Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh China, Oh China

Oh China, Oh China, a novel from the time of the Boxer rebellion to the 1920s and the rise of Communism, is a saga of those who lived through those times, giving us a picture of Christianity in China. A priest writing for other priests tells us how interesting and moving he found the book and that those to whom he recommended the book also found it difficult to put down.

The aggressive response of the world powers to the boxer rebellion is the main focus of the book. England was the first to become involved, soon followed by other countries, disputing among themselves, about the selling of opium and its spreading influence within China. The confiscation and burning of the opium, the two so-called  opium wars, and the embarrassing treaties and indemnity exacted from the Chinese--all form the background for the novel.

One of the conditions of the treaties was to allow Christians to evangelize freely in China. It was from this time on that the average Chinese saw the West, their own opium use, and the practice of Christianity as being in the same boat, going in the same direction.

Christian missionaries were seen as being more attached to the foreign powers than concerned for the welfare of the Chinese. With war, violence, and all kinds of corruption that the people had to endure, what value was there in preaching Christ? In the novel, a missioner says: "What have we been able to show the Chinese? I did not help to change China but China changed me; that is the result of my 17 years of missionary work."

Gradually, the novel shows us how the Chinese came to see their situation from a common perspective.The boxer rebellion was the manifestation of the resentment that was building up against the foreigners. And when they lost the war, had to pay the indemnity to the foreign powers, and suffered its embarrassment, their defeated spirit help to create the background and confusion that prepared the fertile ground for the Communist movement to take hold and spread so quickly, returning to them a feeling of dignity and patriotism.

The novelist is a Perpetual Help Religious Sister who teaches philosophy  in a university in Taiwan. She is quoted at the end of the book review: " much pain and trials the Chinese had to face  to appreciate their dignity? This is a struggle that all sincere people, transcending  place and time, strive to attain; it's the struggle and aim of all believers. The discussion I have had in prayer with God, I wanted to have with my readers. This has been my reason for writing the novel."

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