This week sees the arrival of Chinese New Year, the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. Most of China will shut down for the week as people return to their ancestral homes to celebrate with family. For Chinese Christians, the holiday can often bring them mixed emotions: happiness and distress. Christians are excited to celebrate with family and friends. But, they also experience instances when their Christian faith rubs up against cultural expectations. In a society where Christianity often runs counter-cultural, Chinese New Year is a particularly concentrated moment of trials. In this translated article from Christian Times, the author reminds Christians of what is most important when they return home for the New Year.
In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a dispute between Jesuit and Dominican missionaries in China about whether or not Chinese converts should be allowed to continue practicing traditional rites and ceremonies that were rooted in Confucianism, such as ancestor worship. The Jesuits said they should be allowed; the Dominicans said no.
Throughout history as various attempts have been made to introduce the gospel to China, a series of “perennial questions” have arisen regarding the relationship between the Christian faith and Chinese culture.
Having read Wang Jun’s article “The Preeminence of Love in Chinese Families” in the most recent ChinaSource Quarterly (18.2), “Christian Ethics and Family Living in China,” I would like to respond with a few thoughts that I trust will be helpful, and that might open further dialogue on this important topic.
As urban churches in China face significant changes in the 21st century, will they effectively engage their own culture and reach out with the gospel cross-culturally?
Four Chinese characters to spark meaningful conversations during the Chinese New Year.
In years past I have marveled at the large numbers of people who flow through China’s churches every year at Christmas. I know of one urban church that hosts over 10,000 visitors during its six Christmas services. Each year I see the church building bursting at its seams, bodies crammed along every aisle and stairway. Each year I watch as the area around the church is closed to traffic and swarmed by young people eager to catch a glimpse or hear a word of Christmas—compelled by a sense that Christmas must in some ways must be connected to the church.
February 15, 2015 marked the first day of a new year in the Chinese calendar. According to the Chinese zodiac, which assigns an animal to each year in a 12-year cycle, currently we are in the Year of the Sheep.
One of the superstitious beliefs about the Year of the Sheep is that it is an unlucky year, which means among other things, that it is best not to give birth to a child during this year. In this article from the online journal Territory, the writer delves into the history of this belief and how it is harmful to society. He also contrasts it with what the Bible says about the source of blessings in life, notions of child-rearing, and the nature of sheep.
During a recent conversation with a Chinese friend I listened as he recounted his conversion to Christianity and the difficulty he experienced overcoming his deeply ingrained tendency toward self-reliance.
笔者从前在北美， 并与当地的中国留学生一起工作, 他提出北美的中国教会应如何修改自己的策略，以达到这些学生的问题。他与后现代学生接触，并从他的经验来解释及引申有用的例子。
The Spring 2014 issue of ChinaSource Quarterly takes up the topic of Confucianism's resurgence in China and its implications for the church. Certainly not a new topic, the relationship between China's dominant worldview and the Christian gospel has been a perennial subject of discussion since at least the days of Matteo Ricci. Successive generations of Christians in China have asked the pertinent questions in different ways, some choosing to find accommodation between the two, while others find them to be mutually exclusive.
In 1997 when China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong and the people of Hong Kong were grappling with what it meant to be Chinese of China, conversations often referred to Asian values. For over a hundred years, Hong Kong had been ruled and influenced by Western values, some referred to them as Christian values. Now that Hong Kong was no longer part of the United Kingdom, the question was how do the people of Hong Kong identify themselves? What values do they hold? Frequently the answer involved articulating Asian values in some way. Often Buddhism was highlighted; other times Confucianism was mentioned as a source for moral guidance.
Confucius, the Buddha, and Christ by Ralph R. Covell
Confronting Confucian Understandings of the Christian Doctrine of Salvation: A Systematic Theological Analysis of the Basic Problems in the Confucian-Christian Dialogue by Paulos Huang
Reviewed by G. Wright Doyle
Covell traces the history of the gospel in China from the Nestorians up to about 1980 and ways in which foreign missionaries, and then Chinese Christians, tried to express the gospel in terms which were, or were not, readily accessible to the people they hoped to reach. Huang's aim is to explain how different types of Confucianists have understood, and responded to the Christian doctrine of salvation.
I recently ran across a post called "Pagan Practice in China's Shanxi Province," which included some intriguing photos of traditional customs.
When shopping in street markets in Asia, I'd often hear the reply, "Same same, but different." The one item was the same as the other but somehow different. Maybe they didn't have the one I wanted but this other item would be just as good. Same thing but different.
The autumn issue of the ChinaSource Quarterly (due out next week) deals with the effects of postmodernism on China and the church.
From the editor's point of view...
Having worked with Chinese students from overseas who are studying in North America, the author poses the question of how North American Chinese churches should modify their strategies in order to reach these students. After detailing some of the characteristics of postmodern students, he draws from his experience to explain and give examples of strategies he has found useful.
The author looks at the postmodern shift in China as he has observed it and from a very practical point of view. He goes on to give examples of how this shift affects education, employment and daily living within the nation.
Historical events following Mao's death left an ideological vacuum in China. This has created a strong need for faith, even an urge, so as to avoid the risk of further social disruption and political instability. While postmodernism, with its relativity and lack of absolutes, is trying to fill this void, it also leaves people questioning and open to exploring faith.
The author provides a brief look at the history of postmodernism.
An explanation of the rapid infiltration and rise of postmodernism in China is followed by a look at postmodernism's multifaceted effects on the nation. Postmodern trends in modern society, its challenges to traditional values and the infiltration of New Age and postmodern spirituality are discussed.
The Chinese have a saying: "shang you zhengce, xia you duice." A fairly literal translation is "the top adopts measures and the bottom adopts counter-measures. A more colloquial way of putting it is "the leaders make the policies and the people find a way around them."
In this article, published in January 2012 on the Mainland website Gospel Times, the author considers ways that believers can share with their family members during the traditional Chinese New Year Festival.
Editor's Note: This editorial originally appeared in "Chinese Culture: Continuity or Discontinuity?" (ChinaSource, 2010 Spring).
China: Ancient Culture, Modern Society by Peter Xiaoming Yu and G. Wright Doyle.
Reviewed by Tricia Bølle
China has always been an anomaly. She is open to the gospel, she is resistant to the gospel. She is hungry for things modern and Western, she is stubbornly proud of things traditional and Chinese. How do we make sense of all this? More importantly, how do we gauge the mindset of China's intellectuals and leaders? How do they view Christianity as a religion, as a Western cultural construct, as a world and life view?
A selection of books that provide an in-depth look at the relationships between the gospel, philosophy and Chinese culture.
Is the gospel accessible and understandable in China today?
The issues facing minority women in China.
The editor's perspective. . .
The role that Chinese intellectuals play in the spread of the gospel in China.