Today: Mar 03, 2024

Yale scholar shares research on Christianity in modern China

Jennifer Fengler, Staff Writer:
Walking through the English department, Jasmine Wilborne, an English major at Southern, spotted a sign that said “Christian Higher Education in Modern China” and was immediately intrigued.
Wilborne said her main reason for being so interested in the topic was because she is a devoted Christian and Catholic trying to understand the dynamics of world history and its past.
“So I’m like, ‘history lesson,’” said Wilborne. “Let me go and get some history and let me immerse myself in some of the painstakingly bad things of Christianity, early Christian missionaries and then also some of the good advancements.”
Dr. Wang Weijia, a Yale Fulbright Scholar from China, focused on talking about how Christianity emerged into China during the period of modern history there, and how everything changed after 1949 when the start of the People’s Republic of China and the contemporary history period began.
“In the 1950s, all the missionaries were driven away,” said Weijia. “It’s a tragic ending to all of those missionary efforts.”
Weijia’s research shows that there is uncertainty as to when Christianity first entered China. It shows, however, that Alopen, a Syrian Nestorian monk, was also the first Christian to enter China back in the early seventh century.
Weijia said that one of the most contradicting issues between Christianity and the Chinese beliefs was that the Chinese believed in worshiping Confucius or following ancestors, while in Christianity a person believed in only one God.
Weijia also said that many missionaries tried but never got to get into China and teach about Christianity to others.
“Once a year China allowed foreigners to come and socialize,” said Weijia.
According to Weijia, Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci, both missionaries, took up that opportunity and made friends with people in China. They then became the first missionaries to have entered the Mainland China during the Ming Dynasty.
Weijia said Robert Morrison, who was called the first Protestant missionary, entered China in 1807 and translated the Bible to Chinese.
“He did a lot of preparation work for later missionaries,” said Weijia.
Weijia’s research also shows the supreme goal of the missionaries was to save everyone’s souls from sin, but the way they went about it discouraged some of the Chinese because the missionaries created Christian schools not as a demand of the Chinese, but for their own needs.
“No matter the motive or the intention of whatever you do, if it comes across in a way that is rushed, that is forced, that is even arrogant, people do not want a part of it and these missionaries were so passionate about delivering the message that they did not do it in a way that the people accepted fluently,” said Wilborne.
After the Opium War, many Chinese had an ignorant attitude towards foreigners and eventually the New Cultural Movement was made in 1919.
“Profound changes happened in the early 20th century,” said Weijia. “People burned and attacked missionary schools in 1927.”
Weijia said that now there are no more Christian education schools in China.
“They have government approved churches in China, but that is just to show that we allow religion,” said Weijia. “Whatever sermons are given have to be approved by the government.”
Weijia said that China does allow seminaries where Christian people can go learn to become missionaries in China, but many are underground seminaries meaning they are not government official, and the few that are allowed receive very little funding from the government.
Currently, Weijia said there are only between 7 million and 10 million Christians
living in China, which only makes up a very small amount of the population there.

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