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Covert and Overt Activism: Christianity in 1950s Coastal China

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The phenomenal growth of Catholic and Protestant churches—both officially-registered Three-Self patriotic churches and unofficial house churches—in China has drawn attention to the underlying dynamics of Chinese Christianity. This article draws on archival research and ethnographic findings to investigate the interactions between the officials and Christians in the coastal regions of Shantou (Guangdong province) and Wenzhou (Zhejiang province) during the 1950s and 1960s. The Chaozhou-speaking Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians in Shantou succeeded in transcending sectarian boundaries and helped each other to cope with political pressure. The Seventh-day Adventists in Wenzhou did likewise by organizing clandestine house gatherings with other Protestants. They held onto their faith, continued their worship activities on Saturday, and maintained a distinct, though not independent, identity under the broad spectrum of Protestantism. These local stories show that as a collective force, Chinese Christians not only employed a variety of tactics to help each other but also reinvented congregational, kinship and cross-regional networks as conduits for pursuing religious goals. Their covert and overt activism highlight the need to combine archival research and fieldwork to assess the revival of Christianity in present-day China.

Affiliations: 1: City Seminary of New York chui-shan.chow@alum.ptsem.edu ; 2: Department of History and Confucius Institute, Pace University jlee@pace.edu

10.3868/s020-005-016-0034-9
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/content/journals/10.3868/s020-005-016-0034-9
2016-01-12
2017-11-19

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