The “Spiritual Gifts Movement” in War-Torn China Lian Xi

The “Spiritual Gifts Movement” in War-Torn China
Lian Xi
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The “Spiritual Gifts Movement” (Ling’en Yundong) centered in North China and
Manchuria in the early 1930s was a series of largely spontaneous Pentecostal revivals
that attracted tens of thousands of people---possibly more than 100,000---nationwide.1
Such revivals paralleled and sometimes intersected with the more institutionalized pursuit
of “spiritual gifts” found within the True Jesus Church and the Jesus Family, the two
independent sects organized in the 1910s and 1920s respectively. Those groups deserve
separate studies and will not be included here. This paper focuses instead on the
mainstream of the spirited, sometimes grotesque, revivals that erupted in mission
churches in the northern provinces of Shandong and Henan around 1930 but quickly
spilled beyond denominational control, leading in some cases to the formation of small
independent churches that coalesced into Ling’enhui, or The Spiritual Gifts Society.
As we shall see, it was the Pentecostal teachings introduced from America in the
early twentieth century that helped inspire the Spiritual Gifts Movement and imparted to
it an eschatological glow.2 The “Shandong Revival”---as it is sometimes called---gave
vent to an array of ecstatic Chinese expressions of the Christian faith, including
“visions,” dreams, “tongues,” “spiritual” dancing and singing, miraculous healing, and
prophesies, as well as “raptures,” whereby a person in a state of trance briefly ascended
to heaven, sighted ornate buildings, tasted delectable food (especially peaches), and
rested in the bosom of Jesus. (All of these bore an uncanny resemblance to spirit
possession in popular religion in China.3) The revival catapulted many lay Chinese into
positions of spiritual leadership and often circumvented both the authority and the
teachings of Western missionaries. As a result the movement became a major catalyst in
the emergence of indigenous Christianity in modern China.
The Pentecostal revivals also constituted a significant departure from the main
thrust of the Protestant movement in China which, in the first three decades of the
twentieth century, was increasingly marked by the development of Christian institutions,
including missionary enterprises in education and medicine as well as in journalism and
publishing.4 In contrast to the progressive drive of Social Christianity to infuse Protestant
spirit and values into modern Chinese efforts at nation-building, Pentecostals were
gripped by a dark premillennial vision of the impending end of the world and the Second
Coming of Christ.5 In the midst of political chaos and deepening national crisis, including
banditry, civil war, and foreign aggression---and widespread miseries for the common
people---Pentecostalism reinforced a trend in the emerging popular Chinese Christianity
toward apocalyptic gloom and messianic exuberance, both of which were distilled from a
literal reading of the Bible. Despite its short duration and its failure by and large to
formalize the quest for “spiritual gifts” beyond the numerically modest Ling’enhui
churches, the revival movement of the 1930s helped shape a distinct character and
temperament of indigenous Chinese Protestant Christianity that is still visible in the vast
and growing number of underground churches of our time.
Precursors of the Spiritual Gifts Movement
It should be noted that attempts by Protestant converts to channel an earthly flow
of heavenly power predated the coming of Pentecostalism to China. In the late 1840s,
many so-called “God Worshipers”---who would turn into Taiping rebels---apparently had
already harnessed the power of miracles and direct divine revelations. Taiping accounts
testified to numerous faith healings, prophesies, strange utterances while in a state of
trance, as well as ascensions to heaven.6 Most notably, a charcoal burner named Yang
Xiuqing became possessed by the Heavenly Father himself, who spoke through Yang.7
Clearly, the revolutionary energy and millenarian convictions of the Taiping Heavenly
Kingdom---which led to the destruction of some twenty million lives before its fiery end
in 1864---were inseparable from the awesome power of spirit possession that the God
Worshipers commanded. However, the Taiping Christians were unable to fit their
unearthly experience into a sophisticated framework of premillennial eschatology. That
would be the work of the Pentecostals half a century later.
It is now well established that the Pentecostal movement in twentieth-century
China derived its inspiration and much of its basic theology from the Azusa Street
Revival of 1906. Daniel Bays has carefully documented the coming of the Pentecostal
missionaries to China. According to Bays, the first of those missionaries who had
received “Spirit baptism at Azusa” succeeded in establishing their beachhead in the Hong
Kong-Macao area in late 1907. In the North China province of Zhili (Hebei), a separate
base of Pentecostalism was set up in 1908. By 1912, two Chinese-language Pentecostal
newspapers had been founded in China. They became, in Bays’s words, “a crucial
transmission belt for Pentecostal ideas in China.”8 Still, the total number of Pentecostal
missionaries remained small through the 1930s, and their main bases of operation were in
fact far from the hotbed of the revivals. There are no indications that they were directly
connected to or played any significant role in the eruption of movement.9 As it turned
out, it was the native converts who transformed Spirit baptism into a grassroots religious
awakening in Republican China.
Marie Monsen and the Shandong Revival
The Pentecostal movement of the early 1930s began in North China as a result of
a convergence of two streams of revivalism. One of these started within the mission
churches in the late 1920s and was spearheaded in particular by Marie Monsen, a
Norwegian missionary who had no Pentecostal background. The other, much greater in
its influence, can be traced to the formation of the independent Spiritual Gifts Society in
1930 in Feixian in the southern part of Shandong province.10 Thereafter the movement,
which came to be called the Shandong Revival, spread rapidly across the province as well
as other parts of North China and Manchuria.
For the Protestant missionary enterprise in China, the first quarter of the twentieth
century was a “golden age” that saw a rapid expansion of Protestant institutions and of
membership in denominational churches. In 1924, the total number of Protestant
communicants was “well above 400,000,” doubling the membership since the beginning
of the Republic.11 By that time, however, a wave of nationalism was beginning to cause
disruptions in the work of the church. In 1922, the Anti-Christian Movement, fermented
by a general anti-imperialist mood in the country, broke out in Beijing and Shanghai and
swept through much of the country, generating student agitations and boycotts in mission
schools. Popular anti-imperialism surged again in 1925 in the aftermath of the May 30th
Incident. Then, in 1926-27, the Canton-based Guomindang in alliance with the
Communists launched the Northern Expedition against the warlords. As the National
Revolutionary Army pushed toward the lower Yangzi valley, mission properties,
particularly the “British-flagged” ones, were often targeted for anti-imperialist
propaganda and harassment and even violence.12 The predicament of the church was
exacerbated by banditry, “economic destitution,” and widespread famine in the late 1920s
which, according to contemporary church reports, led to “spiritual lethargy” and
“flatness…in the hearts of many.”13
However, in parts of North China, the very frustrations and setbacks that mission
churches experienced spurred the more determined evangelists into action. In rural
Henan, the Norwegian Lutheran missionary Marie Monsen noticed in early 1927 how
“continual bandit attacks” had led to a sharp increase in the membership of an outstation--where some may have fled for relative safety---and an opportunity for revivals.14 For
Monsen, what opened the floodgate of revivalism was her insistence on public
confessions of sins. In spring 1927, she and a fellow missionary were holding a series of
Bible classes in their mission station with a group of sixteen women. One day, following
discussions on infanticide, fourteen of the sixteen women broke down:
“Oh, and I have killed three.”
“And I five....”
“I took the lives of eight of my children.”
“And I of thirteen, but they were all girls.”
With those confessions, Monsen wrote, the “whole group was at my heels
Monsen had found the key, one that was soon used by many others, both
missionaries and Chinese, to unlock the gates of private emotions and let go what the
(American) Southern Baptists’ Shandong missionary Wiley B. Glass would call the
“cattle stampede” of mass revivalism.16 In spring 1929, Monsen survived a 23-day
capture at the hands of pirates off the shores of northern Shandong---an experience that
transfigured her from a little-known missionary into a hero.17 Soon, with the help of her
friends among the Southern Baptists in Chefoo (Yantai), Shandong, Monsen was
organizing revival meetings that featured the hallmark “born again experience” of public
confession of sins.18 According to Gustav Carlberg, president of Lutheran Theological
Seminary in Shekou, Hubei, Monsen was to set a sensational example herself by publicly
“‘descend[ing] into the miry cess-pool of sin’ in connection with the sixth
commandment, against adultery.”19 The Shandong Revival had begun.
In meetings that typically targeted church members and drew large
interdenominational audiences of pastors, evangelists, Christian workers, and students in
mission schools, Monsen eschewed overt emotionalism and preached instead about sins.
For a brief period after 1929, she was the celebrated torchbearer of the awakening in
North China.20 Yet Monsen’s influence, and that of other missionaries, were quickly
overshadowed as the revival movement gathered force and turned into a Pentecostal
storm. One Baptist missionary by the name of I. V. Larson went to Huangxian in
northeastern Shandong in February 1932 to lead a revival at the time of the Chinese New
Year. On the second day of his preaching on sins he was interrupted by a confession.
“There were confessions every day, and Mr. Larson never preached after the first day….
The Holy Spirit conducted the meetings.”21 In the words of one missionary writing from
Chefoo in July 1932, “we find the laymen there preaching in tent and other meetings,
while the missionary and evangelists are free to give their time largely to work
elsewhere.”22 After examining reports on the Shandong Revival, an editorial in the
February 1933 issue of The Missionary Review of the World concluded, “Several
characteristics are noticeable. The Chinese preachers and elders, not foreigners, are the
Ling’enhui and the Spiritual Gifts Movement
One development which helped turn native laymen into leaders of the revivals--and which constituted a significant challenge to the dominance of Western clergy in
mission churches in Shandong---was the formation of Ling’enhui, or the Spiritual Gifts
Society, in Feixian in 1930. In that year, two members of the local Presbyterian church
received “spiritual gifts” at a series of revival meetings led by a Pentecostal from Nanjing
named Ma Zhaorui. The two started proclaiming the work of the Holy Spirit in mission
churches. When divisions regarding Pentecostalism arose, the two started a breakaway
group, which they named “The Independent Chinese Christian Spiritual Gifts Society,”
commonly referred to as the Spiritual Gifts Society. Most of its early membership was
drawn from Presbyterian missions in the area.24
From southern Shandong the Pentecostal outbreak in the form of Ling’enhui
quickly spread to other presbyteries in the province. It also spilled beyond the
Presbyterian churches. By the summer of 1931, Baptist revivals---which, like their
Presbyterian counterparts, were either directly led by Ling’enhui zealots or inspired by
them---had broken forth in the eastern part of Shandong.25 In many areas, local branches
of Ling’enhui were organized. A report in The Chinese Recorder pointed out that by late
1931, the impact had been “felt…over an extensive part of Shantung…. It is the fruit of
the work of indigenous zeal and Chinese zealots,” who were convinced that they had
been “entrusted with the gospel for the end times.”26
In most cases, the “spiritual gifts” revivals took the form of special meetings held
over several days that culminated in a chorus of “tongues,” holy laughter, and howls as
public confessions of sins and cries for mercy led to ecstatic shouts of joy that were
punctuated by the thumping sound of people being “smitten” by the Holy Spirit and
“hurled down on the floor.”27 According to Paul Abbot, chairman of the American
(Northern) Presbyterians’ Shandong Mission,
The meetings are pandemonium.... “Cacophonous praying” splits the ear, wild
wailing and tears...rob the services of all reverence. Carried on often until the
small hours of the morning, they degenerate into exhibitions of “emotional
debauchery” as the devotees abandon themselves to the floods of emotion. The
bodies strained with fasting and loss of sleep react with jerks and the vocal organs
with gibbering. Hysterical laughter makes the gathering uncanny. Many go into
religious swoons and remain in such for long periods, sometimes indeed for
twenty-four hours. A few have died as the result of the emotional strain; not a few
have lost their reason.28
Outside Shandong, the movement was particularly strong in Manchuria, which the
Japanese occupied in September 1931 following the “Mukden Incident.” Within months
of the Japanese takeover, native-led revivals broke out, often in larger towns where
refugees filled the mission churches.29 Like the movement in Shandong, these were
characterized by protracted---sometimes all night---meetings of prayer and confessions
According to one missionary, the revivals “emphasizes the speedy return of the Lord, and
deliverance from this evil world. Wars and rumours of war, brigandage, corruption,
oppression, floods and famine, and widespread ruin are but the signs of His coming!”30
In both Manchuria and North China, the revivals resulted in impressive increases
in both church attendance and monetary giving, and in dramatic changes of lives of
former opium addicts, bandits and the like.31 By the mid-1930s, the Spiritual Gifts
Movement was reported to have “moderated a great deal.”32 At around the same time, a
degree of institutionalization was taking place in Shandong, the center of the movement,
as larger Ling’enhui congregations erected their own church buildings. In 1936, the
General Assembly of the Shandong Chinese Christian Spiritual Gifts Society was formed
in the provincial capital of Jinan. The new body created by-laws and developed an
ecclesiastical system that consisted of unsalaried elders, pastors, evangelists, and
deacons. In general, it did not exercise any real control over Ling’enhui churches in
various parts of the province, but claimed merely to maintain “ecclesiastical contacts”
and a level of cooperation with the latter.33 During the 1940s and early 1950s, Ling’enhui
congregations with predominantly lower-class memberships were still to be found in
several parts in Shandong. By then, the heyday of the movement had already passed.
“Tongues” were no longer much heard, but many continued to be attracted by the relative
spontaneity and egalitarianism in the closely-knit and self-supporting Ling’enhui
churches, which often combined animated worship with varying degrees of communal
living. In 1958, as Mao’s Great Leap Forward got under way, church life throughout
China was disrupted, and all Ling’enhui congregations were forcefully disbanded.34
Outside The Spiritual Gifts Society, Pentecostal excitements had largely tapered off after
the late 1930s, even as legends of the Shandong Revival lived on as testimonies of the
work of the Holy Ghost and continued to inspire visions of spiritual awakenings that were
yet to come.35
The Spiritual Gifts Movement of the 1930s marked a historic point in the
development of the indigenous church in China. By generating spontaneous and vibrant
expressions of the Protestant belief, by thrusting lay Chinese into positions of spiritual
leadership, the revivals turned an alien faith into an authentic and lively Chinese religious
experience. In the midst of rising nationalism, they constituted a challenge to the
authority of Western missionaries that was more vigorous, more genuine, and more
profound than the Three-Self Movement dictated by the Chinese Communist Party in the
early 1950s.36 In addition, as Daniel Bays indicated more than a decade ago (in his study
of the True Jesus Church), Chinese Pentecostalism tapped into the tradition of popular
religion in the country.37 The latter also featured miracles and spirit possession---what
Mircea Eliade has called the “technique of ecstasy”---in which spirit mediums would
incarnate the deity to perform dramatic rituals or ascend to the sky.38 Likewise, at a time
of consuming national crises and widespread suffering, the apocalyptic beliefs of the
Pentecostals echoed the millenarian themes in traditional sectarian religion in Chinese
history, which included the anticipation of a period of great cataclysms followed by the
coming of a perfect, transformed world.39 In this way, the Spiritual Gifts revivals
breathed Chinese life into the religion brought by foreign missionaries. At the turn of the
new millennium, such messianic expectations, often fired by Pentecostal ecstasies,
continue to fuel the underground church movement that is already reshaping popular
religion in China.40
Precise figures for those who were drawn into the “Spiritual Gifts” Movement are impossible to obtain.
The movement never developed a comprehensive organizational structure that compiled statistics.
Denominational records and missionary writings sometimes offer a glimpse of certain aspects of the
movement, which tends to focus more on the sensational expressions of Pentecostalism than on its
statistical composition. See for instance Gustav Carlberg, China in Revival (Rock Island, Ill.: Augustana
Book Concern, 1936), and “Revival Movements in Manchuria: A Symposium.” The Chinese Recorder.
Vol. 64 (December 1933): 774-81. John Sung, who played a prominent role in the North China revivals of
the early 1930s, was reputed to have proselytized close to 100,000, almost 20 percent of the half million
Protestants estimated for 1935. Many of such conversions happened in a Pentecostal setting. I have taken
into consideration this estimate in my effort to gauge the numerical strength of the Pentecostal revivals. The
True Jesus Church and the Jesus Family, though not addressed in this paper, were also inseparable from the
broader Pentecostal movement in the 1930s and must be considered as distinct components of the latter.
See Lian Xi, “The Search for Chinese Christianity in the Republican Period (1912-1949),” Modern Asian
Studies 38, 4 (2004): 851-898.
Pentecostals believed that as the Second Coming of Christ approached, the faithful were experiencing the
“latter rain”---an outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit prophesied by Joel (2:21-32) in the Old
Testament---that corresponded to the “former rain,” the signs and wonders described in Acts of the New
Testament. By and large, Pentecostals combined a conservative stand on the inerrancy of the Bible and a
Puritanical moral code with a theology of dispensational premillennialism, according to which Christ
would return after the fearful Last Days to establish a thousand-year reign on earth. See Sydney E.
Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), pp.
819-21; Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 3.
See China Christian Year Book, 1932-33 (hereafter CCYB), pp. 181-83, 186; Wang Mingdao, “Shengjing
guangliang zhongde ling’en yundong” (The Pentecostal Movement Seen in the Light of the Holy
Scriptures) (1933), in Wang Mingdao wenku (Treasures of Wang Ming Tao) (1977, reprint, Taiwan:
Conservative Baptist Press, 1998), Vol. 4, pp. 93-112. For characteristics of spirit possession in popular
religion in China, see Daniel L. Overmyer et al. “Chinese Religions---The State of the Field, Part II, Living
Religious Traditions: Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Popular Religion.” The Journal of
Asian Studies Vol. 54, No. 2 (May 1995): 381. See also further discussion at the conclusion of this paper.
See Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (New York: MacMillan Co.,
1929), p. 571. Latourette characterizes the period up to 1900 as the “pioneer stage” presided over by
“outstanding figures in missionary circles.” See also Daniel Bays, “The Protestant Missionary
Establishment and the Pentecostal Movement,” In Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism, edited
by Edith L. Blumhofer, Russell P. Spittler, and Grant A. Wacker (Urbana and Chicago: University of
Illinois Press, 1999), pp. 50-51. Bays dates the beginning of this new trend to 1880.
For liberal missionary efforts at promoting social Christianity in China, see Lian Xi, The Conversion of
Missionaries: Liberalism in American Protestant Missions in China, 1907-1932 (University Park, Penn.:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997); Xing Jun, Baptized in the Fire of Revolution: The American
Social Gospel and the YMCA in China, 1919-1937 (Bethlehem, Penn.: Lehigh University Press, 1996).
Hong Rengan, Hong Xiuquan’s cousin and Taiping’s “Shield King,” testified that in the first few years of
the Taiping movement, “innumerable miracles were manifested by God and Jesus Christ. The dumb began
to talk and the insane to recover.” One God Worshiper was able to ascend to heaven, where there was “the
sound of drums and music.” Prophesies of imminent pestilence and devastation and communal fighting
with the locals also abounded. See Hung Jen-kan, “Hung Hsiu-Ch’üan’s Background” (1852 or 1853), in
Franz Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents, 3 vols. (Seattle: University of Washington
Press, 1971), II: 4-5. Anticipating the “tongues” of the later Pentecostals, many God Worshipers would
come forth at prayer sessions and begin to make strange utterances while in the state of being possessed by
spirits, a familiar local form of divination and sorcery. See Michael, The Taiping Rebellion, I: 35-36;
Kojima Shinji, Hong Xiuquan, translated into Chinese by Cheng Zhiping and Luo Yu (Xi’an: Sanqin
chubanshe, 1990), p. 52. According to Kojima Shinji, such spiritualistic mediums were known locally as
“jiangtong.” See also Vincent Y. C. Shih, The Taiping Ideology: Its Sources, Interpretations, and
Influences (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1967), pp. 323, 328. Shih points out that in Canton the
tradition of “boy in a trance” was well known. Among the “wildest...form of divination was the practice of
trance. They often said they were possessed by spirits, and people would then come to them for divination.”
“Appendix I: A Chronology of the Taiping Rebellion,” in Michael, The Taiping Rebellion, III: 1573-
1611; Ibid, I: 35-36. Another God Worshiper assumed the voice of Jesus, Hong Xiuquan’s Elder Brother.
Daniel Bays, “The Protestant Missionary Establishment and the Pentecostal Movement,” In Pentecostal
Currents in American Protestantism, edited by Edith L. Blumhofer, Russell P. Spittler, and Grant A.
Wacker (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), pp. 52-55.
By 1915 the largest Pentecostal mission in China, the Assemblies of God, had a total foreign force of only
thirteen men and women, scattered in the provinces of Zhejiang, Zhili, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shaanxi, Gansu,
Mongolia, Guangdong, and Yunnan. These included the members of the Pentecostal Missionary Union at
work in Gansu and Yunnan, the Apostolic Faith Missionaries in Zhejiang, Zhili, Jiangsu, Shandong,
Shaanxi, and Mongolia, the Pentecostal Missionaries at work in Guangdong and Yunnan; and the members
of the Pentecostal Missionary Union in Gansu and Yunnan. A number of smaller Pentecostal missions were
also mentioned in the “Statistics,” none of which had more than half a dozen foreign evangelists. See
CMYB, 1916, “Statistics of the Work of Protestant Missions in China for the Year 1915.” A small surge in
the number of Pentecostal missionaries was recorded after 1918. Among the twenty-one new missionary
societies that entered China after the end of World War I, Pentecostal groups were among the largest. One
of them, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, counted twelve missionaries by 1925; the other,
Pentecostal Missionaries, boasted of thirty-six in the same year and was the largest among the new
societies. See CCYB, 1926, pp. 151-52. By 1934 the leading Pentecostal body in China, the Assemblies of
God Mission (which likely included a consolidation of various previous Pentecostal groups in China),
counted a total of seventy-five missionaries and a little over 6,000 communicants for the entire country.
Much of its work was based, however, in the remote northwestern province of Gansu, far from the center of
Pentecostal revivals in those days. See Charles L. and C. D. Boynton, eds., Handbook of the Christian
Movement in China under Protestant Auspices (Shanghai, 1936), pp. 40-47. See also C. Stanley Smith,
“Modern Religious Movement,” CCYB, 1934-35, p. 110.
Wang Shenyin and Yang Chengjing, “Linyi diqu Jidujiao fazhang gaishu” (A General Account of the
Development of Christianity in the Linyi Area). Cangshan wenshi ziliao (Selected Literary and Historical
Materials of Cangshan [County, Shandong Province]), No. 6 (1988): 182. See also Tao Feiya, “A Christian
Utopia in China: A Historical Study of the Jesus Family (1921-1952)” (Ph.D. diss., The Chinese University
of Hong Kong, 2001), pp. 75-76.
Edwin Marx, “The Church in China,” CMYB (1924), p. 91.
Jonathan T’ien-en Chao (Zhao Tian’en), “The Chinese Indigenous Church Movement, 1919-1927: A
Protestant Response to The Anti-Christian Movements in Modern China” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation,
University of Pennsylvania, 1986), p. 204-9.
Frank J. Rawlinson and Cheng Jingyi as quoted in Gustav Carlberg, China in Revival (Rock Island, Ill.:
Augustana Book Concern, 1936), p. 21.
Marie Monsen, The Awakening: Revival in China (1927-1937), a Work of the Holy Spirit ([1959] Trans.
from the Norwegian by Joy Guinness. London: China Inland Mission, 1961), pp. 35-36. Monsen joined the
Norwegian Lutheran Mission, “Misjonssambandet” in Norwegian, at the turn of the twentieth century. Her
sailing for China was briefly delayed by Boxer Uprising of 1900. Then, shortly after 1900, she arrived in
China as an educational missionary. She was posted to Nanyang, Henan, where the Canadian missionary
Jonathan Goforth had been attacked and wounded by the Boxers in 1900. Monsen was thrilled by the
Korean Revival of 1907 and had wanted to go there but was thwarted by the lack of funds. See Ibid., pp.
Ibid., pp. 39-42.
Eloise Glass Cauthen, Higher Ground: Biography of Wiley B. Glass Missionary to China (Nashville, TN:
Broadman Press, 1978), p. 154. Written by the daughter of Wiley Glass and presented as his
“autobiography,” the book was based on Glass’s correspondence with the Foreign Mission Board and
family letters as well as on notes of interviews with Glass.
Gustav Carlberg, China in Revival (Rock Island, Ill.: Augustana Book Concern, 1936), pp. 71-83.
Monsen’s story was published in a booklet called We Are Escaped by the CIM in 1931.
Monsen, The Awakening, pp. 72, 77-78, 81-85.
Carlberg, China in Revival, pp. 71-83.
Ibid., pp. 7-11, 16. Monsen also led a revival among missionaries and church leaders at a summer
conference in Jinan, Shandong, in 1930.
Cauthen, Higher Ground, p. 152.
Ibid., p. 37.
“A Spiritual Movement in China,” The Missionary Review of the World. Vol. 56 (February 1933): 68.
Wang Shenyin and Yang Chengjing, “Linyi diqu Jidujiao fazhang gaishu” (A General Account of the
Development of Christianity in the Linyi Area), Cangshan wenshi ziliao (Selected Literary and Historical
Materials of Cangshan [County, Shandong Province]), No. 6 (1988): 182. Yang Rulin, one of the two
founders, was a Presbyterian minister. The full Chinese name of the society was Zhonghua Yesujiao
Ling’en Zilihui.
Cauthen, Higher Ground, p. 150.
The Chinese Recorder, Vol. 62 (December 1931): 767-68. See also “The New Spiritual Movement in
Shantung,” The Chinese Recorder, Vol. 63 (October 1932): 654, which mentioned that the Ling’enhui
movement “has entered existing churches and attracted [those] from outside” the Protestant community.
See letter from a missionary in Laizhou, Shandong, quoted in Mary K. Crawford, The Shantung Revival
(Shanghai: The China Baptist Publication Society, 1933), p. 41. See also Cauthen, Higher Ground, p. 162.
CCYB, 1932-33, pp. 181-83, 186. For further information on the Spiritual Gifts Society, see Wang
Mingdao, “Shengjing guangliang zhongde ling’en yundong” (The Pentecostal Movement Seen in the Light
of the Holy Scriptures) (1933), in Wang Mingdao wenku (Treasures of Wang Ming Tao) (1977, reprint,
Taiwan: Conservative Baptist Press, 1998), Vol. 4, pp. 93-112; Shandong shenzhi: shaoshu minzu zhi,
zongjiao zhi (Chronicles of Shandong Province: Minorities and Religion), Vol. 78 (Shandong renmin
chubanshe, 1997), p. 619; Tao Feiya, “A Christian Utopia in China,” p. 76.
Bates, “Gleanings from the Manuscripts,” pp. 79-80; “Revival Movements in Manchuria: A
Symposium.” The Chinese Recorder. Vol. 64 (December 1933): 780. Rev. Laurence D. M. Wedderburn in
Hailung was among those who noted that many country churches in Manchuria had been closed as people
fled into larger towns for safety---“the countryside being in the power of robber bands.” In those larger
towns, according to him, chapels were easily filled. See Ibid., p. 778.
“Revival Movements in Manchuria,” pp. 774, 781. The missionary was J. McWhirter.
The Chinese Recorder, Vol. 62 (December 1931): 772; The Chinese Recorder, Vol. 64 (December 1933):
778; “A Spiritual Movement in China,” p. 67.
CCYB, Vol. 19 (1934-35): 99.
Sang Xujiu and Sun Bolong, “Shandong Zhonghua Jidujiao Ling’enhui zonghui shijie” (An Introduction
to the History of the General Assembly of Shandong Chinese Christian Spiritual Gifts Society),
unpublished article, n.d. (1980s), Jinan, Shandong; Shandong shenzhi: shaoshu minzu zhi, zongjiao zhi
(Chronicles of Shandong Province: Minorities and Religion), Vol. 78 (Shandong renmin chubanshe, 1997),
pp. 619-20.
Tong Zhishan, “Jinan shi dongjiao Lingxiuyuan (Jidujiaotu Lingxiuyuan) shiliao cankao” (Historical
Documents for Reference Concerning the Court for Spiritual Retreat [Christians’ Court for Spiritual
Retreat] in the Eastern Suburb of the City of Jinan) (Unpublished manuscript, June 19, 1985, Jinan,
Shandong); interviews with Pei Yufang, surviving member of Lingxiuyuan, Jinan, Shandong, October 6,
2003, with Luo Xingsan, former head of Yantai Three-Self Committee, Yantai, October 12, 2003, and with
Yang Zhisheng, former member of Yantai Jesus Family, Yantai, October 12, 2003. According to Tong, a
communitarian Spiritual Retreat Compound (“Lingxiuyuan”) was established outside the city of Jinan in
1936 under the auspices of the General Assembly of the Shandong Chinese Christian Spiritual Gifts
Society. Modeled on the Jesus Family, Lingxiuyuan emerged as a scaled-down communal society that
provided a 60-mu (or 10-acre) haven for those seekers of spiritual gifts who often came “carrying only a
mouth on their two shoulders.” Its dozens of members were organized into occupational departments
including farming, tailoring, carpentry, and masonry, and toiled to make the community self-sufficient.
Lingxiuyuan also adopted a Jesus Family slogan that trumpeted its egalitarianism: “The denominational
boundary has been erased; the hierarchical order is removed.” In Yantai, some twenty members of a local
Ling’enhui congregation also belonged to the Yantai Jesus Family.
Evidence for the profound influence of the Shandong Revival is most often found in oral histories of
surviving church leaders and activists from the 1930s. Some published records are also available. See for
instance C. L. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival (Dallas, TX: Evangelism Division, Baptist General
Convention of Texas, 1971); David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and
the Global Balance of Power (Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2003), pp. 59, 74.
Some missionaries at the time already pointed out the nationalistic elements in the revivals. See “Revival
Movements in Manchuria: A Symposium,” p. 776, which quotes a missionary by the name of T. Ralph
Morton as saying: “A ‘revival’ is almost always partly a protest. It is the protest that gives it the initial
impetus…. It is protest against foreign theology, against the domination of foreigners and foreign-trained
men…. So the ‘revival’ becomes a campaign and the enemy is not paganism but the foreigner and his
colleagues. The desire is to drive out of power all those of whom they do not approve or, if necessary, to
start an independent church. At the moment it is difficult to see more than protest and the love of power in
such ‘revivals’…. Patriotism is now as a ship without an anchor.” See also “The New Spiritual Movement
in Shantung,” p. 654. For the shallowness in the CCP-orchestrated attempts to nurture an independent
Chinese church, see the many documents in Francis Price Jones, ed. Documents of the Three-Self
Movement: Source Materials for the Study of the Protestant Church in Communist China (New York, NY:
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., 1963), which includes Wang Mingdao’s famous
castigation of the Three-Self Movement entitled “We, Because of Faith.”
Daniel Bays, “Indigenous Protestant Churches in China, 1900-1937: A Pentecostal Case Study.” In
Indigenous Response to Western Christianity, edited by Steven Kaplan (New York: New York University
Press, 1995), pp. 128, 137. In that study Bays underscored the “correspondence” between the
Pentecostalism embraced by the True Jesus Church and the essentials of the “popular sectarian” religious
tradition in China.
Mircea Eliade, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1987), vol. 13, p. 202. For
general characteristics of traditional popular religion in China, see C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese
Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of Their Historical Factors
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1961), pp. 354-55; Daniel L. Overmyer, Religions of China:
The World as a Living System (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1986), p. 52; Jean Chesneaux,
Secret Societies in China in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, trans. by Gillian Nettle (Ann Arbor,
Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1971), pp. 65-66.
For millenarian beliefs in popular sectarian religion in Chinese history, see Daniel L. Overmyer, Precious
Volumes: An Introduction to Chinese Sectarian Scriptures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
(Cambridge [Mass.] and London: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 4; Susan Naquin, Millenarian
Rebellion in China: The Eight Trigrams Uprising of 1813 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), p.
For the Pentecostal thrust and millennial themes in contemporary popular Chinese Christianity, see
related articles in Bridge: Church Life in China Today published since the 1990s. See also Aikman, Jesus in
Beijing, pp. 81-82; Tony Lambert, The Resurrection of the Chinese Church (Wheaton, IL: Overseas
Missionary Fellowship, 1994), pp. 163-67; Lian Xi, “The Search for Chinese Christianity in the Republican
Period (1912-1949).” Modern Asian Studies 38 (October 2004): 896-98.