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Public Lecture: Spreading the Gospel

Through Christian Posters in Early 20th Century China

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on March 16, 2023 to reflect the fact that a livestream of the lecture will not be possible. However, a recording will be publicly available after the event.

When I lived in China I found myself drawn to the ubiquitous political messages on posters, billboards, or painted on the sides of buildings.  

English speakers might call them public service announcement, but in Chinese the word is 宣传 (xuanchuan). It means disseminate, or give publicity to something, but usually gets translated into English as “propaganda.” In English propaganda has a decidedly negative connotation; in Chinese it doesn’t. It simply refers to a message the powers that be want the masses to hear.

We tend to closely associate these posters with the Communist Party, which was a master at using them to get their message out before and after the Revolution. What we forget, however, is that this type of visual form of mass communication predated Communist China and was, in fact, commonly used in the early twentieth century, not just for political purposes, but for religious as well.

On April 26, we will host a public lecture at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, titled “Spreading the Gospel: Christian Posters in Early 20th Century China.” Here’s a description:

Between 1919 and 1949, posters were the most common Christian visual imagery in China. They were printed by the millions and hung in tea rooms, on city walls, and on temple gates. Posters were put up in houses and churches; they were unfolded for street evangelism. They were extremely popular because they were aesthetically pleasing and symbolically rich, yet easy to understand. Unlike theological treatises written by Chinese theologians, these images were designed by laypeople and intended for popular consumption.

In this lecture, Daryl Ireland of Boston University will showcase some of the 700 Chinese Protestant and Catholic posters he has located and explain why they are changing the way we think about Chinese Christianity.


Billy Graham Hall at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.
500 College Ave.
Wheaton, IL 60187

Wed, April 26 /7pm–8:30pm (CDT)

Light refreshments will be served following the lecture.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide a live stream; however, a recording will be publicly available after the event. 

If you’re in the Wheaton area, please come join us. We’d love to see you there.

And if not, watch the recording after the event.

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Image credit: All images are courtesy of Chinese Christian Posters.
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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