The Forbidden City, Beijing

MISSIONARY: A Historical Study of the Entry of the Gospel into China

Yuan Zhiming with Chen Shangyu. MISSIONARY: A Historical Study of the Entry of the Gospel into China. (Book and three DVD set in English and Mandarin) China Soul for Christ Foundation, 2016.

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ISSIONARY presents an engaging and wide-ranging history of the Western missionary contribution to China’s all-around development—spiritual and material. This five-year film project has resulted in a stunning presentation of archival photographs and historical film footage. Images follow each other in a seamless pattern with excellent voice narration in English as well as Chinese. This is a most worthy follow-on to earlier valuable film contributions by China Soul for Christ.

Book One: Knock scans centuries from the legendary St. Thomas in the 1st century, through the Nestorians after the 7th century, and the later Roman Catholic experience up to the early Qing dynasty. The rich film and photo presentation, even on such ancient topics, is quite impressive. The beginning briefly mentions the Taoist tradition of seeking Heaven as one example of the universal search by man for God. Commentary by several leading Roman Catholic experts on China is both informational and interesting. The film handles very well the long-time controversies over the Nestorian presence in China and debates over Confucian rites that ended the Catholic presence in China for a century.

Book Two: Plant focuses on Protestant pioneers from 1807–1900. Especially effective is the use of maps and individuals’ photos to show the gradual entry by pioneers into every province from coast to inland and to the farthest frontiers. The story is told in a blink of the eye. Details of illness and deaths of family and colleagues, especially women and infants in childbirth, is a moving tribute to the many personal sacrifices.

Book Three: Shine details the many Protestant contributions, 19th century–1949, in modern education, culture and sports, diplomacy, women’s rights, charity and relief aid, medicine and healthcare. The clever use of photos of institutions highlights the many “firsts” in each field. It underscores the main theme of gratitude Chinese people as a whole owe to the mission era. This section would have been strengthened by commentary from more than just a few of many possible experts.

I highly recommend Missionary for education within and well beyond Christian circles. The central theme of God’s everlasting love for the Chinese people is a message relevant to all nations. Countering anti-missionary propaganda by highlighting the positive, the set is not a critical academic product for specialists. While it is largely quite accurate, the footage does not adequately cover missionary dependence on collaboration with Chinese Christians, for example. The accompanying book is basically a film script with some photos that naturally lack the visual impact and rich details of the film. The book and film contain only a short list of archival sources, although the film includes a long list of acknowledgements. With very few shortcomings, this valuable contribution is available for reasonable cost on Amazon or at www.chinasoul.org.

Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcrPlWAnWlI&t=21s.