Bamboo in Mist: An Exploratory Understanding of Chinese Spirituality (Urban Ministry in the 21st Century: Global Faiths Book 2) edited by Kaylene Powell. CA: Urban Loft Publishers, 2020. Available on Amazon and Book Depository.
Publishing or writing a book on Chinese spirituality is indeed an ambitious endeavor. And Kaylene Powell, who is the editor, acknowledges it is nearly impossible to “take a massive group of people and their non-linear culture developed over thousands of years of complex history and somehow separate one element of their psyche to explain it in understandable terms for mainly non-Chinese readers who will come from all different levels of background knowledge under related topics all in 300 pages or less.” (p. 15) Thankfully she did not shrug the project off and thus we have today a praise-worthy attempt to capture a collection of insightful snapshots of Chinese spirituality.
While I was initially disappointed that yet another non-Chinese had been tapped to work on a project that pertains to the Chinese soul while there exist so many equally qualified writers and editors of Chinese-descent, I became impressed by Powell’s humility and approach to her task as I delved into the book.
Bamboo in Mist is part of the Urban Mission in the 21st Century: Global Faiths series intended to help Christians think strategically and creatively about how they can better reach those who are in urban centers around the world. Towards this end, the content of this book appropriately consists of contributions by both Chinese believers as well as foreign workers who have spent time working and living in mainland China. Even though every chapter covers a serious topic, it is presented well by the contributors with a good balance of personal stories and experiences as well as well-researched facts and figures.
In drawing out the distinctive elements of Chinese spirituality, we hear not just from Chinese believers but also from non-believers. Hearing from non-believers gives a realistic perspective of the thinking of an average Chinese as we seek to understand how we can gain a hearing from him or her on spiritual matters. For example, in chapter 2“Traditional Principles of Confucianism and Other Influences on My Life,” contributor C.X., a highly educated middle-class professional, writes that even though he doesn’t subscribe to any specific religious ideology, he, as well as most Chinese, has been greatly shaped by the ideas of Confucianism.
Perhaps the chapter which stood out for me was chapter 14, by a young Chinese woman, Yang Xiaoxiao (pseudonym), entitled “Chasing Knowledge: A Young Chinese Woman Reflects on the Empty Intellectual Spirituality of Her Generation.” In it, she describes her own journey with the Christian faith as well as with the church and with Christian workers she has encountered. In her observation of the context around her, she raised some really challenging questions about the perceptions (and misperceptions) of outsiders concerning Christians and the church in China. She also writes poignantly of the existential emptiness experienced by the younger generation in mainland China. As she presents the stark reality of the religious and spiritual context in China, she bravely proposes that Jesus is indeed the answer for the longing of their hearts, but the global church has to work harder to contextualize and present the gospel in a way that speaks relevantly to those who are seeking.
There are so many gems that the contributors bring to their chapters that deserve not just reading but proper reflection. Bamboo in Mist is another great addition to the growing number of resources on the culture and worldview of the Chinese as we seek ways to share the gospel in a relevant and appealing way in their context.
Image credit: Steve, Jaguar Jungle Mist via Flickr.
I’Ching Thomas is a Malaysian Chinese whose present sojourn is in Singapore. She’s an aspiring Sinologist who wears three hats: Operation Mobilisation’s International Director of Leadership Development, wife to a New Testament professor, and mom to a middle-schooler. She moonlights as an apologist and a writer in all things related. …View Full Bio
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