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Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China Hardcover – February 23, 2010

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Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China + A New History of Christianity in China + Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China And Changing the Global Balance of Power
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Editorial Reviews


"Redeemed by Fire presents a fascinating and impressively wide-ranging account of China's modern Christian experience, which is all the more valuable for the author's shrewd observations about the religion's future impact in the emerging superpower.  Particularly striking are his rich descriptions of China's flourishing prophetic and popular movements."—Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity
(Philip Jenkins)

"Lian Xi's book, an important contribution on a neglected subject, is the only in-depth study of popular, independent Chinese Christianity. He knows his Chinese history and philosophy and writes clearly with vivid and apt metaphors."—Jessie Lutz, author of Opening China: Karl F.A. Gutzlaff And Sino-western Relations, 1827-1852
(Jessie Lutz)

"Truly a landmark book. . . [a] must-read. . . written in an elegant style that makes it a pleasure to read. . . . Essential for understanding China today."--Daniel H. Bays, International Bulletin of Missionary Research
(Daniel H. Bays International Bulletin of Missionary Research)

"A major contribution . . . a rich resource and compelling account . . . clear and convincing."—Dr. G. Wright Doyle, Christianity in China
(G. Wright Doyle Christianity in China)

"Important . . . very valuable."--David Lyle Jeffrey, Books and Culture

(David Lyle Jeffrey Books and Culture)

"Beautifully researched and sympathetically written . . . accessible and attractive . . . important and provocative . . . essential reading."—Henrietta Harrison, American Historical Review
(Henrietta Harrison American Historical Review)

"Succeeds wonderfully."—Philip Jenkins, Christian Century
(Philip Jenkins Christian Century)

"Fascinating. . . . Lian's work excels. . . . [A] well-executed and detailed portrayal of the formation of Christianity as a Chinese religion. This engaging and provocative book would readily provoke stimulating discussion in many undergraduate classrooms."—Jeff Kyong-McClain, Journal of Church History
(Jeff Kyong-McClain Journal of Church History)

“This history hasn’t been told so authoritatively in a Western language before. Lian can range across Chinese sources with ease, even as he writes in cogent English prose.”—Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books
(Ian Johnson New York Review of Books)

About the Author

Lian Xi is professor of history at Hanover College and author of The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in American Protestant Missions in China, 1907–1932.  He lives in Louisville, KY.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300123396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300123395
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,107,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lian Xi is Professor of History at Hanover College. He grew up in Fuzhou, China, and now lives in Louisville, KY.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael -Pepperdine University on December 30, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Redeemed by Fire by Lian Xi is an academic investigation of the indigenous Chinese Christian Church from the 19th century to the present day. This book focuses almost exclusively on native Protestant Christian movements in China and is thus largely silent on the development of foreign Protestants or Catholics during this same time period. Xi organizes his book around the major indigenous churches of the 19th and 20th centuries, devoting chapters to the Taiping Rebellion, the Jesus Family, the True Jesus Church, the Bethel Band, and the Little Flock, as well as some heretical cults. In the epilogue, Xi draws all of the historical evidence together to make his central point that China's exploding Christian population is "of the masses...not of the elite" and will thus be limited in its ability to affect large scale changes in Chinese culture and politics (pg. 244).

One of this book's best attributes is the meticulous research that Xi has done in regards to these movements. Every major indigenous Christian leader's back story is given so that the reader has a full understanding of the context in which these people lived, giving vital insight into how and why these figures developed their distinctive theologies and styles of leadership. Furthermore, Xi is careful to note the historical setting in which these indigenous revivals take place so that the reader always understands how the surrounding environment shapes the nature of different Christian movements (see pgs. 47, 148, 193 for examples of this contextualization). Also, Xi points out relevant sociological and psychological studies that help give the reader a frame of reference for phenomenon such as "spirit-possession" and the higher rates of female Christian conversion (see pgs. 71-72, 239).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anson Cassel Mills on April 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Beginning with a helpful overview of Western Christian missions to China, Lian Xi has produced a carefully written book about mostly charismatic, millenarian, and communitarian sects that he considers homegrown varieties of Christianity. As a historian with no expertise in Chinese Christianity, I learned a great deal from this important work, one that could not have been written by anyone but a fully bilingual scholar such as Xi.

The author's strongest chapters are those that treat the first half of the twentieth century and cover individuals such as Wang Mingdao, John Sung, and Watchman Nee, and organizations such as the True Jesus Church and the Jesus Family. Perhaps there are simply too few sources to be more definitive about how Christianity developed so dramatically during the years of persecution under Communism.

Stylistically, Xi might have improved the work by paraphrasing much that he has quoted and woven shorter quotations into the fabric of his own sentences. Xi also overuses scare quotes, such as "the gift of `tongues' (53), "born again," and "lost sinner" (98).

More substantively, Xi describes as popular Christianity almost any religious impulse that had a marginal connection to the faith. Thus Xi counts as a variety of Christianity the mid-19th century Taiping Rebellion, which resulted in the deaths of millions. Likewise he treats Ji Sanbao (1940-1997) and a woman surnamed Deng as representatives of popular Christianity although Ji took such titles as "Christ of the Third Redemption" and "the true Dragon, the Son of Heaven" and Deng declared herself "the Almighty" and replaced the Bible with her own pronouncements so as not to diminish her rank as God.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Lian opens the book with a few stories that describe recent collisions between the Chinese government and various Christian groups, which in the view of Lian, attests to Christianity’s “vibrancy” today. Yet, Lian suggests that in order for recent events and patterns in Protestant Christianity in China to be intelligible, it is important to learn about the movements, which fostered the potency of contemporary Protestant Christianity in China.

Today, according to Lian, there are approximately fifty million Protestants (and another 17 million Catholics) in China. If this figure is close, this means that China’s Protestant population has grown by six hundred times since 1900, during which there were eighty thousand Protestants out of a total population of four hundred million. This growth, Lian suggests, can be largely attributed to grassroots indigenous Protestant movements that surfaced throughout China during the twentieth century. During this time of great political and cultural turbulence, Christianity went through a metamorphosis, transitioning from “an alien faith preached and presided over by Western missionaries” to a “popular” social movement led by distinctly indigenous, sectarian Christians. This “homegrown” Christianity, as Lian describes, surfaced as a fundamentalist, Pentecostal and millenarian form of Protestantism, primarily consisting of rural and lower-class demographic. Distinguished by a “potent mix of evangelistic fervor, biblical literalism, charismatic ecstasies, and a fiery eschatology” this “popular” form of Christianity, according to Lian, provided assurance and meaning amidst the birth pangs of revolution and distress that characterized twentieth century China.
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Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China
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