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.
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 leadersone 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.
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.
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.
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.
Thismasterful biography is a loving and skillfully writtenportrait of the Lin family, spanning five generations.The authoralso provides an authentic survey of the historical events thatovertookthe family members during these decades. I recommend this book highly for both the novice and the ‘old China hand.’
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.
Jennifer Lin has produced a well-researched and compelling book focusing on her family’s history in the Church in China. Through previously unearthed material Lin provides a unique insight into the history of the Christian Church in China as she details the recent history of the Lin family.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History
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 waynot 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!
As someone who knew little to nothing about Chinese history, I found Shanghai Faithful to be extremely comprehensible with beautiful imagery. The author creates a family timeline that connects perfectly with the historical background.... Shanghai Faithful is both an educational and invigorating read.... [I]t’s an impressive compilation of one family’s stories, which represent the struggles faced by thousands of Christian families in China.
Jennifer Lin, in her moving family history, Shanghai Faithful, uses the experiences of her grandfather, Rev Lin Pu-chi, to recount the extraordinary route Christianity took over five generations, from remote missionary churches in the 19th century to cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s and right up to and past the Cultural Revolution. There are stories of oppression and courage, but also a rueful sense of opportunities lost, of a liberal and humane community persecuted and ultimately exiled for their beliefs.
If you are at all interested in the historical development of the church in China, this book is a must-read.
A superb book, one that could well serve as an introduction to modern Chinese history and to the history of Protestantism in China.... Jennifer Lin [has] done extremely careful and painstaking research in archives, general reading, and oral interviews over several decades.... [She] is a marvelous storyteller! Without making anything upall the conversations and even the inner thoughts of the characters come from written records and eyewitness accountsshe has given us an account that is rich, nuanced, complex, realistic, compelling, and very inspiring.
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.
[Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family] is a compelling narrative covering five generations of the Lin family in China.
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
Jennifer Lin’s ties to the characters fill the reader with empathy, leaving the reader feeling as if they themselves are standing on the Bund in Shanghai with Pastor Lin, watching his sons sail away, knowing that this would be their last goodbye. Jennifer Lin is a storyteller.... Tales like that of the Lin family deserve to be told again and again, because narratives like Shanghai Faithful reinterpret history, providing an alternative to the official account. Even if we remain ultimately unable to reverse the passage of time, it is only by allowing memories and official accounts to coexist that we are able to piece together the larger picture. This is the tenacity of memory.
Los Angeles Review of Books
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 thatdespite the terrible depredations of the Cultural Revolutionwas 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.
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. (Mar.)
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.--Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM
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 détente 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.