaties

Japanese monks came to China after Sino-Japanese War (1895), especially around and after Russo-Japanese War (1904). The rights of Catholic and Christian Missionaries came from the Treaty of Tientsin (1858), Convention of Peking (1860) and a series of treaties. Then Western missionaries obtained complete missionary rights in China. Western missionaries penetrated the mainland of Chinese, who made many missionary cases. One of the most famous cases was Boxer Rebellion (1900), which led Allied Forces stationed in Beijing. The cases made the Chinese government recognized that the importance of the right to preach. Therefore, according to past experiences, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused Japanese Buddhist preaching.

Article XII and Article IX of Supplementary Treaty of Commerce and Navigation 1903 showed that the Most-Favored-Nation Clause included business interests did not include preaching Buddhism. And there was not special provision of preaching Japanese Buddhism in China.There were many cases caused by Chinese Christians and non-Christians before. And the Chinese local authorities could not control the situation because of consular jurisdiction clause provided in the treaty between China and the powers. So if there was no the extraterritoriality, China would not be afraid of the Japanese monks’ preaching. Japanese monks can do anything like travelers in interior of China as well as in the open ports. But Japanese monks can’t preach Japanese Buddhism like western Christian missionaries.

5. Conclusion

International law had been the rule among a small number of European Christianity countries initially, with a certain limitations of time and space. Later, with the colonial expansion activities of European countries, the European not only promoted international law but also preach their religion to non-Christian countries by international legal missionary rights.China and Japan were deeply affected. The differences were that Japan adopt international law positively hoping to enjoy the same missionary rights as western countries and spread Buddhism to China. With past experiences, China took a more cautious and tough attitudes on the Japanese monks’ missionary rights in China and insisted that under the provisions of the treaties Japanese monks did not have missionary rights in China. From 1904 to 1908, China and Japan had a fierce debate on the relevant missionary affairs, especially on the rights of Japanese Buddhist preaching in China. Until the Qing emperor abdicated (1912), Japan had not got the rights of preaching in China. Meanwhile, some Chinese local governments prevented Japanese monks’ missionary activities within their jurisdiction, on the basis of their interpretation on the treaties.



YAN Liyuan,
Visiting Scholar, The University of Tokyo;Ph.D Student, Renmin University of China.