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Ten Books on Christianity in China

People often ask me for recommendations of books to read about Christianity and the church in China. There are a lot of books out there; some better than others.

These 10 books are a good place to start. (Amazon descriptions included):

1. A New History of Christianity in China, by Daniel Bays (2011)

A New History of Christianity in China, written by one of the world's the leading writers on Christianity in China, looks at Christianity's long history in China, its extraordinarily rapid rise in the last half of the twentieth century, and charts its future direction.

2. China's Christian Millions, by Tony Lambert (2006)

In this new edition of a widely read and authoritative expos of the plight and perseverance of believers in China, author Tony Lambert suggests reasons for the growth and shares sobering truths that Western Christians need to hear.

3. China's Next Generation: New China, New Church, New World, by Luis Bush, Brent Fulton, & A Christian Worker in China (2014)

What a difference a decade makes! Over the last ten years the nation of China and the Chinese Church have changed significantly; so has the world. It's a new China. It's a new Church. It's a new world. China's Cultural Revolution that ended in the late 1970s was followed by a 20-year-long spiritual harvest spanning the 1980s and 1990s. It was an awakening that many have called the greatest revival in history; but now we must face the reality that this phenomenal harvest is over. The year 2000 marked a turning point, the dawn of a new era. This important report brings to the fore the realities of the current situation and brings to the Church in China some crucial words of encouragement.

4. God is Red, by Yiwu Liao (2011)

In God is Red, Chinese dissident journalist and poet Liao Yiwuonce lauded, later imprisoned, and now celebrated author of For a Song and a Hundred Songs and The Corpse Walkerprofiles the extraordinary lives of dozens of Chinese Christians, providing a rare glimpse into the underground world of belief that is taking hold within the officially atheistic state of Communist China. Liao felt a kinship with Chinese Christians in their unwavering commitment to the freedom of expression and to finding meaning in a tumultuous society, even though he is not a Christian himself. This is a fascinating tale of otherwise unknown personalities thriving against all odds.

5. Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China And Challenging the Global Balance of Power, by David Aikman (2012 edition)

An unreported tectonic shift shift is happening in global politicsand it's driven by religion. Within the next thirty years, one-third of China's population could be Christian, making China one of the largest Christian nations in the world. These Christians could also be China's leaders, guiding the largest economy in the world.

6. Jesus Rising in the East: The Extraordinary Story of the Church in Modern China (from the editors of Christian History and Biography) (2012)

In terms of land mass, China is the fourth largest country in the world. In terms of population, it is the biggest, with 1.3 billion inhabitants. In terms of the global economy, the International Monetary Fund predicted that by 2016, no national economy would be larger. And even though China is officially a secular, atheistic state, no one can ignore the tens of millions of Christians that are an increasing presence in all sectors of Chinese society. Today, even a few Communist party leaders profess Christian faith openly.

How did this remarkable growth of Christian faith occur in a country that has been either indifferent or hostile to things Christian? Jesus Rising in the East is a highlight reel of one of the most remarkable chapters in church history. It gives readers a glimpse of two centuries of saints and sinners, successes and failures, setbacks and advances of the church in China. One cannot understand modern China nor global Christianity without knowing something of this amazing story.

7. Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China, by Lian Xi (2010)

This book is the first to address the history and future of homegrown, mass Chinese Christianity. Drawing on a large collection of fresh sourcesincluding contemporaneous accounts, diaries, memoirs, archival material, and interviewsLian Xi traces the transformation of Protestant Christianity in twentieth-century China from a small, beleaguered "missionary" church buffeted by antiforeignism to an indigenous popular religion energized by nationalism and millenarianism. Lian shows that, with a current membership that rivals that of the Chinese Communist Party, and the ability to galvanize China's millions into apocalyptic convulsion and messianic exuberance, the popular Christian movement channels the aspirations and the discontent of the masses and will play an important role in shaping the country's future.

8. Religion in China, Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, by Fenggang Yang (2011)

Religion in China survived the most radical suppression in human historya total ban of any religion during and after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1979). All churches, temples, and mosques were closed down, converted for secular uses, or turned to museums for the purpose of atheist education. China remains under Communist rule. But in the last three decades, religion has revived and thrived. Christianity has been the fastest growing religion for decades. Many Buddhist and Daoist temples have been restored. The state even sponsors large Buddhist gatherings and ceremonies to venerate Confucius and the legendary ancestors of the Chinese people. Traditional Chinese temples have sprung up in some areas. On the other hand, quasi-religious qigong practices, once ubiquitous in public parks throughout the country, are now rare. All the while, the authorities have carried out waves of atheist propaganda, anti-superstition campaigns, severe crackdowns on the underground Christian churches and various ''evil cults.'' How do we explain the religious situation in China today? How do we explain the religious situation in China today? How did religion survive the eradication measures in the 1960s and 1970s? How do various religious groups manage to revive despite strict regulations? Why have some religions grown fast in the reform era? Why have some forms of spirituality gone through dramatic turns? In Religion in China, Fenggang Yang provides a comprehensive overview of the religious change in China under Communism, drawing on his ''political economy'' approach to the sociology of religion.

9. The Chinese Puzzle, by Mike Falkenstine (2008)

China is like a huge puzzle, with many pieces and moving parts; it's hard to identify all that is happening today in China. There are some people are trying to describe the whole picture, when all they really have are two or three pieces of a 500-piece puzzle. In the book, The Chinese Puzzle, I'll give you the other pieces for a much clearer picture of China and her Church.

10. The Liberating Gospel in China: The Christian Faith Among China's Minority Peoples, by Ralph Covell (1995)

One great land mass, governments hostile to Christianity, 11 ethnic groupsChina affords one of history's most complex, and often dramatic, missions narratives. This book tells the story in detail for the first time. Covell describes Catholic and Protestant attempts to evangelize China's minority cultures.

You may notice that one popular book, Safely Home is missing from the list. I will address my reasoning in a later post.

Stay tuned!

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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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