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Reviews 133 Alan Hunter and Kim-kwong Chan. Protestantism in Contemporary China. Cambridge Studies in Ideology and Religion. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. xxi, 291 pp. Hardcover $64.95. Alan Hunter and Kim-kwong Chan have written a thoroughly researched and carefully considered account of the Protestant Church in China. Based on official government records, their own research, and interviews with overseas Chinese clergymen and others interested in Chinese Christianity, and writings of Chinese evangelists, clergymen and churchgoers, this book will stand for some time to come as the authoritative work on the subject. Accurate information about Chinese Christianity is hard to obtain, particularly on the "house church movement," which Hunter and Chan prefer to term "the autonomous Christian communities" (p. 81) because many of the "houses" now have church buildings, and there is no "movement" as such. Indeed, the autiiors attribute some of the house churches to the simple fact that few churches exist for Christians to attend and, as die Christians age (many are over eighty), traveling long distances on uncertain, crowded public transportation has become increasingly more difficult. Given such a situation , it is simply easier for members to gather close to home in the quarters of other Christians, perhaps those of an aged Bible Woman, for Bible study and worship. Other house churches grew up during the Cultural Revolution, which suppressed Christian activity and forced Christians to meet in secret. The authors also attribute to the Cultural Revolution the spread of Christianity to parts of China where it was previously unknown or little practiced, as many Christians were sent down to the countryside, where they formed new Christian groups which in turn flourished (p. 83). Many ofthe people who join these groups have very low educational levels and, hence, have little understanding of Christian theology . This is also true in some of the rural churches, which sometimes resemble folk-religion cults or practice a mixture ofChristianity and paganism. The authors report that in those areas of China where radio broadcasts from overseas can be heard, Christian programming has increased the tiieological understanding of many believers, while in more remote areas there are fewer opportunities for obtaining such information. The authors state that there are Protestants in every province of China, but exactly how many there are throughout the country is impossible to determine. Instead ofconfusing the issue with dieir own estimates, Hunter and Chan wisely© 1995 by University ¿iscuss the various estimates and explain what the shortcomings are ofeach. oj awai? ressAmong the problems they cite are decidingwho should be termed a Christian, the sheer size of the country and die difficulty of obtaining statistics from remote 134 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 areas, the many Protestants who do not attend government-sanctioned churches, and the desire ofthe Communist Party leadership to acknowledge only low numbers of Christians for political reasons. Hunter and Chan do think that half the Protestants in China are located in the provinces of Henan, Zhejiang, Fujian, Anhui, and Sichuan, with the heaviest concentrations in the cities of Kaifeng, Shanghai, Wenzhou, and Xiaoshan (pp. 67-68). A chapter on the historical legacy reviews the relationship of the Protestants with the Guomindang and the CCP, and traces the development of indigenous groups such as the Independent Church of Shanghai, the True Jesus Church, the Jesus Family, and the Local Assemblies or the Little Flock in the early years of this century. Another chapter traces the relationship between Protestantism and Chinese religious culture—namely the similarity of Christian prayer to the prayers offered by Chinese to Buddhist deities or local gods. They also find similarities between the moral teachings of Confucianism and Protestantism. The popularity of the charismatic movement in China is attributed in part to the release it provides from the strictures of society, and the authors believe that much of the growth of Protestantism in the 1980s is due to the desire ofmany Chinese to be healed of some physical ailment tiirough the practice of Christianity. Some Chinese chose to associate with churches during the missionary period for the material advantage they could gain (a gardener gave a missionary his reason for conversion as "Because...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 133-136
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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