Studying Asian Religions in East Tennessee

This website is dedicated to the study of Asian religions (especially those of East, Southeast, and South Asia) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It will primarily serve as a venue for student projects created for a general audience. We hope you enjoy it!

Harry Caldwell: Tennessee Missionary in China

Harry Caldwell (1876-1970) grew up in the Appalachian mountains around Athens, Tennessee, where he learned to hunt, among other outdoor pastimes. As an adult, inspired by his brother’s missionary work in China and disillusioned with his own career in business, Caldwell moved with his family to Fujian Province in southeast China to work as a Methodist missionary. Though Caldwell initially encountered resistance, he won over many Fujianese through unconventional missionary methods, namely, hunting tigers that threatened locals’ lives and livelihoods. Caldwell was one of many Western missionaries working in China during the first half of the 20th century, but what distinguishes his work from other missionaries (in addition to the tiger hunting) are the films he made during the 1930s. These hours of footage not only show agricultural, military, and daily scenes from Republican-era (1911-1949) Fujian, they also show several religious practices that incorporate elements of Buddhism, Daoism, local religion, and Christianity. We have excerpted relevant clips and written explanations of their contents to give a more complete picture of the religious worlds of early 20th-century Fujian.


Dr. Megan Bryson
Department of Religious Studies
501 McClung Tower
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996