Category Archives: Asia

Who Are You? Who Is Jesus to You?

In class I’ve been asked to introduce myself and to explain who Jesus is to me and why. I’ve tried to integrate these two things as well as possible, but in my answer below I don’t even quote Calvin on knowing self and knowing God.

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Hello, I’m Lue-Yee Tsang, a Latin teacher at a classical Christian school in northern Virginia and a part-time student at Wycliffe. The name my parents gave me refers to Psalm 23.3 and means ‘walking in [paths of] righteousness’; unlike many American-born persons of Chinese descent, I have no English name, so my Chinese name is my English name. Perhaps in part for this very reason, I identify not as an Asian American but as an overseas Chinese, and my Chinese identity and my Christian identity are bound up in one another. This fact may surprise those who know I’m Anglican, since that tradition’s roots are in a very particular culture’s Christian identity, but I was brought up to be both Christian and Chinese, and not a day have I lived with one and not the other. Though I know many non-Christian Chinese and many non-Chinese Christians, in my own experience to be one is also to be the other.

For me, though in a different way than for the Hebrews of old, Jesus is the heavenly emperor the Chinese have been waiting for. For the Chinese, the king and later the emperor was the Son of Heaven, the nexus of heaven and earth, through whom God in heaven both ruled the society of man and took order over the earth according to its times and seasons. Like Melchizedek, the emperor was a priest-king; like Moses, who was a kind of image of God on earth (‘see, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet’), the emperor interceded for the people before the Most High. When a natural disaster struck, even into the Song dynasty an emperor would sometimes issue an edict of self-criticism, declaring his sins for which he supposed that God had brought calamity upon the people (cf. 1 Chron. 21.16–17). And in our own uncertain days, after many incursions of Western imperialists in China, and the civil wars and other massive upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the continued mischief of American imperialists and corrupt Chinese, Jesus is my heavenly emperor who has done what no other emperor could: having taken on my flesh as the prologue of John declares, Jesus gave his life for the sins of all and was bodily raised on the third day to make me – to make us – part of a new body.

No emperor born in sin, however powerful and however loving, has ever worked so powerfully or shown such great love, that ‘we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear; in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.’ Therefore, by my baptism I can happily say, in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism, that this is my only comfort in life and in death: ‘That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.’ Nothing but Jesus is satisfactory; everything else is vapour, and man’s days are like grass. Having him, I have all things that I need, even when I don’t know it. Truly, being very God of very God, and the only-begotten Son of God, he is God’s Anointed in the highest and deepest sense. In Christ Jesus, and only in Christ Jesus, can my name itself be truly fulfilled in the sight of God and in my own conscience: Walking-in-righteousness.

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Adapting Western Clothes Ethnically

Jessica R. Metcalfe wrote in 2011 about an Ojibwe Indian named Bagone-giizhig, or Hole-in-the-Day the Younger.

She said of Hole-in-the-Day,

He dressed in fashionable European-style clothes, but he always kept his hair long and continued to wear a blanket draped across one shoulder. Euro-American fashion was simplistic in the 1800s, and individuals like Hole-In-The-Day made it visually more exciting with the inclusion of Ojibwe accessories and items of adornment. He also continued to wear Ojibwe-style moccasins.

Perhaps this is how other non-Westerners ought to wear their Europæan-style clothes. How might Chinese men do this?

Introducing Wang Yi 王怡’s 95 Theses on the House Church

As reported by the South China Morning Post, on 4 June of this year (this past Monday), ‘hours before a planned evening service to commemorate the Tiananmen Square anniversary’, Early Rain Covenant Church 秋雨之福歸正教會, a Presbyterian church in Chengdu 成都, was raided by police. According to SCMP, ‘The Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, had planned a two-hour prayer session at 7.30pm to mourn those killed in Beijing 29 years ago.’

My purpose here is not to explain the political implications of what was done either by Early Rain Covenant Church or by the police in Chengdu, but to draw attention to a document issued in 2015 by the church’s head pastor, Wang Yi 王怡. This document was ‘95 Theses: The Reaffirmation of our Stance on the House Church’ – or, in Chinese (simplified characters), 我们对家庭教会立场的重申(九十五条). Evoking the 95 theses of Martin Luther, these theses by Wang Yi were published online to coincide approximately with the 60th anniversary of the arrest of Wang Mingdao 王明道 in June 1955 for publishing ‘We Are for the Faith’, a declaration of the reason he and others refused to join the Party-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Wang Yi’s 95 theses are structured as follows:

Theses 1–17: God’s Sovereignty and Biblical Authority.
Theses 18–31: God’s Law and Christ’s Redemption.
Theses 32–39: Against the ‘Sinicization of Christianity’.
Theses 40–44: Church as the Body of Christ and His Kingdom.
Theses 45–72: The Relationship between Two Kingdoms and the Separation of Church and State.
Theses 73–95: Against the ‘Three-Self Movement’, and Affirmation of the Great Commission.

With some of Wang Yi’s 95 theses I heartily agree, and with others I firmly disagree on grounds both biblical and historical. I intend hereafter to write several blog posts here evaluating the principles expressed in these 95 theses. In the meantime, some will find it useful to read Chloë Starr’s 2016 article ‘Wang Yi and the 95 Theses of the Chinese Reformed Church’.

為流產、墮胎死去的小孩舉辦案葬禮

教會若為流產、墮胎死去的小孩舉辦案葬禮,邀請全體的基督徒來送殯,經常在耶和華面前致哀痛悔,結果會如何呢?

https://m.weibo.cn/status/4248091403501809

Limitations of Suzhounese

Suzhounese 蘇州話, spoken in Suzhou 蘇州 (anciently known as Gusu 姑蘇) in Jiangsu 江蘇 province, sounds nice for saying nice things to your wife, and it sounds very attractive when spoken by women, but I couldn’t take seriously any military orders given in that language.

Addai and Mari for the Church of China Today?

To do honour to the Lord’s work in China of old, the Church of China could follow the first Chinese Christians in using the Anaphora of Addai and Mari (whose structure and content Thomas Mannooramparampil explains), at least on certain days. This Anaphora could be used within the existing Holy Communion service on the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle, on whatever feast day might be set for Alopen 阿羅本 the Missionary (7c.), and on Sundays in Lent:

First Gehanta, after the opening dialogue

Worthy of praise from every mouth and of confession from every tongue is the adorable and glorious name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, who didst create the world by thy grace and its inhabitants by thy mercifulness and didst save mankind by thy compassion and give great grace unto mortals.

Sanctus

Thy majesty, O my Lord, thousand thousands of those on high bow down and worship and ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels and hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit, praise thy name with holy cherubin and seraphin shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of his praises.

Second Gehanta

And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to thee, O my Lord, even we thy servants weak and frail and miserable, for that thou hast given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, O our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.

Third Gehanta

Do thou, O my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been wellpleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world.

Yea, O our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his lifegiving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.

Anamnesis

And we also, O my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and lifegiving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.

[For on the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.]

Epiclesis

And let there come, O my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it, that it be to us, O my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been wellpleasing in thy sight.

Doxology

And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honour and confession and worship to thy living and holy and lifegiving name now and ever and world without end.

Tfw Cannot Speak Taishanese

Central Guangdong

My ancestral home is in Taishan (Toisan) 台山 County, Guangdong 廣東. Even though I don’t speak or even really understand the Taishanese language – my mother tongue, and that of my parents, is Cantonese – and even though my grandfather was the last person among my closer relations who ever lived in Taishan County, I do identify as Taishanese. (The phænotypes of broadly Cantonese folk differ enough that I can sometimes tell which county people are from, and certainly there are people from Panyu who do not look like anyone from Taishan.) That I cannot understand much Taishanese, let alone speak it fluently, is something I find regrettable. A great majority of my ancestry is from Taishan County or from Xinhui County next to it, whose language is very similar.

 The Seiyap languages are in light purple, and the Guangfu dialects (Cantonese and similar languages) are in pink.

Edit: The Seiyap language group, to which belong the languages of Taishan 台山, Xinhui 新會, Kaiping 開平, and Enping 恩平, is arguably not Cantonese (or Yue) at all, being closer to Cantonese only through convergent evolution. According to Sau-Lim Tsang (no close relation of mine) in ‘Bilingual Education in a Chinese Community’ (pdf, 1982), however, ‘Research on Siyi phonology has also found that Cantonese and Siyi show regular and systematic correspondence.’

Taishanese is often thought to be a variety of Cantonese, but the two are about as different as Portuguese and Italian: the average Hongkonger who speaks Cantonese can understand about 30% of Taishanese accurately, and my guess is that a native speaker of Taishanese can understand about 50% of Cantonese without prior exposure. For those who know or can recognize Cantonese, this is a Tang dynasty (618–907) poem by Li Bai 李白 read aloud in Taishanese:

Here’s something more colloquial, about certain reduplicative constructions in Taishanese (warning: there’s one curse phrase in there):

Probably the most Taishanese thing about me is my boneheaded hillbilly stubbornness. Who knows? Maybe that could help me learn a bit more of the language.

China: a Fourth Rome?

Last month Thermidor Magazine published my article on the idea of China as a fourth Rome (#China4thRome); my article was also picked up by Geopolitica. That was pretty cool. May the Lord direct the growth of his Church in China, and purify the saints there, that his Church may serve his purposes and not unwittingly those of Antichrist.

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As a Chinaman born in the United States, I find myself able to speak to both places and neither. By accidents of fortune, however – or of providence, rather – I have identified more with China even as I have lived my whole life in the West. English is my third language, after Cantonese and Mandarin, even if I use it to express my intellectually most complex thoughts; and though my best of the three in writing, trained by the use of Latin, it is the vehicle of a Chinese soul. So it is in English that for the past year I have memed an idea as unconventional as it is ambitious, unto the Europæans a stumbling-block, and unto the Chinese foolishness: #China4thRome.

This idea I do not attempt to defend rigorously, between various powers’ conflicting claims to carrying on the Roman heritage; neither do I intend to claim that Moscow, which has seen itself as a Third Rome after the original Rome and then Constantinople, is fallen. Instead, I think back to the division of the Roman empire, first under Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and then at the death of Theodosius I, the last ruler of the undivided Roman empire. In the second partition, at the death of Theodosius, Arcadius became emperor of the East, with his capital in Constantinople, and Honorius emperor of the West, with his capital in Milan and then Ravenna. That the Roman empire did not stay uniformly strong under a plurality of emperors is not the point. What is significant about the administrative division of the Roman empire among several emperors is that the idea of Rome can be one even while its administration is diverse.

By divine providence, the Christian religion – and through it, Rome – has spread even through the bourgeois imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Across the world, the civil calendar of common use is that of Rome, reckoned from 1 January; few places has Roman law left wholly untouched. Nevertheless, never have we observed in the world of Roman culture an ethnogenetic pattern like that of the Chinese empire as described by the prologue of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義: ‘The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.’1 According to classical Chinese cosmology, the phrase rendered the empireis more literally all under heaven 天下, the Chinese œcumene being its ‘all under heaven’ much as a Persian proverb speaks of the old Persian capital of Isfahan: ‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast,’ Isfahan is half the world. As sociologist Fei Xiaotong describes it in his 1988 Tanner Lecture ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese People’,

The Chinese people had their home in the vast land of eastern Asia which borders on the Pamirs in the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east with the offshore islands, the vast desert to the north, the sea to the southeast, and the mountain range to the southwest. Bounded by natural shelters on all sides, it is a geographical unit with a complete structural system of its own. In the eyes of the ancients this was the only piece of land for the human race to live in. For this reason the land was called Tianxia, meaning “all the land under heaven.” Another name for China was Sihai, meaning “the land surrounded by seas on all sides, as was believed in those times. These conceptions are, of course, long outdated. What remains true is that this piece of land, which forms a geographical entity by itself, still serves as a living space for the Chinese people.

And this Chinese œcumene has united and divided for centuries, even as those who live in it have recognized a fundamental unity. But Rome, unlike the Chinese empire, has lived on in multiple successor polities, sometimes several at once, without ever coming back together as one empire administered as one. Perhaps something of its character has instead uniquely suited it to being the spirit of a kind of broader world empire. As Dante says in De Monarchia, ‘As the human race, then, has an end, and this end is a means necessary to the universal end of nature, it follows that nature must have the means in view.’ He continues,

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman people, in subjecting to itself the world, attained the Empire by Right.

The chain of great civilizations from the Atlantic to the Pacific has long been Rome-Persia-China, but of these three only one, for better or worse, has now set the world’s common terms of discourse. This is perhaps not yet as much the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran, but the entity we call China has been shaped by an encounter with Christendom, and with elements parasitic upon Christendom, whose impact cannot simply be ignored or blotted out. The very explicit concept of China as a geopolitical space – the geopolitical awareness that the ‘all under heaven’ of the axial Son of Heaven, who sits in the centre, facing south, was a space among spaces on the planet – comes from an encounter that forever shattered the older, literal interpretation of these spiritual concepts. There is no going back. The Chinese knew, long ago, that there was a Rome; even farther back, it was from Indo-Europæans (possibly those we today call Tocharians, inhabiting the Tarim Basin now part of Chinese Turkestan) that they learned chariot warfare and possibly bronzeworking, and even the ancient Chinese word wu巫, ‘mage’, may derive from Old Persian maguš. So it is not that the Chinese were ignorant of other advanced cultures, but, even with the tides that enriched the Chinese with the ideas and materials of other cultures, nothing else had the powerful pull that generated and sustained the Huaxia 華夏 culture whose cradle was the middle reaches of the Yellow River. So even the dialectic of Huaxia culture with the Steppe, without which China would not be what it is – for Turan has given China not only the pipa 琵琶 and the erhu 二胡 but also emperors of dynasties we see as native – has not so challenged the identity of the Sinosphere. The power of Rome in Christendom, and of Christendom in Rome, has reshaped China and is still reshaping China, and it is in response to this encounter most of all, as it is for the individual who is converted to the gospel of Christ, that the Chinese have had to define themselves; for it is, what the Chinese have not known before, an encounter with Christ and Antichrist.

Oswald Spengler has spoken of the (modern) West as wholly different in character from ancient Rome, Faustian rather than Roman, but it is perhaps truer and more fitting to say that in the life of the Western nations is both something we can call Faustian and something we can call Roman, sometimes the one having the upper hand and sometimes the other. For, even if much of the modern talk of Rome and living its glory be counterfeit, a mere conceit, yet something must be there to be spoken of so widely, so long after some have dated the ‘fall of Rome’ at the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in the West at the hands of Odoacer. The translatio imperii, transfer of empery, is not merely a fiction, for the polity of Rome was indeed set in Constantinople, and there it became, though smaller in jurisdiction, a more perfect vessel of the truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh; likewise, Frederick II of the House of Hohenstaufen, whom Dante called ‘the last Emperor of the Romans, last, I say, as regards this present time’, took up the mantle of Rome and, though twice excommunicated by the Bishop of Rome (in 1227 and 1245), from Sicily and the south of Italy extended his ambitions not only to Germany and Italy but also to Jerusalem, holding a court at Palermo that was known for its culture, where philosophy, art, music, science, and poetry from Latin, Arabic, Italian, Northern Europæan, and Greek traditions bore fruit together. Europe itself, as a geopolitical space and not merely a designation of physical geography, can be said to be a Rome, for a long time a multiple Rome. When aligned with the heavenly City of God, it breathes the spirit of the Rome used by God; when aligned against it, a Rome assimilated to the Faustian spirit. Yet the line between the two Romes, to borrow a line from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, cuts through the human heart.

That God was at work even in and through the colonialism of Rome’s Western successors, which was driven by the greed of evil men and the libido dominandi, the lust for mastery, is no idle talk built upon the sand; for even through these shameful things, great and terrible, the saving gospel of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ has gone forth to the ends of the earth, through the humble and not through the boasting of the merchant-pirates and usurers. Some have thus seen how God spoke to their peoples through types and figures before the coming of the gospel, and in the gospel found themselves, found the principle by which their selves and their nations should be saved. From the Ming dynasty to the present, this is the power that many of the Chinese, from Matteo Ricci’s Confucian converts to Republican fathers Sun Yat-sen 孫中山 and Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石, and even Chen Duxiu 陳獨秀, cofounder of the Chinese Communist Party (more here, with abstract in English), have felt in Christianity coming from the Roman world: that it can save the empire. Thus can Rome be said to have set its expanse – or to have been set in its expanse – over the world.

The Chinese œcumene’s first significant record of the Roman empire was in the Han dynasty, in the 1st century, when military ambassador Gan Ying 甘英 called it Daqin 大秦, or Great Qin. Rome was therefore, in some way, a copy of the Chinese empire, an alter Sina. The empire’s first meeting with the gospel of Jesus Christ coming from the Roman world, however, may have been in the 7th century, with the coming of the priest called Alopen. The Nestorian Stele – of which Georgetown University has a fullsize replica – records the favour with which the powerful Tang dynasty emperor Taizong responded to this ‘luminous religion of Daqin’ 大秦景教. But the crucial direct encounter with the West, for good and for ill, was almost a millennium later.

As University of Oregon professor Arif Dirlik explains in his essay ‘Born in Translation: “China” in the Making of “Zhongguo”’, this encounter is what created the concept of China for the Chinese. The renaming of the empire of the Great Qing (1644–1911) in its last years, he says, ‘was directly inspired by the “Western” idea of “China”, that called for radical re-signification of the idea of Zhongguo [‘Central Country’], the political and cultural space it presupposed, and the identification it demanded of its constituencies’. The idea of the Central Country was, rather than a political entity, a civilizational ideal rooted in the classical culture of the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 BC–256 BC) and its central states on the Central Plain of the Yellow River. It was not until the rise of nationalism, and finally, the Republic after the fall of the Qing, that Zhongguo became the name of an actually delineated country rather than a diplomatic convention.

We may say it was the West, being both Rome and Faust, that broke the old interpretation of the ancient Chinese cosmology and made the concept of China and thus exposed it to more open war between Christ and Antichrist. In the mid 19th century, the First Opium War (1839–1842) and then the Second Opium War (1856–1860, treaties signed 1858 and ratified 1860) blew the Qing empire open to the presence of Western aliens even in the interior, and to embassies in the capital, and thus to both Christian missionaries and the Sassoon family’s opium (cf. the Sacklers’ trade in opiates today). Meanwhile, the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864), picking up the Christianity thread in doctrinally aberrant ways, was a response to the decadence of the late Qing and the suffering of the common folk under foreign imperialism, but it also killed about 23 million persons. The line between Christ and the Antichristian spirit of global capital was twisted and strange indeed, and in the midst of these convulsions was the modern national idea of China-born. Though biochemist and historian of science Joseph Needham 李約瑟 shows in Science and Civilisation in China that Chinese science had already developed indigenously before the arrival of modern Western science, Arnold J. Toynbee’s account reflects better the feeling of the Chinese people:

In breaking off relations with the West in the form in which the West had first presented itself, the Chinese and the Japanese had not disposed of their ‘Western Question’ once for all. A rebuffed West subsequently transformed itself, and then reappeared on the East Asian scene, now offering its technology instead of religion as its principal gift, and the Far Eastern societies now found themselves confronted with a choice of either mastering this newfangled technology for themselves or else succumbing to it.

The challenge was, and is, to develop technologically in such a way as to stand up to the weaponry of the West, yet without becoming the West and thus surrendering without a fight. On the one hand, the Great Qing Code was reformed along German lines, making China a potential inheritor of Roman law through the Napoleonic Code, if it will have it; on the other hand, Sun Yat-sen’s ressourcement of the Chinese tradition looked not to the Faustian West for China’s modern identity but to the wisdom of the ancient past. China can be a fourth Rome, but it cannot be the Rome of the modern West without losing its soul. Instead, it must be a Rome of true Christian orthodoxy against the dissembled and dissembling Christianity sold by Faustian agents today.

The Chinese Rome may have the power to challenge the Faustian West and its White-supremacist Faustian Christianity, a false Christianity we see not only in the most obvious exponents of the neoliberal (dis)order but also in the fantasies of Ross Douthat and Michael Dougherty about an ‘Africa’ that, as P. T. Carlo puts it, ‘exists within a narrative for the sole purpose of helping the white protagonist realize his potential’, and for this reason is assimilated by Mr Dougherty into the Faustian geopolitical entity of The West™. The fetish of some Papalists for Cardinal Sarah (the based Negro cardinal) is not, as some imagine, a Black supremacism, but a White supremacism in disguise; and this Western chauvinism in ecclesiology and geopolitics deserves to be turned back by a non-Western Romanitas, whose priorities are not those of the Faustians of the West.

A Christianity both indigenous and orthodox is perhaps hard for a Westerner to see. Following Jesus’ designation of himself as the Vine and the parts of the Church as the branches, consider wine and terroir. The seed is the word of God, which is sown into the heart. The gospel of Christ is the life of the Church – being in one Head, we have exactly the same Holy Spirit, and we drink of one cup in the Eucharist – but how exactly to treat the one grape will vary by terroir: just as you factor soil, altitude, terrain, sun-orientation, and microclimates into decisions on pruning, irrigation, and harvest time, so the same faith varies in things indifferent to its being. Cultivated in different conditions, the same plant (or the same clonal variety) looks different and makes for wines that look, smell, and taste different. The Church of China will not look like a typical Anglican church, and neither will it look like a typical Byzantine church: such is a national church fit for a China opposing the coercive and deceptive force of the West.

As reported by David P. Goldman at the Asia Times, the West is panicking at the œconomic rise of China, not least in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) linking China to Europe by the ways of the ancient Silk Road – a growing œconomic power Dr Goldman thinks is matched by cultural power, not least in Yuja Wang’s interpretation of Beethoven.

Western analysts in general dismissed China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). During the past year, though, new rail lines have lined China to Iran, Turkey and from there to Western Europe, drastically reducing the time and cost of shipping across the Eurasian continent. Two rail links to Iran are now in operation. On September 6, the first train to Teheran departed from Yinchuan, capital of northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with a 15-day journey time to Iran’s capital, half as long as sea transport. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway linking China with Turkey and the South Caucasus begins operations in October. China already is Turkey’s largest source of imports. As a result, once-neglected areas of Western China have become the most dynamic zones in the China’s economy. According to a recent study by the Milken Institute, the fastest-growing city in China is Chengdu, a metropolis of 12.3 million people in Sichuan province. Few Westerners can find Chengdu on a map, but it exemplifies the initial success of BRI.

Of greater moment, however, is spirituality, not œconomics. The œconomic integration of a geopolitical Eurasia led by Russia and China against the geopolitical West of the neoliberal Washington Consensus is, I think, only a sign of more significant spiritual things. The BRI designs of the Chinese Communist Party align – probably not by human design – with many Chinese churches’ ‘Back to Jerusalem’ vision for evangelizing all the lands from China to the Holy Land. Indeed, some Christians of Asian origin have reported being led by God to begin work in Central Asia in the 1990s when no one understood why, and only now is it becoming clear to them that God, who prompted that work then, has also now orchestrated BRI development in Central Asia. For China, the spiritual stakes have been raised.

It is possible that China contains, for development, an alternative of multipolarity to the Washington Consensus of open-market policies promoted by the IMF, World Bank, and the US Treasury, but the way is dangerous. The Chinese bourgeoisie is growing in power and therefore in its capacity for immorality, and to follow their lead would be a worthless endeavour.

Bourgeois culture, spiritually threatening to assimilate the powers that be in China to the global (Western) élite, is a challenge for the Church itself. Wenzhou, sometimes described as ‘China’s Jerusalem’,2 is a nouveau riche city with Christian bosses who rose from rags to riches; it features a capitalist Boss Christianity whose prosperous lay leaders believe they serve God by making money, running churches as entrepreneurs and running factories as Christian enterprises drawing poor labourers to the promise of a better life in Christianity. It looks like the religion of Americanism, a nihilism that grew into the global capitalism of the post-Cold War world. Will China go with a Wenzhou Boss Christianity, oriented toward the business of manufacturing outsourced from the West, and the seeking of power and glory through commerce? or will it go with a Christianity oriented toward the Eurasian continent, and the voluntary laying down of boss power to build neighbours up? Chinese Christianity must align not with high-finance imperialism, which breathes the spirit of Antichrist, but with those who like Burkinabé president Thomas Sankara in the 1980sare resisting that neoliberal disorder’s supremacy by struggling for independence from it. Only thus will the Church be the spiritual life of a China that takes the shape prædestined for it by God, a China that leads other nations by the strength of Christ in a common resistance against the geopolitical powers of Satan. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Now back to Zion goes the pilgrim’s eye,
Translating holy leaves into Chinese,
The sages for Aquinas. Riding high,
He circumambulates the Dipper’s keys.

Around the four directions goes his sign,
Yet stays where northern lights have made their home,
Facing the south, where province-cauldrons nine
Are come to offer to this lord of Rome.

For this is where we find Jerusalem,
And holy Zion in the pious heart;
This is the dwelling, faith the bosom’s gem,
Where Holy Ghost and Holy Church ne’er part.

By faith is fair Jeshurun in Cathay,
A promised temple for a coming day.

Notes

  1. Fei Xiaotong, in ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese’, 214: ‘Going back in history, China as a state was unified during two thirds of the post-Qin period, and it was divided for the remaining one-third of the historical span. But the picture was different concerning ethnic relationships. Throughout the ages the Hans had been expanding themselves, and the process of absorption and assimilation went on with more vigor whenever the country found itself under separatist rule, as conquests by national minorities generally brought the ethnic groups closer together.’ 
  2. See Nanlai Cao’s study Constructing China’s Jerusalem: Christians, Power and Place in the City of Wenzhou

Appropriating Geʼez Music as Chinese?

Æthiopian music like this can probably be adapted into Chinese music. It already sounds similar.

Holy Mount Cælestial

Now back to Zion goes the pilgrim’s eye,
Translating holy leaves into Chinese,
The sages for Aquinas. Riding high,
He circumambulates the Dipper’s keys.

Around the four directions goes his sign,
Yet stays where northern lights have made their home,
Facing the south, where province-cauldrons nine
Are come to offer to the lord of Rome.

For this is where we find Jerusalem,
And holy Zion in the pious heart;
This is the dwelling, faith the bosom’s gem,
Where Holy Ghost and Holy Church ne’er part.

By faith is fair Jeshurun in Cathay,
A promised temple for a coming day.

Beyond the Modern Degeneration of Architecture

Knight of Númenor says that the prevailing architecture of our time fails to convey meaning:

A building could look like a Cathedral, but if you go into the inside, it might be a dance floor. Most skyscrapers are built in a Brutalist manner, which gives little insights [sic] into what the business offices inside are trading, unlike buildings of yore: the townsmen knew this was a church, this was the Lord Mayor’s office building, and this was the merchant’s guild.

The first example is of the repurposing characteristic of ‘postmodernist’ architecture: whether through ironic appropriation of elements that don’t belong according to the historic vocabulary, or through retrofitting of a building for a purpose entirely unlike that suggested by the structure and ornamentation, such changes are superficially original but betray, underneath, a lack of both originality and a true sense of architecture. I am not a trained architect, but it only takes someone with common sense and some informed sensibility to know that such anti-architecture, undertaken not merely as a concession to practical constraints but rather with prætensions to artistic value, is the mercantile work of charlatans.

File:MIT Campus.jpg

Frank Gehry’s Stata Center at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The second example is of ‘modernist’ architecture, and of Brutalism in particular. Skyscrapers built in this manner, Knight of Númenor says, tell us little about what they are used for, unlike more traditional buildings that signal in a variety of ways what is a temple, what is a municipal office, and what is a merchants’ guild. Architecture of this character, one may say, is faceless.

File:Beinecke-Rare-Book-Manuscript-Library-Yale-University-Hewitt-Quadrangle-New-Haven-Connecticut-Apr-2014-a.jpg

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

Both examples show a certain disorientation; both examples speak to the need for genuine social connexion rather than the social alienation we experience in the West, as Knight of Númenor describes:

Atomized individuals waddle through cities, among a sea of constructions, not having much connections to one another, unlike cities of old in which citizens knew the history and ideals of the city they live [sic] in.

What I mean by ‘the West’ is what Aleksandr Dugin articulates about Europe v. the West:

I consider myself to be an anti-Western ideologist in the fullest sense of the word. But I distinguish between Europe and the West. I believe that these are two different concepts. Europe is an historical territory where different peoples, traditions, and states have existed which highly interest me. I have written a series of books called Noomahiya (‘Clash of the Nomoi’) in which I discuss the logos of Europe, Germany, France, Italy, and Greece. I have the deepest reverence and respect for the logos of European culture. I study this logos together with the languages, literature, philosophy, and cultures of Europe, which I love. But I think that the path that European society has gone down over the last few centuries, beginning with the epoch of the Enlightenment and ending with liberalism and modern Anglo-Saxon liberalism, is not Europe, but Anti-Europe. And this is precisely what I attribute to the concept of the ‘West’. The West is sunset, the fall, the descent, which is precisely the etymology that the word has in Russian. I am against the West and for the East, for ascent. The West is the decline of Europe.

This is where, in opinion, I think I part company with Knight of Númenor. He is a cheerleader for the West, and I a partisan of traditional society; he champions the modern structures that have the veneer of tradition but are in fact whitewashed tombs that protect the degenerations of bourgeois society – or, should I say, bourgeois antisociety. This error is not unique to the papists, but I cannot help thinking that this is one form ‘reaction’ takes among papists and some Anglicans; what is needed is not an unconsciously modern reaction, which actually protects the degeneration that has insinuated itself into the system and into our very psyches, but a reasoned, and biblical, response to the changes of the past few centuries. A true classicist will respect tradition, which by the experience of men through the ages shows the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, but he will not look back to a single golden age as a time to return to, any more than Cicero would have tried to return the Roman republic to the way it was under King Numa Pompilius.

Kagawa Præfectural Government Office, Kagawa, Japan (1958).

Shown above is a well-known Brutalist design by Kenzō Tange 丹下 健三. Tange’s work here is certainly modern, in that it uses modern materials and its creator was strongly influenced by Corbu (the French modernist architect Le Corbusier), but it also has an unmistakable national character, drawing as it does from the Japanese tradition. The building’s protruding horizontal beams suggest the rafters of Japanese temples, but the number of levels and the massing suggest a Japanese castle. The construction is modern but traditional in the best sense, fitting for a government office.

The way is not merely to sigh, ‘Sic transit gloria mundi,’ nor is it to dream of the inevitable ‘Great Reset’ espoused by the (neo)reactionaries – which, unlike the General Strike (against capitalism and bourgeois-controlled ‘class collaboration’) of Georges Sorel and the syndicalists, is a bad myth, bad because it is neither true nor effectual. No, the way is forward, both ad fontes and excelsior: to the ancient sources and ever higher.

Translate Reformed Theologian Richard Hooker into Chinese

As the Church in China moves beyond fundamentalism versus modernism, and as it grows in numbers and confidence, it faces political questions that until recently it has not been in a position to do much about. Richard Hooker wrote to Elizabethan England, but I think his thought is useful today for China as well and deserves to be heard. (I do note, however, that in some things I think reform only puts off a necessary revolution that would overthrow a thoroughly tyrannical (dis)order. I do not share the reactionary or the bourgeois conservative’s horror of all things that go by the name of revolution. Nevertheless, the desire to clear everything away to start from scratch, especially in the divinely ordained Church, against the gates of Hades will not prevail, is a vain wish that brushes catholic experience aside in favour of private opinion.) Bradford Littlejohn and Bradley Belschner are translating Hooker’s antisectarian work into today’s English. Who will translate the same work into Chinese?

Time to Bring Dead White Reformed Divines to China

chinese-paper-hooker

A Chinese academic paper on Richard Hooker.

For better or worse, the Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR) movement, or New Calvinism, is in China. Much of the growth of seminaries in China may be Reformed, and every year Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) has students from China. According to Bruce P. Baugus, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), ‘It’s not at all unthinkable that China would have more Reformed seminaries within 20 years than we do here.’ People are seeing the names of American Reformed celebrities such as Tim Keller and John Piper. About both I have my complaints, but I think the growth of New Calvinism – which is noticeably different from classic Reformed literature – also means the time may be ripe for Chinese translations of not only Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin, whose Institutes of the Christian Religion the ChiCom-directed China Christian Council (CCC) itself published in Chinese in 2005, but also the still untranslated authors Hieronymus Zanchius, Franciscus Junius, Johannes Althusius, and the judicious Richard Hooker 理查德·胡克 (see this Chinese paper on Hooker).

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Zanchius and Hooker, Reformed scholastics.

Again I am reminded that the need for sound development of public theology in China will be great in the next 50 years, and I hope I can do my part, especially in interpreting the word of God and China’s history – such as recorded in the Zuozhuan 左傳 – in a way that is not Americanist or Western. I can already see, for example, that the article I have linked about public theology casts plurality in human authority – a constitutional arrangement common in the West and especially in the Anglosphere – in terms of plurality in the Trinity:

With the insufficiency of maintaining the tension between the two worlds, the Trinitarian order revealed through God becoming flesh is lacking attention in the Chinese Christian world. Anyone made in the Creator’s image cannot live out his image without the Creator’s revelation and redemption. The three persons of one essence of the Trinity – both one, yet many – is quite unlike the common, human, governing order where either one or many will be preferred instead of both simultaneously. The Son of Heaven in traditional Chinese dynasties, rather than the Son of Man of the Scriptures, has cast a long shadow over the popular Chinese impression of authority. Even in contemporary China, the head of any institution tends to be a paramount figure which makes it difficult to develop checks and balances between that individual and other associates and colleagues. It is no surprise then, for the Chinese to be more familiar with the monopoly of power than with the sharing or separation of power.

This interpretation and application I myself consider theologically unsound, even if we leave aside the Chinese author’s quiet anti-Chinese chauvinism. The popularity of social Trinitarianism in parts of the Western Reformed world does not help matters. As the facile application of unsound Trinitarian teaching suggests, it will be important for work in public theology to be done carefully, independent of Western liberal propaganda of the past 200 years, dependent rather on the word of God interpreted according to right reason and the common testimony of the fathers, and then applied respectfully and judiciously to a civilization that needs not the deception of the West but the light of Christ.

Edit:
This is rich. Meanwhile, New Calvinism colonizes the Chinese church by the œconomic and social power of the US-backed New World Order. Sometimes, New Calvinists are almost as bad as Jesuits.

Congratulations to Taiwan for Its Sodomitical Marriage Ruling

For 24 May’s court ruling on gay marriage in Taiwan, I have just a few gay words for such a happy occasion.

must-liberate-taiwan

‘We must liberate Taiwan.’

For this historic and brave moment, the strongest congratulations and gun salutes are in order – indeed, the event deserves a nuclear salute. Let the world know: Love is love. Taiwan, not China, is on the right side of history. It is entirely laudable, after all, to be at pains not to identify as Chinese while also claiming 5000 years of Chinese history as your own, and even more so to stake your identity on the kind of difference that draws upon you the fiery wrath of Almighty God.

Reread the Platform Sutra?

huineng_wallsutra

I wonder if I should reread the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 六祖壇經. It’s been almost ten years since I read it last as an undergraduate at Berkeley, and it might be useful (for me, anyway) to write annotations on it as a Christian. On the other hand, would it be better for me to read and annotate something else this summer?