James Legge and the Chinese Classics: the missionary, the Shanghai hippie, and the opium taipan in the turmoil of colonial Hong Kong

September 28, 2017

James Legge (1815-1897), was a brilliant Scots scholar and missionary famed as a translator of the Chinese Classics in Hong Kong when struggles between Britain and China included two wars. It was an era of sailing ships, pirates, opium wars, the swashbuckling East India Company, and the opening of Qing China to trade and ideas. Legge risked beheading twice while helping Chinese in the Taiping rebellion, foiled a bank robbery, and took in a bohemian Qing scholar on the run. He earned enmity in the colony for court testimony that favoured Chinese accused, and earned enmity among fundamentalist missionaries for his admiration for Chinese culture and history. He lost 5 of his 11 children and both wives to premature deaths, survived multiple malaria attacks, typhoons, poisoning, and massive fires. His resilient responses and incredible productivity reflected the passion he developed at 23 for understanding Chinese culture. On retirement he was made the first Professor of Chinese at Oxford University.


Marilyn Bowman’s ancestors in the new world date back nine generations to the 1709 arrival of Swiss Anabaptist heretic refugees in Pennsylvania, then to Canada. Born in the Peace River country at McLennan, Alberta in 1940, Prof. Bowman was educated at the University of Alberta and at McGill, where she earned a PhD for studies of the cognitive effects of chronic marijuana use. While teaching at Queens University she was recruited to Simon Fraser University to create a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology, arriving in 1976. She retired as Professor Emerita in 2005.  Bowman spent more than a decade writing the Legge biography after becoming interested in the life of this prize-winning Latin scholar and his life in Hong Kong in its earliest, tumultuous, colonial period.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


SFU Harbour Centre
515 W. Hastings, Vancouver
1415 Cominco Policy Room

Light refreshments will be served.

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  • David See-chai Lam Centre