Bizarre Customs of Minority Christians in Yunnan, China

A Miao church of Yunnan
A Miao church of Yunnan
By CCD contributor: David ZhangNovember 27th, 2017

Ever since there have been churches in Yunnan, southwest China, the church has been fighting, yet coexisting with, feudalistic superstition, local customs, and paganism.

The Big Flowery Miao, a sub-group of the Miao ethnic group, has had faith for over a century; yet the local culture and customs still greatly affect the church. What is the most shocking is the idea of reincarnation. If people see snakes or insects in the house of a dead Christian, young or old, they believe that the deceased returned as animals due to missing their family or other reasons.

Superstitious prayers

Some preachers preside over funerals for the deceased with this prayer before the burial: "God! Please accept his spirit as I trust it into your hands. Keep him in the tomb so his spirit won't wander around disturbing the living. Deceased, now you no longer have ties to your family, just wait here for Jesus' second coming! Until forever! Amen!"

Once, after burying someone, people stayed at their place for several nights and meetings to comfort the family and keep them company. Some suggested praying for the dead when a locust got in and couldn't be chased away. They said the deceased couldn't let go and missed his family.

A few years ago, there was a church where believers prayed when they saw toads because they worried that their dead family members might come back and cause trouble for the living.

They even pray when bird droppings fall on them. One time, a sister approached requested prayer for her family. She had a few drops of blood and she had no idea how she got it while working outside, nor could she find where was bleeding, so she felt troubled that something strange might happen to the family working in other places.

Picking an auspicious date

Many Christians firmly believe in this. They would check the Chinese Almanac to pick a wedding date for their children. When it came to building a house, they carefully follow the instructions of the Almanac in every step, such as breaking ground, laying the foundation and cornerstones, placing floor plates, and so on. What's more, they even choose a date for moving in for their family's safety.

Without the lucky date, people even keep their pigs, bought at the market, on a leash. The poor animals would only be released into the sty on a fortunate day. Some Christians rely on the Almanac to grow corn. For some reason, a person born in the year of the ox can't plant seed because the feet of oxen are too heavy for the seed to grow;  the zodiac of the snake is also off the table because the sprouts might tangle like snakes underground.

Moreover, if someone dies in the family, especially direct members, the children's wedding needs to be postponed until the following year. It would also be unfortunate for people to marry their daughters if there was a funeral in the family, for "you can't send two away." In this situation, repairing houses is also bad luck.

Feng Shui

Many Christians are very convinced of the idea of Feng Shui with so-called "good" reasons: science and old foreign missionaries did so.

Local seniors often talk about how Rev. Samuel Pollard believed in Feng Shui, that he and his companions followed the mountains and found the geomantic and treasured site of Shimenkan. Therefore, they nourished so many talents in that difficult time. When asked why there aren't many talents in Shimenkan nowadays, they would argue it's because of the change of the school's location. And local Christians buy this.

Not just in Shimenkan, the entire Wumeng mountainous area preaches like this: foreign missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, traveled from Shaotong to some promising land and set up churches and schools.

When it comes to family member's funerals, what concerns the locals most, other than a traditional Christian funeral, is whether the deceased and living family members can bear the fortune brought by the good Feng Shui of the graveyard's location. However, if they don't have any offspring, any place works as long as it won't collapse.

Others use Abraham as an excuse, referring his purchase of the cave of Machpelah.

When some Christians are sick, they blame the dead. They would say their ancestors weren't properly buried, or their clothes weren't tidy enough. The dead aren't "comfortable" in the coffin, so their family members are sick. This requires the family to rebuild the grave. Some Christians also believe in this when things aren't going well for them. Who benefits from this?


Many Christians go to palm-readers because they're insecure and uncertain, and want to know about their future. Migrant workers often ask for a direction that will guarantee money.

There was one person who claimed to be a Christian and changed churches very often. When someone asked him to pray, he would read their palm and say after a moment of pretended silence: look at the lines on your palm, no wonder you're sick. He would then prescribe some questionable herbs for them. He also prayed for believers who came to him with questions of their misfortunes. He prayed with very spiritual words and told the believers that the Holy Spirit told him that their gates faced the wrong direction, and their luck would change if they took care of it. This resulted in many believers being misled and still living a very difficult life.

All these above impacted the Big Flowery Miao churches deeply. However, it is important to trust the leading of God and ask for His mercy.

Please pray for the churches!

(Note: the author is a contributing freelancer Christian in Shaotong, Yunnan. CCD remains neutral.)

-Translated by Grace Hubl

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