Art—a Pathway to the Heart, Soul, and Mind

Jesus replied: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Matthew 22:37

A very perceptive young Chinese, Sun Yong, made the following observation in the preface to an anthology of three novels written by up-and-coming contemporary Chinese authors:

The world’s understanding of China is still very cursory in my view. It knows little of China’s rich minds and how a sea change of social reforms has impacted Chinese mentality and feelings for the simple reason that the Chinese language is too difficult for many Westerners, and talents capable of translating Chinese literature into English are hard to come by . . . Yet, Western thinking is not alien to the Chinese because China has translated a large volume of Western literature and history books over the last 100 years and several generations of Chinese have studied and entered the inner worlds of Westerners through these works. We are publishing English versions of excellent Chinese novels in an attempt to change the situation . . .  Their stories . . . can help Western readers enter the inner minds of the Chinese more easily.[1]

This issue of the China Source Quarterly offers an opportunity to understand some of those rich, creative Chinese minds, as well as the impact of one of those social reforms taking place in Chinese contemporary society—the explosion of Christian belief.

“Chinese Contemporary Art and Christianity” by Clover Zhou and John Camden offers insight into the complex relationship between three cultural heritages: Chinese ancient and revolutionary history, contemporary art, and Christianity. “The Spirit in Fire and Wind: An Opportunity for Silent Artists to Converse” describes a unique opportunity at Purdue University for Chinese artists to gather and share their work with one another, with reviewers, and with the general public. Daryl Ireland provides fascinating insight into the early use of art and propaganda by the Religious Tract Society in “Spreading the Gospel with Christian Propaganda Posters.” XU Song-Zan reveals his passion for praise music in “Singing from Underground to the World: Listening to the Music of Contemporary Chinese Christianity.” On a more somber note, “When Will Messiah Return . . . to Beijing?” reviews the history of the public performance of the Messiah oratorio in China and the illustrious career of conductor Su Wenxing. These are discussed in light of the current government’s prohibition of the performance of Messiah in any public venue.

Regarding Fan Xuede’s Soul and Beauty, the reviewer, Ah Qian, notes Fan’s tribute to his teacher and the work of the Holy Spirit in artistic creation: “With his paint brushes blessed by the Holy Spirit, Teacher Yang ‘seeks and displays godly nature in humanity.’”[2] Available in this issue’s Resource Corner, In God We Trust: Contemporary Chinese Christian Art is an information-packed pamphlet, which introduces and analyzes the work of fourteen prominent Christian artists who participated in an art show at New York’s Bard College in 2011.

Sun Yong, that perceptive young person mentioned above, introduced three novels, one written by Bei Cun. First gaining fame as an avant-garde author, Bei Cun became one of the very few prominent Chinese artists to give a bold statement of coming to faith: “At 8:00 in the evening on March 10, 1992, I received the leading of God and entered an old broken-down building in Xiamen. In that place I saw some people, some people who lived in a world above our own. God chose me.”[3]

God is choosing to use contemporary, Chinese Christian artists to further his work of growing his church in China. May they and their nation be blessed for his glory.


  1. ^ Bei Cun, Xu Yigua, Li Er, Stories from Contemporary China. Preface by Sun Yong, translated by Wu Yanting, Wu Xiaozhen, Hu Lingque (New York: Better Link Press, 2010), preface. 
  2. ^ Ah Qian, 他画朴实的人,画出神的样子, “In Drawing Plain People, He Draws the Face of God,” Sohu.com, January 3, 2018 at http://www.sohu.com/a/214647965_661949.
  3. ^ Bei Cun, Xu Yigua, Li Er, Contemporary China, preface.
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BJ Arthur

BJ Arthur (pseudonym) has lived in China for many years and was in Beijing in June 1989.View Full Bio