Review

How the Chinese became Christians

Ting Guo reviews Jennifer Lin’s Shanghai Faithful

Legendary preacher and religious rebel Watchman Nee is often thought of simply as someone who denounced denominationalism as a sin and advocated a radical separation from Western missions. When viewed through the personal lens of his grand-niece Jennifer Lin, he becomes something very different: a fashionable young man who loved racecars, was a world-traveler, and collected Life Magazine and Reader’s Digest.

Jennifer Lin starts her book with a question: how did the Lin family become Christians? She begins with her great great-grandfather, who worked as a cook for a household of Anglican missionaries in Fuzhou, the affluent capital of Fujian province. Following the defeat of the Qing in the Opium Wars of the mid-19th century, Fuzhou became one of a handful of “treaty ports” where Westerners were given special privileges to trade and prosthelytize. The cook’s son — Lin’s great grandfather — proved particularly bright, and received a modern education that changed his life. He became a doctor, allowing his son, Lin Pu-chi — Lin’s grandfather — to attend St. John’s University in Shanghai. At St. John’s, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Republic of China who “stirred the hearts of the Chinese people like no one before” spoke to Lin Pu-chi’s class. “The basis of a democratic country is education,” the revolutionary said. “Give unto others what you have received,” Sun exhorted the students. “Let your light shine.”

Essay

Emojis on the Wall

On Hong Kong campuses, a bulletin board Cold War – Ting Guo

As someone who grew up in post-Tiananmen mainland China, democracy walls on Hong Kong university campuses always evoke a sense of bittersweet nostalgia in me, for the liberal era I was just young enough to miss. The campus walls pay tribute to the original Democracy Wall in Beijing, where in 1978 people put up posters expressing their political opinions and recalling their suffering during the Cultural Revolution. The Democracy Wall and the “Beijing Spring” it had ushered in were both shut down in 1979, foreshadowing the bloody end to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.