Visions of Salvation
Chinese Christian Posters in an Age of Revolution
Imprint: Baylor University Press
Sales Date: 2022-09-30
350 Pages, 7.00 x 10.00 in
- Published: April 2023
Between the May Fourth Movement of 1919 and the Communist Revolution of 1949, Chinese Christians had to compete with Nationalist and Communist ideologies over how best to save the nation. They, along with China’s political parties, adopted propaganda posters and relied on their eye-catching colors and potent symbolism to win the hearts of the masses. Because these images were meant to attract the public, we can look at the posters and ask, What did Christian artists and evangelists believe would appeal to viewers? How did they choose to present the gospel to a Chinese audience?
The answers may come as a surprise, as Jesus is scarcely present. Instead, playful children, the Chinese flag, lotus flowers, clean teeth, and other images became the vehicles Christians used to address the felt needs and aspirations of a nation struggling to survive. Unpacking the significance of these and other visual cues, Visions of Salvation offers a fresh look at Chinese history and theology.
Drawing on a landmark collection of more than 200 color prints, assembled and analyzed here for the first time, leading scholars in Chinese Studies, mission history, Chinese Christianity, and visual culture reassess various facets of Chinese life in the second quarter of the twentieth century. In an age of revolution, political activists were not the only ones advancing prescriptions for change. Chinese Christians also pursued a New China, as one poster explicitly put it. Though later suppressed and largely forgotten, Christian posters placarded the country for thirty years with an alternative vision of national salvation.
Introduction, by Daryl R. Ireland
1. Social Reform: The Role of Christianity, by Peter Zarrow
2. Nationalism: The Great Convergence, by Zexi Sun
3. Women: Public Health, Hygiene, and Nurses, by Connie Shemo
4. Childhood: The Foundation for True Health, by Margaret Mih Tillman
5. Evangelism: The China Inland Mission and the Use of "Gospel Posters," 1925-1935, by Dana L. Robert
6. Theology: The Cross in Popular Chinese Christianity, by Daryl R. Ireland and David Li
7. Biblical Interpretation: The Art of Scripture, by Chloë Starr
8. Roman Catholicism: Painting, Printing, and Selling Morality in Modern China, by Stephanie M. Wong
9. Fine Art: Images of Beauty, by James He Qi
10. Visual Culture: The Convergence of Transnational Images, by Joseph W. Ho
The Chinese Christian posters of the early twentieth century are fascinating popular art reflective of the era. This volume puts them in social and cultural contexts, and together they show the active agency of Chinese Christians for social reforms, nation building, and modernization. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Christian evangelism, social change, and modern history of China.~Fenggang Yang, Professor of Sociology and Director, Center on Religion and the Global East, Purdue University
The essays in this outstanding volume, authored by leading experts on Chinese Christianity, take the engaging images for the Chinese Christian Posters collection and contextualize them in time, space, and denomination. The posters and the essays demonstrate the ‘in-betweenness’ of the Chinese Christian milieu in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Chinese Christians grappled with the new opportunities of faith, modernity, and popular culture, they sought ways to express their worldviews and educate others. Printed on cheap paper and priced to sell, these posters capture the concerns and motifs of ordinary people in China during a turbulent era. These essays help us to appreciate how these concerns and motifs have significance for understanding Chinese society both in the past and in the present.~Melissa Inouye, Professor of Chinese Studies, The University of Auckland
In Visions of Salvation, scholars from diverse fields analyze Chinese Christian posters with powerful insight. As shown in Daryl Ireland’s excellent introduction, this body of work provides witness that a good history of China’s modernization process must include discussion of Chinese Christianity, and that both fields stand to gain much through examination of Chinese Christian posters. This book opens the study of this valuable source base with sophisticated scholarship on theology, art history, visual and material culture, and gender in Chinese history, pointing the way for fruitful work to come. Fascinating visuals and incisive text combine to make this an accessible volume that will be valued by students and scholars alike; I eagerly look forward to using it in the classroom.~Amy O’Keefe, Assistant Professor of History, Meredith College