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Paul Hattaway: Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China

Paul Hattaway, Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China (London, England: SPCK, 2019), 288 pages, ISBN 9780281080342

Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China is the third book in Paul Hattaway’s ambitious project known as the China Chronicles. Each volume in the series presents the Christian history of one the provinces in China. The author’s desire is to preserve a record of God’s work in China for subsequent generations of believers (page xii). In this book, as in previous volumes in the series, the author provides the reader with a lot of detailed information.

Zhejiang is a small province, however it has a sizeable population, the 2010 census lists its population at 54.4 million people, that figure was expected to grow beyond 62 million by the year 2020 (page 1). Its area is slightly over 39,000 square miles (page 1), and it has been referred to as a land of both great beauty and great variety (page 1). For a time it was an area that had many different languages (page 2). Wu is currently the most common language used in Zhejiang, though Mandarin is closing in on it for prominence (page 3). The majority of people in the province, 98.8 percent, are Han Chinese (page 8).

Zhejiang Province within China.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In AD 635, a Nestorian Christian named, Alopen, brought the gospel to China (page 9). This fact shows us that Christianity has had a presence in China for a very long time. The report of a massacre that took place in Ganpu in AD 878 indicates that there were Christians in Zhejiang at that time, they were specifically mentioned in the report (page 10). When Marco Polo visited Zhejiang in the 1280s he noted that the Nestorian Church was the only church there (page 11), the Catholic Church established their work in the province in the 1600s (page 12). The first Evangelical missionary entered the province in 1843, his name was D. J. MacGowan, from the American Baptist Missionary Union. (page 12). The next year, Divie McCartee, a Presbyterian missionary arrived, as did Ann Aldersey, who was “the first female Evangelical missionary to live in China” (pages 12-13). In those early days there were a number of languages spoken in Zhejiang, because of this, missionaries had to learn the languages of the towns they lived in (page 14).

In addition to these groundbreakers many others labored in the province, both foreign missionaries and native Chinese. Foreign missionaries included: William Russell from Ireland (pages 15-17), Walter Lowrie, an American, who became the first Evangelical to be killed in China (pages 17-19), William Aitchison (page 20-22), Griffith and Margaret John (pages 25-26), and George and Grace Stott (pages 38-42). James Meadows served in Zhejiang for over fifty years (page 93). The well-known missionary, Hudson Taylor and his wife, Maria, and later his second wife, Jennie also ministered in Zhejiang (pages 26-34). In addition to these there were also a number of single women who served in Zhejiang, these included: Josephine Desmond (pages 77-78), Edith Sherwood (pages 79-80), and Etta Manchester (pages 78-80). All of these women were martyred on the mission field (pages 78 and 80). Other foreign missionaries are also mentioned in the book. In addition to the foreign missionaries a number of Chinese also participated in gospel ministry in the province these included: Y. T. Zia (pages 44-47), Mrs. Liu (pages 54-56), Wang Laijun (pages 86-88), Ren Chengyuan (pages 96-98), Dora Yu Cidu (pages 98-101) and Miao Zizhong (164-173). Another well-known preacher who ministered in Zhejiang was John Sung (pages 107-110).

Today the province of Zhejiang has the largest percentage of Christians in China (page 22, 227). Interestingly enough, the majority of these believers are men (page 227). This notable achievement has not come easily. Persecution has come along with the growth. Some of the believers in Zhejiang have paid the ultimate price, but even those who were not killed, at times, endured long and cruel torture. Another notable dynamic of Christianity in this province has been the evidence of the supernatural, which has occurred at different points in its history. An evangelist in the 1800s named Xiang prayed for the sick and saw them healed (page 48). Manifestations of the supernatural, such as deliverance, took place though local Christians (page 108). Healings also took place through the ministry of John Sung (page 110) in the 1900s. In the 1960s and 1970s the Christians in Zhejiang were used of the Lord in supernatural ways, this contributed to the spreading of the gospel (pages 139-140). Healings also took place in the 1980s and 1990s (pages 158-161, 179). Suffering and signs of supernatural power are two things that marked the followers of Jesus in the New Testament and they have characterized the experience of the believers in Zhejiang too.

One factor that has contributed to the strength of the Zhejiang church has been the emphasis that was placed on self-support. Missionaries told the believers in this province that they needed to support their own ministry work and not depend on foreign assistance (pages 36, 116).

Here is an amazing story about what can happen when the faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of men and women meet.

As in previous volumes in this series there are excerpts of letters from believers in the province to various Christian ministries. In these excerpts the reader can see the questions and concerns that the Christians in Zhejiang have had at various times. Also, as in other books in the series this book contains photos. In the back of the book the reader will find charts with information about such things as population and Christian affiliation.

Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China is yet another volume that demonstrates what can happen when the faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of men and women meet. The Lord has brought about a significant work in this province, even in the midst of opposition and adversity. May those of us who live outside of China be both challenged and inspired by our brothers and sisters in Christ who have lived, and do live, with a firm commitment to follow the Lord.

Reviewed by John Lathrop



Asia Harvest page:


Further Reading

For more on Alopen and the spread of the story of Jesus into China, see historian Woodrow Walton’s article, “The Resurgence of the Gospel, Part One: The Medieval Prologue and the Remapping of the World


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Category: Church History, Summer 2020

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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