Posted by: 1of10boyz | June 27, 2015

A Changing Perspective – Christianity in China


This is the first of a two-part story.

One thing that makes living here in China for the past four years a great experience for me is my changing perspective. I have lived here long enough that I now get to have experiences that change earlier perspectives and understandings that were created when I first arrived. Things that I thought I understood and had figured out, I find are wrong or at least not really right. I enjoy these experiences as much as I did the original experience that made me think I had it all figured out.

The only thing that is constant with my experience living in China is that it isn’t consistent and nothing is really as at appears. Things that I think I have figured out, things that I think I can put into the perspective of my life’s other experiences end up still not fitting together and not making sense at all. My experience here is much like I guess it would if I had mixed three 10,000 piece puzzles together in the same box stirred them all together and then trying to put them together without having a picture from any of the three original puzzles to look at. Just as I think I have a couple of pieces put together I realize that I don’t even have the pieces from the same puzzle. That might sound frustrating, and sometimes it is, but I most often take it in stride. It is time to try to separate some more pieces.

I had one of those experiences that caused me to “see” something I hadn’t seen before. It was always here this way but seems that I looked but didn’t see. I realized that I had pieces from the same puzzle put together but they didn’t belong in the puzzle I think I have been working on. As with anyone in this kind of experience I would tell you I have been trying to understand China in the context of my understanding and experience from my life. What I realized is that this assumption that things fit together like I presume they do from my other life experiences only messes with my ability to comprehend the little things that make China so different from the rest of the world. The pieces of the puzzle I had been putting together weren’t part of the puzzle that I thought I was beginning to understand.

Several of my colleagues’ traveled to the biggest city in Shandong Province, a rather “smallish” city of 8.8 million people, during the recent Dragon Boat Festival Holiday. We spent the better part of the morning wandering around the city of Qingdao at the local antique market which is always a great time for me. I love that market because even though I have been there dozens of times these past four years it never is the same because the vendors change and the stuff on their blankets along the sidewalk always changes. It truly gives a unique picture of the saying “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure”.

One row of stuff

the vendors and their blankets of stuff for sale. Beads to bull penis.

One of many little blankets of stuff for sale.

One of many little blankets of stuff for sale.

As we neared the lunch hour many of the vendors pack up and leave and we decided that we should meet at one of the restaurants nearer the downtown area. We traveled there without getting too lost. I have been to this location before but not to this particular shop and like almost everywhere in China, even a GPS doesn’t always help you get where you need to be without wandering all over.

One of my Chinese colleagues that was with us mentioned to me several weeks before that she has been a Christian all of her life. Her Grandmother is a Christian and had taught her about Christianity. You might remember that in China, your parents really don’t raise you; your grandparents raise you because your parents are off working and the retired grandparents become the primary care giver. Anyway the point is that she has been a Christian all of her life.

I have met several Christians in my time here in China, not as many as I likely would have met if I actually spoke the language and could actually have a conversation with the average person I meet in my wandering through markets and the countryside. She is the only one that I have met who was exposed to Christian all of her life. Honestly, this is the first Chinese person I have met that I know that might have had anything close to the kind of upbringing that I had, an upbringing filled with a knowledge of Jesus Christ all of her life.

I just haven’t met that many Christians so I guess I didn’t really consider that there are “Believers” here that have had the privilege of knowing for all of their lives that Jesus was The Christ, the Savior of the world. Sure, it was naïve of me to feel that there wouldn’t be Chinese here that grew up Christian all of their life or to think that this place is so different that there couldn’t be someone and their family that was Christian for many generations. Despite my time here it wasn’t something I had even thought possible, meeting a person here in China that was several generations Christian. I have presumed that she might feel like me in many ways because when you are in the minority compared to those around you, you see things differently, you experience things differently, and you have a different experience from everyone else.

Since she mentioned this unique Chinese perspective I have often wondered how her life might have been different from the billions of other Chinese here. I certainly expect it to be different. I know that my experience as a “Believer” here in China is different than many of the other Expatriates I interact with so I can only assume that her experience was as different as mine seems to be. Since nothing in China fits into my limited understand brought here from the mountains of the western United States, my puzzle pieces always seem to be a mismatch for the puzzle I am working on. I hope that understanding her perspective will give me a better picture of the puzzle so I can find a few more pieces that fit together.

I have wondered how to get her to share some of her story and how she would describe the differences from the many other Chinese I have come to know that not only don’t know Christ but have never even thought about whether they should know. I hoped from the moment that it was determined that we would eat lunch together that I would find a way to get more of her story and perspective.

As I have gotten to know her better these past few weeks, my curiosity of how her life varied from the many other Chinese I have meet is never far from my mind. In the course of conversation at our meal I was able to get her to talk a little about her experience. It wasn’t a long conversation because it wasn’t really a conversation that the other 4 people at the table would enjoy or for the most part even understand why it was a topic of conversation in the first place. I did learn some interesting facts and got her to open up a little about her perspective. I did get the opinion that she had not really thought much about how her experience here in China was different from her friends and the other colleagues I have known for a much longer period.

I hope to continue the conversation and to better understand how things were different for her. I am especially interested in learning that her grandmother became Christian until after the Cultural Revolution. I have read many books over the past four years about how being different during those years would only cause an even greater amount of unwanted attention. She explained that the Christians and likely every other religious person would have gone underground or left the country. The persecution would have been just too much to survive. I can’t imagine being a Christian during that period with all the blatant and encouraged attacks on religious shrines and places because those attacks were not just against inanimate objects but against people too; especially people who didn’t grab their red book and fall in line with the Red Guard. Being a Christian in China during that period must have felt a little like being a Christian in Rome in the early church, not a pleasant experience and likely a surreal environment.

Other things I learned in the discussion in part two. My next post I will call “Water and oil don’t mix”.

A Halloween Costume for me and some of the others that went to the movie dressed up.

A Halloween Costume for me and some of the others that went to the movie dressed up.

The challenge of not fitting in during the Cultural Revolution

The challenge of not fitting in during the Cultural Revolution

One of the propaganda pieces from the Cultural Revolution

One of the propaganda pieces from the Cultural Revolution

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing an interesting post. I’m quite curious as to how the grandmother came upon Christianity and became a follower of Christ during the Cultural Revolution. There must have been a grassroots underground movement started by missionaries back in the 50’s.

    • Good point. I will have to ask her about that.

  2. […] may remember from my previous post “A Changing Perspective” that I have lived in China long enough now that I am having experiences that are changing my […]


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