Academic Lecture: Modern and Chinese Protestant Revivalism Movement and Its Founder Li Shuqing

A historical history of the family of Li Shuqing
A historical history of the family of Li Shuqing (photo: screenshot of video)
By Esther TianNovember 15th, 2022

A few days ago, a professor gave a lecture about the influential Protestant revivalism in China from 1905 to 1949 and its founder Li Shuqing. It involved an online lecture titled “The History of Protestant Revivalist Preaching in Modern China”.

Professor Ping Liu, is a scholar of modern Jewish philosophy, Biblical studies, and the history of Christian thought. His research interests include Chinese as well as foreign Christian history and Biblical studies.

The reason why Professor Liu regards 1905 as the beginning of the revival of Protestantism in China lies in the founder Li Shuqing. Li Shuqing (1875-1908), considered a pioneer of Protestant revivalism in China, was once a military doctor, which was quite a good job in that era. Lu Xun, a famous Chinese writer, quit medicine for literature, and Li quit medicine for preaching. At that time, Li saw that healing the body could not fundamentally solve China's chronic poverty, weakness, and ignorance, believing that healing the soul was the fundamental change of the whole life.

Here are some key points about Li Shuqing shared by Professor Liu.

Li died young, but his short life was of great significance to the history of Protestant revivalism in China. Liu has combed through three stages of Li's life: the early years, the turning point of his life, and his revival preaching.

Born in Suzhou in 1875, Li was the son of a pastor who was later transferred to Jiading County, Shanghai. Growing up in a church school, at the age of 13, he went to Shanghai to study at St. John's University founded by the Episcopal Church. In 1891, while studying at St. John's University, he was baptized in the Episcopal Church to become its member.

In 1893, Li Shuqing was enrolled in Viceroy's Hospital Medical School, Tianjin, to learn Western medicine. Since the school was managed by the Qing government at that time, students were given a monthly allowance of more than a tael (about 1.3 ounces) of silver. After graduation, they would become fourth- or fifth-rank officials and serve in the Beiyang Fleet, receiving a salary of more than 100 taels monthly and being a military medical officer. Li lived a Bohemian life, like any other student of his school.

In 1895, John Woodberry and his wife were sent to China by the Missionary Society and settled in Tianjin. John and his wife set up the Beulah Chapel for students of Beiyang Medical School and Beiyang Naval Academy in Tianjin to preach to those who knew English.

After that, influenced by John Woodberry and his wife, Li started to read the Bible. In 1895, he repented and was baptized by a pastor of the Missionary Society in March 1896.

In 1897, Li Shuqing stayed in the school for teaching as one among the fourth batch of graduates of Viceroy's Hospital Medical School, but because of his enthusiasm to preach the Gospel, he did not listen to the advice of the headmaster. He gave up the post of military doctor, which offended the headmaster. Then he was detained in the school for two years. During these two years, he preached to students, citizens, and local gentlemen in Tianjin. He rode on horseback to hundreds of villages and towns on the outskirts of Tianjin, preaching and nurturing new believers in the church.

In the winter of 1899, 26-year-old Li Shuqing went south to Shanghai with a couple of Woodberry. Li Shuqing worked with them to create the Beulah Chapel. After that, he quit because he did not like to do any work other than preaching and did not want to be a church leader. In the 1890s, the Tianjin Beulah Chapel Missionary Society, which was founded and led by Li, became the first group in China to preach abroad.

From the Spring of 1900 to 1905, he served as a professor of English and Biblical studies at East-West Academy in Shanghai and Soochow University in Suzhou. He married Wen Huiyu in 1900, a stepdaughter of a local Cantonese gentleman, Wen Bingzhong.

Li Shuqing began the revival preaching in October 1905 while teaching at Soochow University. He resigned from his teaching post at the end of 1905. After that, he held revivalism sessions in Shanghai and Nanjing and preached in Wuhu, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Jiangyin, Luzhou (Hefei), Zhenjiang, Ningguo, Changsha, Yantai, and Zhoujiakou. During this period, he and China's first female revivalistYu Cidu led the Revival meeting.

In October 1906, Wuchang Church invited Pastor Li Shuqing from Jiangsu to preach for three days. After hearing Li's sermon, Chen Chonggui went to visit him. After hearing his exhortation, Chen was greatly enlightened and became born again by repenting his sins. Thereafter, Chen determined to be a full-time pastor and began to serve God in the winter of 1907.

Li was inspired by John Woodberry and his wife, and then he also enlightened many others, including Chen Chonggui, Cheng Zigui (a famous pastor in the history of Protestant revivalism in China), Cheng Zhiyi, and Yu Ligong's mother.

In addition, Li Shuqing was engaged in some literary work. In 1906, he translated J.A. Seiss' three-volume Exposition of the Book of Revelation into Chinese. In June 1907, he founded the quarterly newspaper Gospel Guide.

On August 14, 1908, Li died after constantly overworking, with his last words, "Live or die, I belong to the Lord!"

Li Shuqing died at an early age. After his death, many people wrote articles to mourn him. One of the articles said, "Few people in the country have answered God's call since the 20th century, and Li Shuqing is the one who answered the call like Abraham."

Li Shuqing also has an unfinished dream. He attempted to establish China's own seminary, hoping to train people of pure faith. In 1909, Yu Cidu established prayer and scripture study classes in Shanghai, which became the first local missionary training institute in China to fulfill his wish.

During Li Shuqing's short life, he only spent three years as a full-time missionary, without achieving anything ground-breaking, but the following characteristics of Li Shuqing are worth thinking about.

He would always be blunt with people. He never lied or hid his own real thoughts.

He never talked about his own difficulties, sufferings, weaknesses, and how poor he was. Fourth, he never talked about his.

Li was very cautious about money. He gave up work, but he did not accept any regular money or property from other people and did not accept public fundraising for him.

Li Shuqing used a lot of parallel sentences, which were colloquial, emotional, and touching.

Li Shuqing was a pioneer of missionary work for college students, and his successors were Ding Limei and Calvin Chao. Li was one of the three giants of student missionary work in modern China. He preached the gospel to students during his teaching at East-West Academy and Soochow University. However, due to his early death, this work was not fully carried out.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

related articles