For me, growing up Christian always felt like a cultural struggle. Even though I was born and bred in a Christian family, it still feels as though I’m losing my heritage because of Christianity due to it’s western associations. In fact, I know that I’m one of the lucky ones, that don’t have to bear the pain of being called unfilial or a “banana” (faux-westerner) for being a Christian. However, I still do wonder how, if it’s possible, can my Chinese heritage be reconciled with Christianity. After all, most of the oriental cultures are the way they are due to religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. This is why the book “A Biblical Approach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs” by Daniel Tong was very welcoming.
This book systematically takes you through the Chinese traditions and beliefs. Mr Tong starts by giving the background of how the Church has been approaching this issue, and briefly explains Chinese religious beliefs. He then goes through the three biggest topics that would concern a believer, especially one in a non-Christian family – “The Main Events”, “Ancestral Veneration” and “Traditional Chinese Medicine”. Within these three main topics, he covers various subjects such as the different festivals, marriage and funeral rites, as well as exercises like qigong. There is also a very useful appendix, which covers the long (dragon), food offered to idols as well as attempts at Christianising the various Chinese festivals.
What really impressed me was the systematic approach to each topic. Mr Tong first explains aspects of the topic, such as chun jie (Chinese New Year), such as the reunion dinner, and then explains what the Biblical attitude towards it should be. In this case, a reunion dinner is a good way to honour our parents and to keep in touch with our family, something needed in today’s society. However, we must not buy into superstitious practices, such as cooking too much food to ensure abundance for the next year because God will provide for our daily needs.
Of course, from the beginning of the book, Mr Tong tells us that different Churches may view certain subjects differently. One practical example would be Zhong Qiu Jie (Mooncake Festival). While he advocates that Christians should have nothing to do with the festival at all, my Church organises an annual celebration, as a time of fellowship and bonding. Of course, in certain, larger, issues, the Church has a unanimous stand, such as offering food/joss sticks to the family altar.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this book if you have doubts about how Chinese traditions can co-exist with Christianity. As an added bonus, it is fairly short and highly readable. It’s worth reading if you have Chinese friends and want to know how to share the gospel with them without offending their culture.
Published on 26 October, 2011. Last updated on