Indiginization

Sep 25, 2009 No Comments by

Ok…so while I am getting ready to discuss post-modern Japanese societal trends in the Otaku world next week, I have another project that has also captured my imagination. I’ve been helping prepare the He Qi exhibit coming to Saint Louis at Concordia Seminary in mid-October. Since it’s to be housed in the Concordia Historical Institute, we wanted to see what kind of artifacts were on had that might enhance the He Qi exhibit and give some more background on China and its encounter with Christianity. Take a look:

The posters included in this video are examples of how the Christian message was portrayed in China in 1926-1928. The Christian message of the new self and the new man is shown on the first poster, where one man, on the right, is wearing tattered clothes with all sorts of evil things and sinful behaviors written on them. On the left is a man wearing new clothes that are radiant and covered in clean characters that denote Christian virtues and outcomes of the Christian life, such as love, (It is interesting that 愛 [ai], love, and 仁 [ren], the Confucian value that equates to lovingkindness or “human-hearted compassion” are combined in one of the circles–right over the heart of the man) joy, patience, peace, etc. Between the two men is a cross, and at the foot of the cross is the discarded clothing representing the old self of the joyful man wearing the new clothes.

In the second poster, a man is hard at work in the fields. Except, instead of farming the soil, he is raking earthly possessions and all sorts of junk. A heavenly hand is proffering a crown, and the text on the poster says, “A raised (crowned) head is a blessing/wealth” accompanied by the text “Set your mind on heavenly things, do not set your mind on earthly things.” It is striking to see familiar Christian messages wearing indigenous Chinese clothes in such a folk-art style.

Historically, this was a period of transition from the republican government under Sun Yat-Sen’s leadership (he died in 1925) to the new government of the Guomindang, lead by Chiang Kai-Shek. Communists were soon to be on the run as GMD forces attacked them and pushed them out in 1927. By 1928, China was “unified” nominally under Chiang’s regime. This was still a period of uncertainty and turmoil…yet the Christian presence was there, sharing the peaceful message…the same message that He Qi wants to share with the world today.

China, Christianity, confucianism, Folk Religion, LCMS

About the author

I'm a visiting professor at Bowdoin College. I teach, write, and discuss Japanese popular culture, language, literature and other topics on East Asia.