Portal:Christianity in China

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The Nestorian Stele is a Tang Chinese stele erected in 781 AD that documents 150 years of history of early Christianity in China. It includes texts both in Chinese and in Syriac.

Christianity in China appeared in the 7th century, during the Tang dynasty, but did not take root until it was reintroduced in the 16th century by Jesuit missionaries. Today, it comprises Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals and a small number of Orthodox Christians. Although its lineage in China is not as ancient as Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism or Confucianism, Christianity, through various ways, has been present in China since at least the 7th century and has gained significant influence during the last 200 years. The number of Chinese Christians has increased significantly since the easing of restrictions on religious activity during economic reforms in the late 1970s; Christians were four million before 1949 (three million Catholics and one million Protestants).

Accurate data on Chinese Christians is hard to access. According to the most recent internal surveys there are approximately 31 million Christians in China today (2.3% of the total population). On the other hand, some international Christian organizations estimate there are tens of millions more, which choose not to publicly identify as such. The practice of religion continues to be tightly controlled by government authorities. Chinese over the age of 18 are only permitted to join officially sanctioned Christian groups registered with the government-approved Protestant Three-Self Church and China Christian Council and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church. On the other hand, many Christians practice in informal networks and unregistered congregations, often described as house churches or underground churches, the proliferation of which began in the 1950s when many Chinese Protestants and Catholics began to reject state-controlled structures purported to represent them. Members of such groups are said to represent the "silent majority" of Chinese Christians and represent many diverse theological traditions.

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Dr. Peter Parker
Medical missions in China by Protestant Christian physicians and surgeons of the 19th and early 20th centuries laid many foundations for modern medicine in China. Western medical missionaries established the first modern clinics and hospitals, provided the first training for nurses and opened the first medical schools in China. Work was also done in opposition to the abuse of opium. Medical treatment and care came to many Chinese who were helplessly addicted and eventually public and official opinion was influenced in favor of bringing an end to the destructive trade. The history of China’s current health institutions can be traced to many of the medicines, methods, and systems introduced by medical missionaries.

With time the expansion and growth of hospitals in China during the 1800s became more widely accepted. By 1937 there were 254 mission hospitals in China, but more than half of these were eventually destroyed by Japanese bombing during World War II or otherwise due to the Second Sino-Japanese War or the Chinese Civil War. After World War II most of these hospitals were at least partially rehabilitated, and eventually passed to the control of the Government of the Peoples' Republic of China, but are still functioning as hospitals.

Selected biography

Wang Laiquan
Wang Laiquan (王来俊) (1835-) was a Chinese Protestant Christian pastor and missionary in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China in the late 1800s. "One of China's great, if unsung Christians, after Pastor Xi Shengmo... he was perhaps the most notable Chinese connected with the China Inland Mission."

Wang was a painter and skilled artisan living in his native Ningbo when he was hired by the pioneer Christian missionary Hudson Taylor to work in his home. As he was working one day on a ladder he overheard a local basket-maker, Feng Ninggui, who had professed faith in Jesus Christ, explaining why he no longer made incense containers that were used for idol worship. Wang was soon converted to Christianity as well under the ministry of Taylor in the days before the founding of the China Inland Mission.

After his baptism in 1859, Taylor met with Wang individually to instruct him in Christian teaching from the Bible and Wang joined the small congregation of believers that was growing in Ningbo.

Wang put his new faith into immediate service and worked at the local mission hospital that Taylor had taken charge of – with no promise of income other than what he believed that the Lord would provide as needed.

Wang soon learned from Taylor how to read and write the Romanized Ningbo dialect and began teaching others what he had learned about God from the Scriptures.

In 1860 Taylor’s health was deteriorating and Wang accompanied the Taylor family to London, England in 1860 as a helper and language tutor for new missionaries. He also assisted Taylor, his wife, Maria and Frederick Foster Gough in the revision of the Ningbo dialect New Testament in Romanized colloquial for the Bible Society. Wang’s native language expertise assured that the final translation would be accurate and trustworthy.

While in England, Wang became part of the Taylor family in many ways: helping with laundry, helping Maria take care of the little children, and joining with Taylor in close personal discipleship training and even medical studies. Taylor took him to meet the famous London Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Together they influenced Spurgeon to promote the cause of missionary work in China with his sermons and writings. Taylor also brought Wang to meet the Bristol orphanage founder George Muller who would later fund one third of the China Inland Mission budget in the following years of 1866-1871.

Taylor promoted Wang's abilities as a preacher even in England and acted as interpreter for him when he spoke to English congregations.

After returning to China he was appointed pastor of the church in Hangzhou begun by the China Inland Mission in 1866-1867. He served as a pastor for 40 years.

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