Shanghai has been the headquarters for Protestant missions since the 1840s and the present headquarter of the Protestant church in China . The Shanghai Library is also one of the chief repositories of books printed in China . Of the 48.5 million items kept in the Library, their on-line catalogue indicates 1,043 titles of Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic) literature. They are mainly published in mainland China , though some titles from Hong Kong Taiwan are included. The number does not include the holdings in the “Modern Collection”, which forms a separate collection of literature published before October 1949. Holdings in the Modern Collection are listed only in the card catalogue in the Library.
This collection in Shanghai is a fair indication of the state of Christian scholarship in China . Of the 1,043 titles that are listed in the on-line catalogue, divided according to key periods in China's political history:
The distribution is a fair indication of the state’s attitude towards religion, and to Christianity in particular, in different periods in China ’s recent history.. A cursory reading of the statistics may indicate that publication on Christianity in recent years returned to the level before 1949. However, a closer examination reveals profound changes, which have important bearing on Christian mission.
1. Research and publication on Christianity now take place outside the ecclesiastical structures in China. The Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, for example, is one of the main research centres in Christianity. Since 1981, academic institutions in China produce some one hundred dissertations at master and doctoral levels. (See the listing kept in the National Library of China.)
2. It is paramount that Western scholars need to pay more attention to the flowering scholarship. This collection of Christian literature is finding its way in the textbooks used in Chinese-speaking seminaries, and hence is setting the standard for the interpretation of Christianity in China and among Chinese-speaking churches. This means, firstly, that any reference work on Christianity in China (and by extension, in Asia and beyond) simply has to recognize the presence of this Chinese-language based scholarship. Secondly, it is urgent that the Christian community and seminaries need to engage this scholarship in a more coherent and structured manner. Otherwise, it will soon find itself marginalized in the academic world, and the pursuit of theology will be increasingly divorced from worship and ecclesial life.