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Paul Hattaway: Guizhou

Paul Hattaway, Guizhou: The Precious Province (London, England: SPCK, 2018), 272 pages, ISBN 9780281079896.

Paul Hattaway has a great deal of knowledge about the church in China; this knowledge comes not only from his research but also from his direct involvement with the church there. He has written extensively about China and the Chinese church. Some of his books about China include: The Heavenly Man, Operation China, and China’s Christian Martyrs. This present volume, Guizhou: The Precious Province, is volume two of what is perhaps his most ambitious project, The China Chronicles. This is a series of books devoted to exploring the history and spread of Christianity in each of the Chinese provinces. It is estimated that when this project is complete it will consist of about 22 volumes.

The province of Guizhou is located in the southern part of China. It is made up of very challenging terrain, 87 percent of the territory is mountains (page 5). It has a population of 35 million people, people from over 80 ethnic groups (page 2). Hattaway says that about half of the villages in the province do not have electricity and there are some areas of Guizhou that have not been explored (page 5). It is one of the poorest parts of China (page 6). Between 60 and 70 percent of the people in rural areas are illiterate (page 6).

In this book, the author gives a brief history of Christianity in the province. He writes about the beginnings of the Christian faith there and provides information about its development in subsequent years. He describes the people groups, the missionaries, and the challenges. Pictures are included throughout the text. As the information in the previous paragraph suggests bringing the gospel into this area would be challenging. And it was. There were geographic challenges as missionaries had to navigate some very difficult terrain. Living challenges, including poverty, weather, and health. And then there was the added challenge of ministering to people many of whom could not read. Some of the people groups who live in Guizhou include the Miao, the Hmu, the Nosu, the Bouyei, and the Dong.

Guizhou Province within China.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

This book is markedly different from the first book in this series, Shandong: The Revival Province, in one respect. In that book, the reader can find mention of many well-known missionaries, people such as Jonathan Goforth, Lottie Moon, and Eric Liddell. In Guizhou: The Precious Province, I did not find the names of missionaries that I recognized. Though they are unknown to me they are known to God. Some of the missionaries whose stories are told in this book include: James Broumton, Charles Judd, Jane Kidd, James Adam, Samuel Clarke, and Samuel Pollard. In addition the stories of national workers such as Wu Guosheng, Liu Wenyuan, Wang Bin, Pan Xiushan, and Jiang Zongxiu are also told. One interesting note regarding foreign missionaries in this province is that they came almost exclusively from the China Inland Mission (pages 61,102).

References to the supernatural are found in a number of places in this book. For example, in the decade of the 1910s, one missionary who did not have much of a belief in the demonic, conceded that some of the spirit-priests in this area had access to supernatural power because they could put white hot chains on their necks without being hurt (pages 84-85). In the decade of the 2000s there is a reference to signs and wonders taking place, this includes deliverance (page 189). Guizhou: The Precious Province records both the victories and the defeats that the church has suffered in this area. One of the challenges the missionaries encountered was the lack of a written language. They had to overcome this obstacle in order to make translations of the Scriptures for the people. The harsh realities of being a believer are not left out. Persecutions, imprisonments, and executions are mentioned. One of the words that I particularly noticed in my reading was the word “torture.”

The sacrifices and investments that foreign missionaries and national workers have made for Guizhou have borne fruit. There are now 2.7 million people there who call themselves Christians (page 16). That is good news, but as the author points out, there are still many millions who have not become believers in Jesus.

As was the case in the first volume in this series, near the end of this book there are charts. These charts provide information about population totals, religious beliefs, and languages spoken in the various areas in the province. If you are interested in Christian history, Christianity in the Global South, or more specifically Christianity in China, this book will be a welcome addition to your library. Its contents will inform, inspire, and perhaps, challenge its readers.

Reviewed by John Lathrop


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Read John Lathrop’s review of Shandong: The Revival Province, Volume 1 of The China Chronicles.

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Category: Church History, Spring 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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