- The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ
This is a new book that adds substantially to the ongoing series on Christianity in China. It joins two former volumes to reveal further Chinese images of Jesus and his influence upon modern Chinese culture. This third volume covers the turbulent fifty years from the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 to the Communist victory of 1949. Thirteen articles and twenty-four primary documents are selected, and many of those have provided unique perspectives and invaluable sources with insightful interpretation and detailed narration.
This volume aims at a special period starting and ending with two extraordinary events pertaining to Christianity: an anti-Christian uprising by xenophobic Boxers who indiscriminately victimized believers of Jesus, and the Communist triumph that enforced a state policy to restrict Christianity. The five decades between the two events, however, witnessed enormous changes: the thousand-year-long dynastic system collapsed in 1912, bloody civil wars broke out and revolutionary movements erupted throughout the 1920s and the 1940s, and foreign powers invaded in 1900, 1931, and 1937. Nevertheless, in such turmoil, a cultural movement emerged, bringing forth many fresh ideas. Malek’s volume frames the history of Christianity within this novel cultural circumstance.
Through judicious analysis, the editor presents thirteen articles sorted into three groups. The first shows Chinese Christians’ new interpretation of their belief. In the aftermath of the Boxer’ Rebellion of 1900 and in the face of the anti-Christian movement of the 1920s, for instance, Chinese Christians tended to indigenize their faith. Winfried Gluer, Matthias Christian, Poling J. Sun, and Anthony S. K. Lam in each of their articles illustrate this very point. They reveal, for example, Chinese emphasis of Jesus’ human traits. Accordingly, they view Jesus as the highest example of human aspirations, a phenomenon found, too, in Chinese virtues such as sincerity, moderation, trust, reciprocity, and righteousness. In do doing, they viewed Jesus as a fulfillment of those very ideals advocated by Chinese sages. Indeed, those Christians tried to weave a Chinese tunic for Jesus’ deep humanism, and their artistic paintings of him displayed Christ as an honorable Chinese man and his mother, Mary, a lovely Chinese woman.
The second group of articles brings to light the nature of the missionaries’ reactions to existing religions such as Buddhism. Ekman P. C. Tam in his article investigates a particular mission led by Karl Ludvig Reichelt, called the Mission to Buddhism. Reichelt believed that the spiritual footprints of Christ exist even in non-Christian religions and liturgies, that Buddhist monks are the “other sheep,” and that [End Page 156] their conversion to Christianity could be a natural course. As long as the monks get a serious glimpse of the Light, they receive the full grace of God. To attract Buddhist monks, Reichelt used incense and bells, attired himself in Chinese costumes, and adopted a vegetarian diet. He even created a new symbol to decorate his church: a lotus-cross. Consequently, thousands of Buddhists visited his house of worship every year, and in this journey hundreds of Buddhist monks converted to Christianity.
Donald Daniel Leslie, Yang Daye, and Francoise Aubin in their articles probe the relations between Christianity and Islam. Leslie and Yang trace Chinese Muslims’ image of Jesus. Islamic believers treated Jesus with great respect and regarded him as a great prophet. However, the man who died on the cross was not Jesus. Like any ordinary man, Jesus was married and begot two daughters. He died and was buried besides the tomb of Muhammad. Since Islam had become a part of native Chinese culture, Western Christian missionaries found this revelation difficult to digest. They emphasized to Chinese Muslims, instead, that Jesus was not only a sinless man but also the Son of God. Those missionaries employed examples of successful conversions of Egyptian and Indian Muslims to inform Chinese Muslims that “there is no religion so true and so perfect as the religion of the Christ.”
The third group of articles...