Chinese Christian Ancestry, Filial Piety and Spiritual Motherhood: The “Confucianising” of Leona Wu Jingling in 1970s Singapore through the Production of Chinese Protestant Biographies

  • Dao Wei Joshua SIM (Speaker)

Activity: Conference/talk/lecture/symposium/speech/workshop, etcEvent organized by non-HKBU units


Chinese Christian biographies have been less frequently valued as historical sources of information about the faith and religious lives of Christian communities in China and the Chinese diaspora. This paper draws on recent scholarship on Chinese Christian textual traditions to analyse the biographies of Leona Wu Jingling (1897-1974), the prominent leader of John Sung’s evangelistic bands in Nanyang and founder of the first Chinese Protestant higher education institute in Singapore, Chin Lien Bible Seminary (金鏈靈修神學院). These biographical writings were produced by Chin Lien and the Singapore chapter of the evangelistic bands during the 1970s, after the death of Wu. The essay argues that these biographies “Confucianised” Wu by re-casting her as a virtuous Chinese-Christian woman model. This is apparent in two ways. First, a survey of earlier literary productions about her from the pre-1970s are analysed. This analysis demonstrates that Wu was hardly portrayed as a female Confucian model initially. Instead, she was seen as a female Protestant leader who was filled with evangelical zeal and ambition. Christian spirituality, identity and practices were, overwhelmingly, the focal points of these writings. Second, the process of “Confucianising” Wu only becomes apparent in her biographies. The writers employed three strategies to highlight Wu’s Confucian attributes, that is, the re-telling of her Chinese-Christian genealogy, an emphasis on her filiality before she moved to Singapore and the re-imagination of her as a spiritual mother. In all, her biographers successfully re-casted her as a Chinese and Christian who was able to live a pious religious life that melded key values of both cultures with a high level of authenticity that moulded her into a Chinese-Christian model. Attentiveness to the textual and contextual cues and clues of Wu’s biographers also suggests that the theme of Christian-Confucian interactions emerges as a central moral and epistemological category and “lived” experience for Chinese theological construction that should be treated with more seriousness.
Period8 Dec 2018
Event titleThe Ninth International Young Scholars’ Symposium on “Christianity and Chinese Society and Culture” 第九屆「基督教與中國社會文化」國際年青學者研討會
Event typeConference
LocationHong Kong SARShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese Christianity
  • Gender
  • Biographies
  • Chinese Theology
  • Southeast Asia Christianity