Three photos from this Easter weekend in Qingdao that just happen to represent three different kinds of Chinese engagement with Christianity. Easter in Chinese is “Resurrection Festival” 复活节。
1. Three-Self Good Friday
At the local Three-Self Patriotic Church‘s Good Friday service. Three-Self churches can seem stodgy in many ways, as if the Party-mandated international isolation and societal marginalization has frozen in time an imported 1930′s Western fundamentalist style of Christianity by strangling its development. But things are changing, as anyone who spends time at their local Three-Self can tell you. Even if the outward forms — music, facilities, teaching, etc. — seem under-resourced at times, this little church is packed every Friday night. This last Friday, half the attendees and the preacher were in tears by the end.
I’m using this picture to represent China’s traditional, legal, urban Christianity.
2. Good Luck Crucifix
A crucifix hanging from the rear-view mirror of our taxi on Easter Sunday morning, next to a typical luck charm (drivers usually hang folk Buddhist, Daoist, even Maoist luck charms). This driver had no idea at all what the crucifix represented; he just vaguely associated it with something positive, saying he doesn’t care about the meanings of any of that stuff but just hangs whatever gives him a nice feeling. (How a miniature scale model of someone being tortured to death could give anyone good vibes — especially if they aren’t aware of the greater hopeful story from which that image comes and what it’s meant to represent — is beyond me.) Have to admit, I was not expecting to see that hanging in the taxi on Easter morning.
I’m using this picture to represent the millions upon millions of Chinese who have zero background knowledge of Christianity, but who cannot avoid encountering it (at least in small, token ways) in today’s China.
3. Jesus Car
A Christian car that shows up in our neighbourhood every couple weeks, including today (Easter Sunday afternoon). What they’re trying to communicate by using English I don’t know (status, education, cosmopolitanism?). They’ve got a cross glued to the dash, where traditional charms like Buddhist prayer wheels often go. But if you look closer you’ll see a key detail that marks them as a new breed of Chinese Christian: their Chinese Bible verse is not written in the traditional, beloved, archaic-sounding KJV-esque translation that 99.99% of China’s churches are unwilling to part with (something that annoys this language student to no end, even though I sympathize). It’s written in the latest translation (Chinese Standard Bible / 中文标准译本), meaning they’re probably part of a next generation of Chinese Christians who are willing to break with cherished traditions.
Even though most of them don’t advertize on the side of their cars, I’m using this picture to represent the newer breed of Chinese Christian, who are typically urban, wealthy, educated and trendy, and whose newly-emerging churches represent an additional third branch of Chinese Christianity along side the Three-Self and traditional unregistered church legacies.
More about Easter in China:
- Easter art from Chinese artists
- Happy “Resurrection Festival” 2012!
- Christianity in China (topic)
More about Chinese good luck charms:
- Mao the saint / icon / bodhisattva / talisman / fuzzy dice
- Chairman Mao the Daoist immortal, and his Bodhisattva friends
- Crossing Cultures & the Meanings of Things
- Chinese Folk Religion (topic)