News & Insights

Christianity in China- In the Presence of a Pioneering Protestant Minister

7th December 2018.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, to be included in the forthcoming Tennants’ Book Sale is a previously unseen sketch of a man whose words had huge influence on millions of lives, though his face is hardly known.

Found tucked away in a beautiful leather bound album entitled ‘Original Sketches at Sea and on Shore 1836-1843’, this intimate drawing shows the first ordained Chinese Protestant minister Liang Fa (1789-1855) seated relaxing in a parlour with his wife and grandson.

Liang Fa (also known under other names) was born in a village in Guangdong to a poor family. At an early age he became apprenticed to a printer, carving characters onto blocks, which in 1811/12 brought him into contact with the Protestant Missionary Robert Morrison (1782-1834), who was attempting to publish a Chinese translation of the New Testament. In 1814 Liang Fa was baptised by Morrison, becoming the second Chinese convert.

The Chinese authorities believed Christianity a threat, prohibiting the publishing of Christian works in Chinese, but this didn’t deter the steadily growing congregation, though it led to confrontation and persecution. In 1827 Liang Fa became the first Chinese fully ordained Minister and soon published his own tract ‘Good Words to Admonish the Age’ which would have massive consequences.

Amongst the many readers was Hong Xiuquan, another convert from a remote village, who became heavily influenced by Christian teachings and founded the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Southern China, in direct opposition to the Imperial state, claiming to be Christ’s younger brother. This led to 14 years of civil war, generally known as the Taiping Rebellion, which ended with their defeat and a predicted death toll of 20-30 million civilians and soldiers.

This sketch shows Liang Fa and family on the 1st December 1842, only a few months after the end of the First Opium War between China and Britain ended, and eight years before the cataclysm that was the Taiping Rebellion. Drawn by a visitor travelling aboard the Honourable East India Company’s ship Inglis, this charming insight into the personal life of a major figure in the spread of Christianity is both poignant and of historical importance.

Bound alongside the sketch are numerous watercolours and pen & ink works from seven years of travels, showing scenes of India before the Mutiny, various views at sea and Chinese life during a tumultuous time. The album has an auction estimate of £2,000-4,000, for further details please contact us on 01969 623780.

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