- China was one of the most prominent targets of Protestant missionary activity in the 19th century, though progress was slow for many decades. The first missionary, Robert Morrison (1782-1834), was a British Presbyterian minister commissioned by the London Missionary Society. At the time he arrived in China in 1809, the Chinese allowed only limited contact with the West, all funneled through the Portuguese settlement at Macau and the British trading warehouses in Canton (now Guangzhou). To attain legal residency status, Morrison took a job with the East India Company. His work was always confined by official Chinese policy that discouraged informal contacts between Chinese citizens and Westerners.Nevertheless, Morrison accomplished much. He translated the New Testament into Chinese (1813), cofounded the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca, Malaysia, for training missionary personnel (1818), with William Milne (1785-1907) completed the translation of the old Testament (1819), and compiled a massive Chinese-English dictionary.Morrison's baptized his first convert in 1814; his second convert, Leong Kung Fa (also spelled Liang Afa) became the first Chinese person ordained as a minister (1827). By that time, Leong already had a significant career as a lay evangelist; he built the initial Christian community in the Guangzhou region. Morrison baptized fewer than a dozen Chinese Christians. His successors, confined to Macau and Canton, used creative means of getting the Word out. Some set up schools, but the most successful innovation was the medical missions idea, pioneered by Dr. Peter Parker,a Presbyterian physician. German missionary Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (1803-51) suggested the idea as a way to reach large numbers of Chinese, with Christian literature to be dispensed along with prescriptions. Parker, originally sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, founded the Medical Missionary society of China in 1838.The 1842 Treaty of Nanking, which was imposed on China following the Opium War, opened new ports for trade, ceded Hong Kong to England, and ended the ban on the opium trade. Missionaries were in demand because of their linguistic abilities, and many took permanent positions with Western governments. The churches gained access to China, but at the cost of being identified with Western aggression and the opium trade.The ports of Canton (Guangzhou), Amoy (Xiamen), Foochow (Fuzhou), Ningpo, and Shanghai were now available for missionary activity and became the focus of outreach into China. Even today, the overwhelming majority of Chinese Christians live in the coastal provinces between Shanghai and Guangzhou. Among the many groups to begin work in this era was the Methodist Episcopal Church, which established its first center in Foochow (Fuzhou) in 1847. The following year, the Southern Methodists established theirs in Shanghai.After the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64), a peasant uprising put down with the aid of Western troops, the Chinese granted further concessions to the West, including the opening of most of China to missionary activity. Shanghai became the center of Western mercantile activity and eventually the center of Protestant church life.Through the last half of the 19th century, a wide variety of Protestant missionary activity emerged, supported by most of the larger European and North American denominations from the Church of England to the Seventh-day Baptists (which introduced Sabbatarianism to China in 1847). Efforts to prevent denominational competition led in 1877 to the First General Conference of Protestant Missionaries in China.The China Inland Mission, founded in 1865 by James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), used unusual means to achieve considerable success. Taylor decided to build his organization on the basis of a set of faith principles: missionaries would make no public appeals for funding, would not draw a salary but rely on free-will offerings, would integrate into Chinese society as far as possible, and would focus on the essentials of the faith and avoid sectarian squabbles. The mission became the most successful Protestant missionary endeavor in China through the 1930s.The identification of Christian missionaries with Western aggression provoked numerous incidents against their work and even their very presence. During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, a large number of Christians, including some 200 missionaries, were killed. Anti-Christian activities continued through the 1930s. Nevertheless, by 1920 China had become the largest mission field in the world. Schools and hospitals were opened and maintained, including the Society for the Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge, founded in 1887 to publish Western books in Chinese, the Peking Union Medical College, opened in 1906, and 13 colleges and universities for general higher education.Pentecostalism appears to have been introduced by Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Mcintosh, who arrived in Macau and Hong Kong in 1907 and found their first success among leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The first church grew from the work of Alfred G. (1874-1944) and Lillian Garr (d. 1916), who were quickly followed by two women, May Law and Rosa Pittman. Lillian Garr had been convinced that the tongues she spoke following her baptism in the Holy Spirit included Chinese and Tibetan. Their first convert, Mok Lai Chi, became the group's translator. Mok would arise as the effective leader of the small group. He also founded the first Pentecostal periodical in Chinese, Pentecostal Truths. By this time Pente-costalism had spread to northern China, where work was begun by Bernt Bernstein. Subsequently, British Pentecostals in China tended to affiliate with the Pentecostal Missionary Union and Americans with the Assemblies of God.The spread of Pentecostalism highlighted the emergence of indigenous Protestant groups. Among the first leaders was Zou Liyou, who broke with the Presbyterian Church to found an independent thanksgiving meeting. in 1911, a group within that meeting founded the China independent Church.one important independent movement was begun in the 1920s by Watchman Nee (aka Nee To-shang, 1903-72), a former Methodist who had associated with the exclusive Plymouth Brethren. in the early 1920s, Nee, the editor of an independent Christian periodical, Revival, concluded that denominational competition was wrong and that there should be only one church in any city. He founded the first such congregation in Shanghai in 1927. He also operated under the three-self principles, that churches should be self-governing, self-sustaining, and self-propagating. He took dispensationalism from the Brethren and developed a unique Chinese theology. His movement took no name, but variously became known as the Local Church, the Little Flock, and the Assembly Hall churches.At about the same time, three Beijing Christians, Paul Wei, Ling-Shen Chang, and Barnabas Chang, who had all received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1917, began the True Jesus Church. it was distinguished by its sabbatarianism, its non-Trinitarian "Jesus Only" theology, its unique inclusion of speaking in tongues in the sabbath services, and the bodily movements that frequently accompanied the manifestation of tongues. Like the Local Church, the True Jesus Church gathered hundreds of thousands of followers throughout China.The spread of Protestant Christianity peaked in the mid-1930s, by which time rumors of war became a factor. The Japanese invasion in 1937 unleashed forces that would dramatically alter the church. While church growth in the old fields came to standstill, refugees moving westward to escape the Japanese introduced Christianity into regions heretofore neglected. The Christian community in the coastal regions felt the full brunt of World War ii, while the Chinese Revolution (1947-49) brought more fighting and the rise to power of a government that was opposed to the West, to religion in general, and to the alignment of Christian churches with Western political and economic forces.In 1950, the new government expelled the Western missionary agencies and missionaries. The remaining churches had to cut their ties with the West immediately, educational and medical centers were nationalized, and seminary education was largely curtailed. Chinese denominational leaders were pushed aside and replaced with state-appointed officials. Churches were merged into a single Church of Christ of China.in 1954, the Three-self Patriotic movement (TsPM) of Protestant Churches in China was established at the First National Christian Representative Conference. it became the national expression of Protestantism in China, and all churches were required to affiliate. The three-self movement had been revived in 1950 by Wu Yao-zong (aka W. T. Wu, 1893-1979). Active in social and political affairs in the 1940s, he had become interested in Marxism and accused Protestants of collaborating with capitalism. Wu became the chairman of the TsPM in 1954 and was reelected in 1961.The reduced size of the visible Christian community allowed the TsPM to launch the Church union movement, which consolidated many congregations and nationalized the property of defunct congregations. The uneasy peace between the government and the Christian community in the early 1960s came to an end in 1966 with the Cultural Revolution. The government declared religion incompatible with the new order and ordered the closing of all religious institutions (including the Three-self Patriotic Movement). The burning of many Bibles and religious books and the arrest of pastors and other church leaders followed. Christian practice went underground.The Cultural Revolution came to an end in the late 1970s. in 1979, Chinese president Deng Xiaoping declared an open-door policy that allowed some churches to reopen. in 1980, the Third National Christian Conference organized the China Christian Council (CCC), a second attempt at a single recognized Protestant movement in China (the Church of Christ of China ceased to exist in 1954). The TsPM handled government relations while the CCC was to handle internal ecclesiastical matters. Together, they now publish Tian Feng, a national Protestant periodical. Leadership is selected every five years at a national Christian representatives conference.The CCC established headquarters in shanghai with Bishop K. H. Ting (aka Ding Guangxum, b. 1915) as president. Ting enjoyed a lengthy tenure as head of both the CCC and the Three-self Association. He supervised the reopening of the Nanjing union Theological seminary and the founding of the Amity Foundation, which has worked to reintegrate the church into Chinese life and build ties to Christians outside of China. The CCC joined the World Council of Churches in 1991. Ting was succeeded in 1997 by Dr. Han Wenzao, who was in turn succeeded by Rev. Cao Shengjie in 2003.In the decades following the founding of the CCC, Protestantism has blossomed in China as never before. From a few hundred thousand believers in 1979, it begins the 21st century with a government-estimated 20 million adherents. All these Protestants are considered to be members of the one official Protestant church. However, pre-World War II denominations survive as active traditions in different congregations and as recognized federations. Thus, for example, the True Jesus Church survives as a group within the CCC, and its members meet on Saturday in the local church building. The existence of these fellowships within the larger single church has often caused tensions within the Chinese Christian community.Much of the growth of Protestantism in China has been channeled into the house church movement, which takes its name from the practice of meeting in members' homes. These fellowships disagree with the teachings of the CCC (which tends toward liberal Protestantism), reject the organization of the church, or mistrust its ties to the government. As they are unaffiliated, they are denied access to the local authorized church building and, under present Chinese law, are not allowed to construct their own meeting facilities. The movement tends to be conservative in its theology, though it includes a great variety of beliefs, some quite extreme. While some house churches are disconnected local assemblies, others have affiliated in regional and even national fellowships.It is difficult to estimate the number of house church members. Enthusiastic estimates of tens of millions remain unsubstantiated. However, the radical growth of Protestant Christianity in the last several decades has certainly been accompanied by the spread of Christian beliefs far beyond the walls of the established church. Outside of house churches, there are probably millions of individuals who identify as Christians but who keep their beliefs private. As China evolves, it is expected that Christianity, now adhered to by only 2 percent of the population, will continue to grow.China itself has emerged as a significant exporter of religion. The displacement of large numbers of refugees from the turmoil of 20th-century China into receiving countries in Southeast Asia and the West brought various forms of Chinese Protestant Christianity to other countries, while the Chinese residing in different countries have themselves been the target for missionary concern. Today, a complex relationship exists between Chinese Christian communities in China and in the diaspora.See also Asia; China: Hong Kong; China: Macau.Further reading:■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Alan Hunter and Kim-Kwong Chan, Protestantism in Contemporary China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)■ Donald F Maclnnis, Religion in China Today: Policy and Practice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1989)■ J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, eds., Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2002)■ A. Scott Moreau, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2000)■ Scott W. Sunquist, ed., A Dictionary of Asian Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerd-mans, 2001)■ Luo Zhufeng, ed. Religion under Socialism in China, trans. by Donald A. Maclnnis and Zheng Xi'an (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1919).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.