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Monday, 30 April 2012

Mystery Monday: Was Jesus Chinese?

Chinesus? Chesus?
Whilst keen to avoid my usual opening gambit of saying "no" and then going on to explain why in slightly more words, I find it tricky to actually have an opinion on this. I don't care if Jesus existed or not and whether he was Arabic, Indian or whatever. The only reason I even got started on this article was because the wife asked "Was Jesus Chinese?" and actually expected an answer.

It turns out that you can pretty much ask "Is X Chinese?" and find someone that says X most definitely is - and that fascinates me. So is there any kind of decent theory out there that can make a reasonable case for Jesus being Chinese?

Well, it turns out that not only was Jesus Chinese, but that he's back and he's a Chinese woman this time round. Game on.

This fine artwork by Christine Till is available to buy here
Professor Gong Yu Hai, who's previously published works about the Analects of Confucius, reckons that the Shan Hai Jing, a classical Chinese text reveals that not only was Jesus a real person, but that he was Chinese.

According to the prof, Jesus was really called Zhuanxu (顓頊) and was born almost 3,000 years BC, which is a little earlier than most scholars would place his birth. Oh and he was one of the "Five Emperors" from those ancient days.

Professor Gong Yu Hai says that at the birth of Zhuanxu there was an empire that was the centre of politics, economics, science and culture for the entire planet (I wonder whom he could mean?). Zhuanxu set up his own manor (in present day Jilin) at the age of 10, inherited the position of emperor at 20 and went to preach in the west at age 30.

The policy of that empire was to unify religion and politics and this Zhuanxu did through the creation of Christianity. So that's that then. The professor gets a little vague at this point both seeming to suggest that Zhuanxu was literally Jesus but also that he was the "prototype" for the Christian Jesus.

Well if that doesn't sound convincing, I don't know what does.

Christianity is relatively new in China. Although there have been annoying missionaries for a while now, Christianity just hasn't been that popular. Mainstream religion in China is a mish-mash of different ideas, customs and traditions picked by the individual. And Chinese religious customs are so interwoven into the calendar that it's hard to turn one's back on them by joining some 'modern' religion.

Since China opened up a bit more to the rest of the world, some of the first people across the border were Christians looking for converts. Apparently we're all too used to them and bored by their religion that it's jolly hard to score converts amongst our population. Christians have always been keen to exploit (in all senses of the word) closed societies and cultures unexposed to their doctrines. So yeah, they were straight through the door when China opened up. This hasn't entirely gone in Christianity's favour however as the Chinese have got ideas of their own and have never had organised religion. Quite a number of Christian cults have formed all over the country, taking Biblical teaching as their basis but adding some wacky new elements of their own and running off out of the reach and authority of the Christian church. Bugger.

Did they get their logo from Star Trek?
There's a sect called the Church of Almighty God and they're mental. According to them, they have 300,000 members (though observers say they might be closer to tens of thousands). They're also known as Lightning from the East, Dongfang Shandian, Seven Spirits Sect, Second Saviour Sect, New Power Lord's Church, True Light Sect and True Way Sect. Whatever they're called, their origins are pretty vague. Their central tenets include that "the great red dragon" from the Book of Revelation ( 12:3 onwards if you care to look) is China and that Lightning Deng (a quiet woman in her 30s from Zhengzhou, Henan) is the second Christ. Oh and she's written a book called Lightning From the East which is the third Testament of the Bible. Ha ha ha, no wonder the Christians are annoyed.

What's especially good is that the Church of Almighty God have the most ingenious recruitment techniques. Figuring that it's easier to convert people that already believe 90% of the same rubbish that they do, they've targeted Chinese Christians and they've not exactly shy about it. Kidnap is regularly used, but they're also partial to a bit of torture and brainwashing. They especially like to target religious leaders reckoning that if you can convert them, you'll probably get their followers for free.

So Jesus is back, he's a Chinese woman and he/she's written a whole new bit of the Bible. And the sect that's following him is coercing people into their congregation to the point where they're a serious threat to other Christian groups in China. Traditional Christian authorities have no control over them and yet are desperate to try and limit their influence in order to promote their official flavour of Christianity. But with no power base of their own in China, it leaves them in the uncomfortable position of having to seek the help of the Chinese government.

Whilst this painting is obviously ludicrous, is it any more stupid than
those of a white-skinned, fair-haired Jesus?
The Chinese government aren't terribly keen on any large organised group outwith their control as they pose a real threat to the country. China has a long history of rebellions and they've almost always come out of such groups, so they tend to stamp on them quite hard. After all, if a group only appeals to 0.1% of people, that's still over 1,500,000 members thanks to the sheer size of the Chinese population. This is why groups like Falun Gong (whose billionaire leader lives in New York), various qigong sects and Lightning from the East are all banned in China. It's not what they're preaching or even how they're doing it - it's all about their size and the lack of government oversight. After all if some guy can make you turn your back on thousands of years of Chinese tradition in order to believe his interpretation of a magic Jesus book, then you'll probably rail against the Chinese government if he asks. Not good.

So the Christian Church is in the uncomfortable position of having to ask the Chinese government to sanction one group over another. The government isn't particularly interested in helping any Christian group, so the official Christians have to be willing to put up with all kinds of restrictions in order to get their seal of approval. Christian groups and churches have to register with the state and there are restrictions on proselytising and public preaching, especially for foreigners. This is particularly galling for the Catholics who are used to interfering in national affairs, but that shit just doesn't fly in China.

All this wacky fun has led to the arrest of thousands of 'illegal' Christians in China and all with the collusion of the Christian Church. Ha ha ha. So keen are they to protect their official brand of Christianity that they're happy to be complicit in persecution of other religious groups, even though they're members of the same faith. I don't like organised religion, so I'm extremely pleased to see them adopting this position.

I'd love to finish off this article by showing you a picture of the Chinese Jesus, Lightning Deng, but no pictures of her exist. Her followers go to great lengths to hide her and make sure she is never photographed. Ironically, the underground Christian networks in China (encouraged for so long by the Christian Church) formed to avoid persecution in less tolerant days have proved equally effective in keeping cults and sects like Lightning From the East hidden these days.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Professor Gong may be indulging in some cyclical history there, in which Zhuanxu's preaching at the beginning of one cycle not just laid the foundations for, but was in some sense identical with, Jesus's actions at the beginning of another. Just a thought.