An Introduction to the Mainland Chinese Soul is an extremely informative, helpful booklet that contains information essential to understanding the people of China. Many different topics are covered; a summary of those topics will give an accurate, if brief, overview of the booklet.
The first section deals with the “Chinese context.” Topics covered are the events of China’s ancient past and more recent future and how that affects the Chinese mindset; different aspects of Chinese culture, such as its focus on authoritarian leadership, what it means to be a “mass culture,” the relational factors that enter all areas of life, the emphasis placed on family, and the Chinese orientation toward power and submission. This section also addresses the longings of today’s Chinese, such as the desire for national restoration, for family harmony and prosperity, for improved chances and personal success, and for inner satisfaction and peace.
The second section discusses the Chinese viewpoint, including how they approach and process life, how they learn, and how they view foreigners. Readers can gain a great understanding of the typical Chinese way of looking at things through understanding that Chinese accept unpredictability, seize good opportunities, act for the common good not just of themselves but for those with whom they are in relationship, give face and avoid shame, act practically, and defer respectfully to authority. We as Westerners can benefit from the knowledge that Chinese are very respectful of teachers and tend to be rote learners and think deductively as well as from understanding that many Chinese view foreigners as outsiders, experts, privileged persons, opportunities, or a combination of the above.
For anyone interested in sharing the Gospel with the Chinese, the section on the Chinese spiritual orientation is probably the most essential part of the booklet. It discusses how Chinese generally view God (through various Chinese religions or traditions, through scientific atheism, or through the influence of the Holy Spirit), how the church has grown in China and the different ways it manifests itself, how the Chinese view sin and salvation (very differently from the Western viewpoint), how Chinese might respond to Jesus (to God’s miraculous power or to God’s people as examples of doing good), and finally what we as Westerners can learn from and respect about Chinese culture.
We do have one caveat, however: At two points, the editors play down, and even deny, the necessity of calling Chinese to repentance and faith in Christ for eternal salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Once, they note that Chinese tend to be pragmatic, and won’t consider eternal life that important; furthermore, they don’t have a clear concept of sin. Later, the editors assert that Chinese might “come to Christ” for reasons other than forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Since Jesus commanded that “repentance and remission (forgiveness) of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 234:47), and that the Apostles followed this command (see Acts 2:38), we think that the editors have drawn an improper conclusion from the very correct observation that the concept of “sin” means little to most Chinese.
It would seem that our duty is to teach them the Biblical view, rather than to gloss over this central element of the Gospel. Can we say that anyone has really “come to Christ” if he has not believed in Christ for forgiveness of sins?
The last section pulls all the topics of the booklet together and addresses how an understanding of the Chinese soul influences the way one relates to Chinese. Prayer, affirmation of Chinese nationality, a smile, relationship-building, sensitivity, and careful consideration of motives are all stressed.
This booklet effectively uses stories about individual Chinese to illustrate some of its points, as well as presenting the material in a clear, succinct, well-organized style. The content is very important for any Westerner who plans to have any kind of relationship with Chinese to know, and is in fact likely one of the best such resources available due to its clarity and brevity. Without an understanding of the principles contained in this booklet, the chances for effective ministry among the Chinese greatly decrease.
To illustrate: One student who had spent a summer teaching English in China with a Christian ministry organization said, upon reading this short book, “It makes me realize that all I did last year was a waste of time.”
Again, this is an extremely valuable resource, which no one should leave for China without reading.
Sarah E. Cozart
An Introduction to the Mainland Chinese Soul, published by LEAD Consulting in 2001 by an unnamed group of authors and researchers. To obtain a copy, contact:
PO Box 32026
Raleigh, NC 27622