1815  — 1897

James Legge

Scottish missionary and sinologist.

Youth and early missionary years

Legge was born at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, the youngest of four sons in a family of seven. The pioneer missionary William Milne (1785-1822) had come from the same town; when still a boy Legge saw one of Milne’s Chinese tracts. He was taught to read by a blind woman, who used the metrical Psalms as the textbook; this led to a lifelong love of the Psalms, which greatly influenced Legge and his work. From his earliest days at school, he showed an unusual facility for memorization and for writing in Latin. He also developed a habit of rising early in the morning to pursue his studies, a practice he continued for the rest of his life. Another practice, of memorizing whole books of the New Testament and the Psalter, was begun at this time.

Legge attended what was then King’s College in Aberdeen, graduating with high honors in 1835 and earning a Master’s degree. He was the first person to win both major academic prizes, at the beginning and at the end of his college career; he later thought that preparation for these tests gave him a deeper appreciation for the ordeal that Chinese scholars had to face.

After he had served as a teacher in Blackpool for a year, Legge became a conscious Christian and sensed that God was leading him to be a missionary. In 1837 he entered Highbury College, London, a Congregational seminary, stating that he wanted to be a “missions student.” He received a Master of Divinity with a concentration in missions from that institution in 1838, by this time having gained outstanding competence in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

Intending to go to China as a missionary, he then went to the University of London for a year of training in the Chinese language. He was appointed as a missionary to the Chinese by the London Missionary Society. Before leaving for the field, Legge married Mary Isabella Morison (1815-53), the daughter of the pastor of the church where he had served as a new minister of the gospel and a director of the LMS.

The couple set sail for Malacca in 1839, and arrived in 1840. Legge was to assist the principal of the Anglo-Chinese College, John Evans. The college had been founded by Robert Morrison as a way to educate Westerners in the languages and cultures of the East, and young Chinese men in the culture and religion of the West in preparation for Christian ministry. He became principal when Evans died. At this time he began to think of translating the Confucian classics into English, in order to equip missionaries for more effective service among Chinese. He also became impressed with the apparently sincere Christian faith and character of three young Chinese men.

Missionary career in Hong Kong

Both the LMS Chinese ministry headquarters and the college moved to Hong Kong in 1843, after the British victory in the First Opium War. The college was changed into a theological seminary where Legge taught and served as principle until 1856. He hoped it would be a means of conversion and preparation for Christian ministry.

During his two decades in Hong Kong, Legge served as pastor of the English Union Church, a congregation which is still active. He also helped in the development of an independent Chinese congregation, greatly assisted by his friend and co-pastor, Ho Tsun-sheen. He began to write articles in Chinese as tracts or for various periodicals, and started on his translation of the Chinese classics. To benefit Chinese youths in Hong Kong, he helped establish elementary schools, in which he himself taught English. He visited jails and military hospitals in his role as Chaplain to the British. Legge founded a mission press that could produce works in Chinese with a movable metal type, to publish his own works and those of other missionaries and Chinese Christians.

One of his major goals was to inculcate in Chinese converts the “Sabbath culture” in which he had grown up in Scotland, and which he considered essential for healthy Christian life.
His wife, who had also learned Chinese, opened a Christian school for Chinese girls. Two daughters, (Elisa Elspeth and Mary Isabella), were born in the early years of this period.
Legge visited Guangzhou (Canton) on several occasions, and was there when the British attacked and then occupied the city after killing thousands of civilians. He was appalled by the slaughter and enraged by the barbarity of his countrymen. On one trip to Canton, he visited the Examination Hall, where he gained a vivid impression of the depth and greatness of China’s educational and scholarly history. He wrote, “In no country is the admiration of scholastic excellence so developed as in China, no kingdom in the world where learning is so highly reverenced.” (Ride, 10)

Their life was not without trials. Two sons born in Malacca died in infancy. In 1845 his and his wife’s ill health led Legge to take his family back to Britain on furlough, along with the three young Chinese men he had met in Malacca. They returned to Hong Kong in 1848. An infant daughter died in 1848. A fire destroyed the mission home and the school in 1851, and in the following year his wife died while giving birth to a stillborn child. Legge then sent his three surviving daughters back to Scotland to continue their schooling there. The death of the youngest of these the next year added to Legge’s sorrows.

The martyrdom in 1861 of his friend and co-worker Chea Kam Kwong (Che Jinguanmg 1800-1861) profoundly affected Legge, and the memorial of Chea which he wrote later was one of the first such testimonies to heroic Chinese Christians to be produced by foreign missionaries. Legge had effected the purchase of property in Chea’s village of Poklo as a station for LMS work, over local Chinese objections and with the help of British officials in Hong Kong, insisting on the new treaty rights for Christians and foreigners living in China. This trip to Poklo involved great risk for Legge, and he was later always linked with that town in Chinese Christian folklore. A mob of angry residents later murdered Chea, however, making him an early martyr of the faith.

In the 1850s he and others saw the Taiping rebellion as “an exciting step toward the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.” He was further encouraged that Hong Xiuquan used “Shangdi” as the translation for “God.” He formed an association with the Christian Hong Rengan, later the Shield King of the Taipings. As the rebellion progressed, he realized that it was “politically corrupt and religiously demonic.” (Girardot, 51)

The Anglo-Chinese College was closed in 1856, partly because the three “promising” young Chinese had not turned out as he hoped. Legge admitted to failure and renounced education as a means of conversion.

Legge thought at first that the treaties of 1858 and 1860 would lead to the rapid spread of Christianity, but was disappointed when they only created greater resistance among Chinese officials and a popular revulsion against the newly legal methods of Christian evangelization. In the early 1870s, Legge criticized England for the opium trade and expressed respect for what the China had done to improve their nation. In fact, he came to believe that the slowness of the advance of the gospel among Chinese was to be blamed upon “the divisions among Christian churches; the inconsistencies and unrighteousnesses of professors [i.e., professing believers]; the selfishness and greed of our commerce; the ambitious and selfish policy of so-called Christian nations.” (Religions, 310)

Legge went back to Britain for one year again in 1858. Before returning to Hong Kong, he married Hannah Mary Johnston (1822-1881), a widow, with whom he had more children: Helen Edith (his favorite, who wrote a memorial of her father), James Granville, Thomas Morison, and Anna Georgina; Hannah Mary also had an older daughter, Marian, by her former husband. Legge’s second wife differed also from Mary in that, rather than serving among the Chinese as a missionary, she preferred to run the LMS mission house in a style that was “English as possible” (Girardot, 56). To her, this showed the superiority of English over Chinese culture. Hannah could not adjust to the climate in Hong Kong, however, and returned to Britain in 1866 without her husband.

Strenuous missionary activity and the unrelenting effort expended on translation and writing took its toll on Legge’s health, and in 1868 Legge informed the LMS directors that his days of traditional missionary work were over. He would return to Hong Kong in 1870 in order to see through to publication the last volumes of The Chinese Classics. Despite the loss of all his writing paper and ink in a shipwreck, he persevered in the project, and saw the publication of final volume in 1871.

He left China for the last time in 1873 and returned to Scotland. On his way home, he visited the temples and homes of Confucius and Mencius, and made what became a highly controversial visit to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, where he and his colleagues took off their shoes (as if on holy ground) in reverence to the God whom he believed the Chinese worshiped there.

Professor of Chinese at Oxford University

In 1875 he was appointed a fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and from 1876 to 1897 he was the first professor of Chinese studies at Oxford University. He was the first “non-conformist and the first non-member of Oxford or Cambridge to be appointed to a chair.” (Ride, 18) Unlike many other noted faculty members, he took his teaching duties seriously, though the number of students was pitifully small (sometimes no more than three or four). He regularly delivered lectures about Chinese literature, some of which were published. Above all, he continued to translate the Chinese classics.

As a former missionary and a Non-Conformist (i.e. non-Anglican), Legge often felt like an outsider at Oxford. The pain of this marginalization was especially acute when his second wife was not allowed to be buried in the Oxford cemetery for Anglicans. This was rectified when Legge died, for her body was re-interred and placed alongside his in the Oxford Corporation Wolvercote Cemetery. His native Scotland, on the other hand, honored him with a Doctor of Laws (DD.D.) from the University of Aberdeen in 1870, and from the University of Edinburgh in 1884.

He spent his final years in Oxford, “where his ‘frostiest of silver hair, the pinkest of cheeks, the bluest of eyes’, made the simple sage into the most charming of old men in the eyes of the younger generation.” (Ride, 22)

Literary work

Legge published his translation of the Four Books in 1861 as Volume One in The Chinese Classics. Four more volumes were issued in the following years, the set being completed by 1872, containing translations of all the thirteen Chinese classics. A revised version appeared in 1893-95. He had also finished a draft translation of the Yi Jing (I Ching) in 1854-55, but it was not revised and published until 1882. “He had the conviction that anyone wishing to convert the Chinese must understand their mind and to do that must know their literature. He would not consider himself qualified as a missionary until he had mastered the classical books.” (Broomhall, OTW, 400) While in Hong Kong, he was greatly assisted in his translation work by Wang Tao, whom he regarded as a “first rate native scholar.” (Ride, 14)

Not confining himself to the translation of Chinese classics, Legge also revised the translation in the literary language of Mathew and Mark by Ho Chin-shan in 1860. His literary work gained him a reputation as a scholar, and he was appointed to the committee assigned the task of producing a new translation of the Bible, the so-called “DelegatesVersion.”

After his move to Oxford, he contributed six volumes to Max Muller’s The Sacred Books of the East, including the Confucian classics, plus the Dao De Jing, the writings of Zhuangzi, and a Buddhist text (The Tai Shang Tractate of Actions and their Retributions). The Classics included the Book of Poetry and the Book of Changes (I Jing), both notoriously difficult to understand and translate. He later also translated the Buddhist writing The Travels of Fahien (or Faxian’s Fuguo ji). He held to a basic principle of translation, which was to try to get into the mind of the author and then to reproduce his thought as clearly and accurately as possible in English. To do so, he consulted hundreds of Chinese commentators, so that Joseph Edkins said, “We have therefore represented to us in these translations what their Classics have been to the Chinese themselves.” (Ride, 21) In contrast to early academic Continental sinologues, however, Legge believed that one must spend several years in China among the people in order to understand their literature.

Legge’s views of Christianity

Legge was influenced by Congregational piety and Christian progressiveness. This involved a Scottish form of Sabbath culture that highlighted biblical exegesis within worship and a post-millennial eschatology which motivated James’ understanding of his mission. This view “was a theory of progressive individual and social conversion that lent itself to the more liberal missionary policies favoring the Christian accommodation with, or fulfillment of, the best or purest aspects of heathen religion and morality.” (Girardot, 22)

Legge thought his father’s religion seemed “in error on the side of strictness,” in which “the voice of Moses was allowed … too often to overpower the voice of Christ.” (Quoted in Girardot, 23) He reacted to the “strict Calvinism” of his church and family and embraced a “moderate Calvinism” that “affirmed the possibility of a universal salvation of all the races of mankind.” (Girardot, 24)

Legge, following the judgments of his older brother and theologian in the Congregational Church of Scotland and England, had rejected the doctrine of original sin as promoted first by Augustine. His own position was in fact very close to that of Bishop Joseph Butler’s own more stoic-inspired understanding of the changeability of human nature. One of his biographers opines that he accepted mostly the ideal of moral duty and discipline, and found God mostly in the grandeur of nature. (Girardot, 24-25)

Along with many British evangelicals in the nineteenth century, Legge held to a post-millennial eschatology. They believed that Christ’s presence would not be made known at the end of history through the resurrected Jesus’ personal return, but by means of the overflowing of the Holy Spirit throughout the world. This prompted hope that the Qing empire would join the family of “Christian nations” due to the impact of foreign missionaries.

His brother and his father-in-law, John Morison, were identified as “liberal” evangelicals of the early nineteenth-century type (as distinct from the later “classical” liberalism, which denied key Christian doctrines). Under their influence, Legge stood for a “broad-minded” approach that differed from “strict” Calvinism and from the pre-millennial evangelicalism, but he never ceased to insist on the core beliefs of Christianity.


Missionaries and the “Unequal Treaties”

In the period 1861-1863, Legge’s insistence upon the protection of Chinese Christians and the right of missionaries to purchase property in China, seen particularly in the Chea Kam-kwong affair, evoked strong criticism from British diplomats, whom he had excoriated for not bringing those responsible for Chea’s death to justice. This incident, and his response, were one of the early instances of what would become thousands of “religious cases” that were to vex the Qing government and diplomats and missionaries from Western countries for another five decades.

Legge and Chinese “religions”

Many missionaries criticized Legge for what they considered to be his compromise of Christianity in relation to Chinese religions. They were particularly upset by his actions at the Temple of Heaven, his belief that Mencius’ doctrine of human nature was not opposed to the Bible, and his “comparativistic” approach to Chinese classics. When he contributed his translations of Chinese works to Max Muller’s The Sacred Books of the East, his critics charged him with putting non-Christian literature in the same category as the Holy Scriptures. For them, “comparison” already smacked of placing Christianity and Chinese faith on the same level, thus denying the unique and supreme authority of the Bible. His controversial views became known generally as “Leggism,” a derogatory term.

What, in fact, did Legge believe?

Already in the early 1850s, Legge was increasingly moving in the direction of a more liberal and sympathetic interpretation of Chinese religions, especially Ruism [Confucianism], particularly in light of the Ruists’ impressive morality and by the clear signs of monotheism that he found in ancient Chinese texts and in the prayers of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors. Unlike many late-Qing Chinese scholars and the majority of modern Western scholars, Legge insisted upon the presence of a “religious” element in Confucianism, and thus classed it with Daoism and Buddhism in his evaluations of these non-Christian faiths.

His estimation of Confucius changed over time, from saying that he was not a great man, to confessing his admiration for him as a “very great man.” He appreciated the Sage’s humility, and regarded the so-called “negative” statement of the Golden Rule as essentially positive in meaning. As an educator, he valued Confucius as a great teacher. On the other hand, be considered the later tendency to worship Confucius to be based on false documents and superstition. “So is the Sage K’ung, who was unreasonably neglected when alive, now unreasonably worshipped when dead.” (Religions, 148)

As for filial piety, Legge saw the benefits of a proper respect for parents and forebears, in that it reflected something of the Fifth Commandment in the Decalogue. The worship of the spirits of the departed, on the contrary, he considered “injurious” to the people, because it opened them up to the idolatrous errors of the Daoists.

Unlike most Chinese and Westerners, Legge doubted whether the supposed Confucian doctrine that man’s nature is “good” was really a denial of the Fall. His analysis of Mencius’ teaching led him to believe that the “goodness” of human nature of which he spoke referred to an original goodness, something like the biblical statement that man was created in the image of God, and very similar to the views of Bishop Butler. In short, he considered Mencius’ position “defective, but not erroneous.” (The Chinese Classics, Vol. II, 66) Legge sincerely thought that Confucius and Mencius were aware that we are “prone to go astray,” and were thus not committed to an entirely unrealistic opinion of human nature. Perhaps he was influenced by his own rejection of the Augustinian view of original sin, and therefore less inclined to see Confucianism as “antagonistic” to Christianity.

Legge admitted some similarities between Confucianism and Christianity, but thought that the differences were greater, and fundamental.

Legge distinguished two distinct forms of Daoism: “A popular and widely spread religion of China,” and “the system of thought in the remarkable treatise,” the Dao De Jing, “written in the sixth century by” Laozi. (Religions, 159) Before the advent of Buddhism to China, it was only a “Mass of superstitions” coupled with the practice of divination. Later, it borrowed the use of temples, rituals, and priests from the Buddhists, adding them to the existing religion, which was always polytheistic. Daoism also took over the doctrines of purgatory and hell from Buddhism.

Of the Dao De Jing, he writes, “Many of its expressions are remarkable and tantalizing. They promise to conduct us to the brink of a grand prospect, and then there is before us but a sea of mist.” (Religions, 212) In contrast to some Christians before and since, he saw no fundamental correspondences between the Chinese classic and the Bible. Though Laozi believed in God as prior to the world, “there is no inculcation of religion in the [Dao De Jing].” (Religions, 229)

As for Buddhism, Legge pointed out its lack of a divine Creator, its “pessimistic emphasis on the misery of human life,” and its lack of clarity about the nature of nirvana. He did acknowledge that “the Buddhist inculcation of moral duties in the sphere of one’s own character and life is both minute and grand,” and he called “Buddha’s efforts to awaken, through sacrifice and self-denial, the ‘sentiment of compassion for the woes of others’” “very wonderful.” (Girardot, 417) He had no admiration for what he considered the element of superstition in Buddhism or its “ridiculously foolish” liturgical practices (Girardot, 427).

Legge thought that both Daoism and Buddhism had corrupted the early Chinese faith in one Supreme Being, Shangdi.

Thus, Legge’s view of the relationship of Christianity to other religions was of “opposition” rather than “hostility.” He believed that his comparison of Confucianism, Daoism, and Christianity showed “us the need that there is in the great empire of China for Christianity.” (Religions, 308) He believed firmly in the truth of the Scriptures, and consistently held that “For eternity, as for time, Christianity is the best religion, the only religion that bears on it the stamp of divine authority and completeness.” (Religions, 307)

“Christianity cannot be tacked on to any heathen religion as its complement, nor can it absorb any into itself without great changes in it and additions to it. Missionaries have not merely to reform, though it will be well for them to reform where and what they can; they have to revolutionize; and as no revolution of a political kind can be effected without disturbance of existing conditions, so neither can a revolution of a people’s religion be brought about without heat and excitement. Confucianism is not antagonistic to Christianity, as Buddhism and Brahmanism are. It is not atheistic like the former, nor pantheistic like the latter. It is, however, a system whose issues are bounded by earth and time; and though missionaries try to acknowledge what is good in it, and to use it as not abusing it, they cannot avoid sometimes seeming to pull down Confucius from his elevation.” (Confucianism in Relation to Christianity, quoted in Pfister, “From Derision to Respect” 84)

The opposition between Christianity and Chinese religions “will not admit of any compromise.” (Girardot, Note 138, on p. 590) But he also insisted that missionaries must know the literature of the people, or make themselves “contemptible and inefficient.” (Girardot, 591) He also affirmed “the purity of archaic Chinese religion.” (Girardot, 591) “The farther back one goes digging among the foundations of Chinese religion,” the more does one “find that it is in harmony with the living oracles’ Revelation.” (Girardot, 591, quoting “The Relations Sustained by Missionaries to Existing Heathen Religions and the Use They May Make of them,” Helen E. Legge typescript, (CWM/China/Personal/Legge/Box 8))
He was often criticized by fellow missionaries because of his high view of Confucius and his belief that the “natural theology” of the Chinese as found in their ancient classics contained some Christian truth. His paper for the 1877 Missionary Conference in Shanghai (published in 1880) evoked strong criticism.

The “Term Question”

The interminable “Term Question” caused a great deal of debate for many decades (and even until now). Legge, along with most English missionaries, eventually became convinced that Shangdi was the proper translation for “God,” a position he defended against strong criticisms from other missionaries. (For another opinion, see G. Wright Doyle, “Names for God: Shangdi” and “Names for God: Shen”.

Missionary methods

Posture toward Confucianism

In the light of his views on other religions, especially Confucianism, Legge said, “Let [missionaries] seek to go about their work everywhere … in the spirit of Christ, without striving or crying, with meekness and lowliness of heart. Let no one think any labour too great to make himself familiar with the Confucian books. So shall missionaries in China come fully to understand the work they have to do; and the more they avoid driving their carriages rudely over the Master’s [e.g., Confucius’] grave, the more likely are they soon to see Jesus enthroned in his room in the hearts of the people.” (Confucianism in Relation to Christianity, quoted in Pfister, “From Derision to Respect”, 85)


Long before offering higher education became a prominent feature of Protestant missions in China, based on his own disappointing experience with the Anglo-Chinese College, Legge said, “I have done with education. Let education grow out of the Christian church, and don’t let us expect that we shall gather a church out of our schools.” (Chinese Evangelization Society Gleaner, July, 1859, pp. 84-5, quoted in Broomhall, IIHTL, 180)

Gutzlaff’s Christian Union

In 1849-50, Legge was a leader among missionaries who criticized Charles Gutzlaff’s strategy of using Chinese workers for widespread dissemination of the gospel, and his claims of many baptisms. Based on reports from fellow missionaries and some of Gutzlaff’s Chinese colporteurs, Legge and others charged that the Chinese employed by the Chinese Union had an insufficient understanding of the gospel and engaged in hasty baptisms without adequate instruction and testing of supposed converts. Some of Gutzlaff’s employees did, indeed, seem to have been opium smokers and had even defrauded Gutzlaff by re-selling the Christian literature. The ensuing controversy reflected Legge’s belief that missionaries should work slowly, methodically, and carefully, steadily building congregations through careful instruction. In short, he believed in “intensive evangelization.” (Lutz, 251)

The value of scholarship for missionaries

For many years, the directors of the LMS were unhappy that Legge poured so much effort into his research and translations, and in several ways evinced their displeasure. Legge retorted that his writing took place in the early hours of the morning, and at the cost of his sleep, not his missionary duties. As time went on, however, he spent more time on his indirect methods of translation and “educational and civic matters in the colony” of Hong Kong. (Girardot, 52) Later, Legge admitted that in his last years in Hong Kong, his scholarly work “came to engross my time more and more, and interfere with the prosecution of direct missionary work both in preaching and teaching.” (Girardot, 180) Nevertheless, he never retreated from his conviction that to be effective, missionaries must know as much as they can about Chinese literature.

Though he was always a committed evangelical, he did participate in a redefinition of mission that challenged the old views and urged more courtesy and greater willingness to admit and admire the truths found in Chinese classics.


Legge is the main example of the missionary-scholar who went on to become a professional scholar. Many consider him to have been the most important sinologist of the nineteenth century. He was the first recipient of the prestigious Julien Prize for sinology in 1875. In 1894 he became the first person, other than a member of the British royal family, to be depicted on a Hong Kong postage stamp, a testimony to his legacy.

Anyone who has even glanced at Legge’s translations and commentaries will be immediately struck by his vast learning, his meticulous attention to detail, his commitment to be faithful to the original intent of the author, and his critical acumen. Despite his Christian convictions, he strives with all his might to represent to Western readers the meaning of the ancient Chinese writers as accurately and fairly as possible. Further study of any of his works in any detail only strengthens the impression that we have before us: the lifelong labors of a man who deeply loved and respected the people to whom God had sent him as a missionary, and who longed for others to understand the riches and wisdom of Chinese civilization, even as they sought to bring a message that Legge believed would provide what was lacking, and correct what was amiss, in the revered traditions of the Middle Kingdom. James Legge stands tall as an example to all who want to understand the Chinese and communicate the Christian gospel effectively to them.

Legge was not without personal flaws, of course. Numerous letters in the LMS archives indicate that he was not easy to live with; he seems to have had trouble getting along with people within his own mission, and there were complaints of his “intolerance toward those differing with him.” (Lutz, 252) A retiring scholar, he was more at home in the study and the classroom than among people.

Although he preached and published religious and other pamphlets in Chinese, Legge never gained fluency as a speaker of any Chinese language. He studied Fujianese briefly, then Cantonese, and then the official language, which we call Mandarin (putonghua). He confessed that he was “tone deaf,” and could not hear the all-important distinctions of inflection that are necessary for correct speaking.

At his funeral, the Rev. A.M. Fairbairn, a noted scholar and close friend of Legge’s, said that

“James Legge had a rare largeness and simplicity of nature, and was distinguished by the dignity which never fails to adorn the single-minded man. He was, though so upright, as gentle as a child, and while severely conscientious he was saved by his delightful humour from being either fierce or fanatical… He was a man of fine presence, pure purpose, and courageous speech… He gained the affection and confidence of the Chinese as but few foreigners have ever done, for he loved them truly, and they knew the simple integrity of his love. It was characteristic of him that one of his very last acts was to rise from what was to be his death-bed to greet with his fine old-world courtesy a Chinese youth of humble origin and rank, whose only claim to such attention was the blood which ran in his veins.” (Quoted in Ride, 23)

Perhaps the most fitting assessment came from his friend and colleague Wang Tao, who wrote an inscription dedicated to Legge on behalf of the members of his Chinese church in Hong Kong just before Legge departed for the last time. After lauding Legge’s scholarship, he says,

“His main purpose was to preach the Gospel to bring salvation to the whole world and to lead men to eternal life, so that the light of the Christian doctrine could shine in every corner of the earth… With himself, he is honest; to others, he is gracious. In receiving friends or dealing with people, he is modest and sincere. At first sight he looks dignified and stern as if he were difficult to approach, but if you have associated with him for a long time, you will feel the breath of modesty and friendliness filling the world… Everybody in Kwangtung, whether acquainted with him or not, when they hear his name, are full of his praise.” (Quoted in Ride, 17)


  • Ride, Lindsay, “Biographical Note,” in James Legge, The Chinese Classics, Volume I.
  • Broomhall, A.J., Hudson Taylor & China’s Open Century, Six Volumes. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1981- 1989; republished as The Shaping of Modern China: Hudson Taylor’s Life and Legacy, Two Volumes. Carlisle: Piquant Editions, 2005. Over the Treaty Wall (Book Two), 1982; If I had a Thousand Lives (Book Three), 1982.
  • Girardot, Norman J. The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
  • Latourette, Kenneth Scott, History of Missions in China. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929. Reprinted by Gorgias Press, 2009
  • Legge, James. The Chinese Classics, with a translation, critical and exegetical notes, prolegomena, and copious indexes. Volumes I & II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893. Reprinted by Southern Materials Center, Inc., Taipei, Taiwan, 1985.
  • _________. The Religions of China: Confucianism and Taoism Described and Compared with Christianity. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1880. Reprinted by Cornell University Press, 1998.
  • _________. The I Ching: The Book of Changes. Second Edition. Vol. XVI in The Sacred Books of the East, edited by F. Max Muller. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1899. Reprinted by Dover Publications, Inc., 1963.
  • Lutz, Jessie Gregory, Opening China: Karl F.A. Gutzlaff and Sino-Western Relations, 1827-1852. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
  • Pfister, Lauren, “From Derision to Respect: The Hermeneutic Passage with James Legge’s (1816-1897) Ameliorated Evaluation of Master Kong (“Confucius”).” Hermeneutik der Ostienwissenchaften, BJOAF Bd. 26, 2012, 54-88.
  • ___________, “The Proto-Martyr of Chinese Protestants: Reconstructing the Story of Chea Kam-kwong.” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, No. 42, 2002. 2003, 187-244.
  • ___________, “Classics or Sacred Books: Grammatological and Interpretative Problems of Ruist and Daoist Scriptures in the Translation Corpora of James Legge (1815-1897) and Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930).” Kanonisierung und Kanonbildung in der asiatischen Religionsgeschichte. Max Deeg, et al., eds. (Vienna: Verlag der Osterreicheschen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2011) 421-463.
  • __________, “James Legge: Linking Chinese Evangelical Spirituality with Cross-Cultural Engagement,” in G. Wright Doyle, ed., Builders of the Chinese Church. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications (Wipf & Stock), 2015 (forthcoming).
  • ___________, “Evaluating James Legge’s (1815-1897) Assessment of Master Meng’s Theory of the Goodness of Human Nature: Comparative Philosophical and Cultural Explorations”, in 丁福寧主編 《中西哲學的人文意蘊學術研討會論文集》, 新北市: 輔大書坊, 2013, pp. 101-134.

About the Author

G. Wright Doyle

Director, Global China Center; English Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.