Shanghai Faithful

Shanghai Faithful : Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family

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Within the next decade, China could be home to more Christians than any country in the world. Through the 150-year saga of a single family, this book vividly dramatizes the remarkable religious evolution of the world's most populous nation. Shanghai Faithful is both a touching family memoir and a chronicle of the astonishing spread of Christianity in China. Five generations of the Lin family-buffeted by history's crosscurrents and personal strife-bring to life an epoch that is still unfolding. A compelling cast-a poor fisherman, a doctor who treated opium addicts, an Ivy League-educated priest, and the charismatic preacher Watchman Nee-sets the book in motion. Veteran journalist Jennifer Lin takes readers from remote nineteenth-century mission outposts to the thriving house churches and cathedrals of today's China. The Lin family-and the book's central figure, the Reverend Lin Pu-chi-offer witness to China's tumultuous past, up to and beyond the betrayals and madness of the Cultural Revolution, when the family's resolute faith led to years of suffering. Forgiveness and redemption bring the story full circle.
With its sweep of history and the intimacy of long-hidden family stories, Shanghai Faithful offers a fresh look at Christianity in China-past, present, and future.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 332 pages
  • 158 x 237 x 23mm | 581g
  • Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 3 Maps; 37 Halftones, black and white
  • 1442256931
  • 9781442256934
  • 573,775

Table of contents

List of Characters Note on Spellings and Reporting Introduction Prologue: Shanghai, 1956 Part I. Foreign Ghosts 1 Cook: Fujian Province, Mid-1800s 2 Doctor: Fujian Province, 1890 3 Firstborn: Fuzhou, 1907 Part II. Patriots 4 Light and Truth: Shanghai, 1913 5 A Modern Man: Aboard SS Nanking, 1918 6 Second Daughter: Fuzhou, 1920 7 Running Dog: Fuzhou, 1924 8 Alma Mater: Fuzhou, 1928 Part III. A House Divided 9 Watchman Nee: Shanghai, 1932 10 Island of Shanghai: Shanghai, 1937 11 Bund to Boardwalk: Shanghai, 1949 Part IV. New Order 12 American Wolves: Shanghai, 1950 13 Missing: Shanghai, 1955 14 Prelude: Shanghai, 1957 Part V. Bad Elements 15 Lane 170: Shanghai, 1966 16 Yellow Music: Shanghai, 1968 17 Barefoot Doctor: Jilin Province, 1969 18 Passages: Shanghai, 1971 19 Father, Hello! Shanghai, 1972 20 Lost: Jilin Province, 1973 Part IV. Revival 21 Faith: Fuzhou, 2015 Epilogue Acknowledgments Notes Bibliography
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Review quote

Lin, a former journalist, weaves the history of her family-through success and persecution, family relationships and separation-into the wider history of 19th- and 20th-century China, with a focus on the role and influence of Christianity. She begins with the conversion of her Chinese great-great-grandfather to Christianity and traces his descendants through her grandfather, a minister educated in the United States, and her father, a Philadelphia-based doctor. Lin's family story is unique, providing a view of recent and contemporary Chinese life that differs from the standard histories, and it's emotionally compelling, particularly when she describes the years Lin's father spent separated from his parents and siblings with little insight into their experiences of the Cultural Revolution and emigrating to the U.S. Lin writes with a novelist's narrative flair and grace and a historian's fine eye for detail, and as she sketches the personalities, dreams, and life circumstances of her relatives, her thorough research and compassion for her subjects are evident. Scholars and lay readers interested in China will enjoy this vital work. Publishers Weekly, Starred Review Some authors find the world in a teacup, but author Lin finds it, instead, in a single Chinese family, hers, the Lins, whose fortunes and religious evolution she follows over the course of five generations that, together, epitomize the rise of Christianity in China. A former reporter, Lin has done prodigious research to limn the history of her family and, by extension, that of China, too. She demonstrates an extraordinary gift for verisimilitude, bringing her material to vivid life as she begins her story in the last quarter of the nineteenth century with Old Lin, a fisherman-turned-cook for Anglican missionaries. From that humble beginning, the family's story is one of upward mobility. Old Lin's grandson and the author's grandfather, for example, attended the prestigious St. John's University in Shanghai on his way to becoming an academic, clergyman, and prolific writer; his brother-in-law Watchman Nee was an even more celebrated minister with a wide following. Together, the author argues, the two men built a religious foundation that-despite the terrible depredations of the Cultural Revolution-was sturdy enough to support the contemporary religious revival in China. Richly detailed and informed by fascinating characters, Lin's story is altogether a compelling and inspiring one that is sure to interest a wide range of readers. Booklist, Starred Review A Christian odyssey through three centuries of Chinese history. Family stories have a way of unfolding gradually, in bits and pieces, and former longtime Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent Lin's is no exception. The author grew up hearing occasional stories from her Shanghainese father, a preoccupied neurosurgeon, about his father, a minister, along with another relative, an uncle 'with the curious name of Watchman Nee' who was China's version of Billy Graham. Only after the post-Cultural Revolution detente were she and her family permitted to visit, and only then did the official repression of Chinese Christians begin to lift somewhat. Lin recounts the origins of the faith there with the arrival of European missionaries, their proselytizing coming at about the time that true opium, and not just that of the masses, was being imported in quantity-and often leading to a view among Chinese that there should be 'no distinction between missionary and merchant.' In later years, writes the author, the communist state attempted to co-opt Christian churches with state-appointed clerics, when it wasn't outright persecuting Christians to begin with. Lin traces the story of her family's increasing involvement with organized Christianity over the years, finally leading to Watchman Nee, who early on in the communist era was accused of espionage and being an 'economic criminal' because of his family's bourgeois pharmaceutical business. By Lin's account, he did what he could to work within the boundaries of the state's evolving religious policy, sometimes, Lin reports, 'coyly.' The author's portraits of family members and other Shanghainese and their many difficulties during the worst years of the repression are affecting. As for the state of Christianity in China now, she expresses guarded optimism; though Watchman Nee's works are still banned, she writes that one pastor told her the old repression would be 'impossible' because 'there are too many believers.' An useful, interesting book for students of modern Chinese history and of missionary Christianity. Kirkus Through exhaustive research and primary interviews, Lin debuts with this fascinating story of her family, uncovering her paternal side's lengthy adherence to the Christian faith. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Lin grew up knowing little about her relatives in China. However, as she grew older and became more aware of the tribulations of her Chinese relatives, she decided to delve into this history, exploring revelations of both a personal and spiritual nature. China's tumultuous last two centuries witnessed the rise of imperialism, burgeoning nationalism (accompanied with xenophobia), and recent communism (the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 saw even further measures taken against foreign beliefs and systems). Yet, the deeply planted seed of Christian faith remained strong and flourished within Lin's family. Interviewing her distant kin was often a challenge as many were uncomfortable talking about past troubles. Consequently, this work is an intriguing interlocution between memory and fact. VERDICT Lin's family serves as an apt proxy for all Chinese Christians whose faith endured during a time of great censure. This book serves as a solid primer on the subject as there have been few books which have examined this little known history. Library Journal This panoramic, true story spans thousands of miles, about 160 years, two continents, and myriad cultural upheavals and human lives. But Jennifer Lin's Shanghai Faithful would not glow as it does unless it were so well told... Shanghai Faithful lives, with people you care about, consequences that hurt, real tension and relief... To paraphrase Desmond Tutu, there is no future without forgiveness. Note that word in the subtitle of this grand book, a word that reminds us, on a huge scale, of what faith can do for people and what people will do for faith. The Philadelphia Inquirer [Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family] is a compelling narrative covering five generations of the Lin family in China. Lin's book helps explain what shaped the mentality of Chinese Christians... Anyone interested in modern Chinese (Christian) history, society, and culture and seeks to grasp what shaped the Chinese mentality in general must read this family odyssey. For Lin, her family lineage and her 'distance' from China, makes her the ideal author to present a precise and valuable addition to the study of Chinese Christian theology in twentieth century. Reading Religion Only an experienced and dogged journalist like Jennifer could possibly investigate and write such a thoroughly gripping historical personal narrative. I was with her every step of the way-not just because my parents were born in the Shanghai area but because I shared with her so very much. You must join her for this worthwhile journey! -- Connie Chung, television journalist Through her own family history, Jennifer Lin has authored a beautifully written elegy to that generation of foreign-educated, humanist, and often Christian Chinese who had begun to form a cosmopolitan class in China that was comfortable on both sides of the East/West divide and might have successfully led China from its cultural traditionalism into modernity. Instead, this class was savagely persecuted and then erased by Mao and his revolution, thus creating tens of thousands of family stories as heartrendingly tragic as this one. At the same time, China was denied a whole generation of its best-educated and most able professionals, teachers, scientists, businessmen, artists, and leaders, creating a national tragedy of such titanic proportions that the country has still not recovered from it. -- Orville Schell, director, Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society This masterful biography is a loving and skillfully written portrait of the Lin family, spanning five generations. The author also provides an authentic survey of the historical events that overtook the family members during these decades. I recommend this book highly for both the novice and the 'old China hand.' -- Daniel Bays, professor emeritus, Calvin College, and author of A New History of Christianity in China Jennifer Lin has written a dramatic, wide-ranging history of modern China, focusing on the lives of her grandfather and his brother-in-law, Watchman Nee, to explain how Western Christianity became a Chinese religion. Her riveting account of their trials and tribulations offers an illuminating perspective on China's ongoing struggle to create a new national and cultural identity. Scholars as well as general readers interested in religion, politics, and the history of China's relations with the United States will find Lin's story full of valuable insights. -- Terry Lautz, Harvard-Yenching Institute, and author of John Birch: A Life In revealing the truth of how her family helped spread Christianity in China, Jennifer Lin weaves a captivating, poignant story about the nature and power of belief. This epic study shows the high price that can be paid by those who insist on holding fast to faith and family at a time when everything is at risk. -- Jeff Gammage, author of China Ghosts: My Daughter's Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood This engrossing book offers rich insights on faith and loyalty in a Christian family in Shanghai. Jennifer Lin's compelling narrative, often immensely emotional, will be of great interest for anyone who wishes to know about the everyday struggles of Chinese Christians as they endured persecution and suffering during the most hostile years of Mao's rule. -- Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, Pace University Capturing the epic sweep of a turbulent Chinese century through a personal lens, Jennifer Lin tells a poignant, riveting, and deeply researched tale of her family's journey of faith, from the nineteenth-century Chinese villager who first encountered Western missionaries to the twentieth-century Christian leaders-one working within the system and one pushing for something new. Persecuted under Communist rule, each left a mark still felt in China today, where ever more people seek something to believe in. -- Mary Kay Magistad, creator and host of "Whose Century Is It?" podcast, former NPR and PRI China correspondent Shanghai Faithful is an extraordinary book based on thorough research and an intensely personal quest for understanding. Jennifer Lin's family history is vividly told and packed with insights. It provides a unique window into the complicated and often painful history of Protestant Christianity in modern China. Her account traces the Chinese Christian experience across five generations, from early missionary encounters through the nationalist currents of the 1920s and the attacks on Christianity during the Maoist decades. It centers around the figures of her grandparents, the Anglican minister Lin Pu-chi and his wife Ni Guizhen, the sister of the influential Chinese indigenous church leader Watchman Nee (Ni Tuosheng). I have learned much from reading this gripping and deeply moving book. -- Ryan Dunch, University of Alberta Jennifer Lin's Shanghai Faithful is an extraordinary story about a family in a rapidly changing world. Its wide-ranging narrative links family members on two continents and covers more than a century of tumultuous change. Lin's research is meticulous and combines archival precision, sophisticated historiographical framing, and memorable storytelling. I will surely be assigning Shanghai Faithful in my own teaching, because its story brings to life a remarkable era in Chinese, American, and global history. -- Robert Andre LaFleur, Beloit College One of the most impressive books I've read in a long time. [Jennifer Lin] is an incredible writer... I couldn't put it down! -- Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man
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About Jennifer Lin

Jennifer Lin is an award-wining journalist and former reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. In a distinguished thirty-year career, she served as the paper's New York financial correspondent, Washington foreign affairs reporter, and Asia bureau chief, based in China.
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Rating details

37 ratings
4.48 out of 5 stars
5 62% (23)
4 27% (10)
3 8% (3)
2 3% (1)
1 0% (0)
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