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SHAANXI PROVINCE

Pronunciation: shahn-shee
Meaning: West of the Mountain Pass
Population: 35,942,000
Protestant Population: 360,000 (1%)
House Church Activity Level: High
Official Bible Schools/Seminaries: One

GATEWAY CITIES

Ankang: Pop. 913,796
Tongchuan: Pop. 430,179
Hanzhong: Pop. 515,098
Weinan: Pop. 842,198

Pictures 1 and 2. In November 1879 George and Emily (Snow) King became the first Protestant missionaries to reside in Shaanxi. Mrs. King’s death of typhus on March 10, 1881, made her the first missionary to die in Shaanxi.

GENERAL INFORMATION. Over 1,000 years ago, Shaanxi was the center of the powerful Tang Dynasty and was one of the wealthiest places on earth. Now it is a very poor inland province, struggling to catch up with the prosperous coastal provinces, and is most famous for the terra cotta warriors which tourists flock to see at the tomb of China’s first emperor. Shaanxi is about the size of England and Wales combined, and more than 80% of its area is covered by mountains and hills. The Yellow River carries away huge quantities of soil as it flows along Shaanxi’s eastern border. Mount Huashan in eastern Shaanxi is one of the Five Sacred Daoist Mountains.

PROVINCIAL CHURCH HISTORY. Shaanxi’s capital Xi’an (then Chang’an) was China’s capital during the “Golden Age” of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) The famous “Nestorian Tablet”, now on display in the Provincial Museum in Xi’an, dates from 781 and records the earliest known Christian missionary work in China. Emperor Tai Zong welcomed the Nestorians to Xi’an in 635, but two centuries later Emperor Wu Zong suppressed them as part of a campaign against Buddhism and other “foreign” religions. The Nestorian Church disappeared from China completely in the 14th century.
In 1875, George King and Frederick Baller of the China Inland Mission became the first Protestant missionaries to visit Shaanxi. Four years later, King and his new wife settled in Hanzhong in southwest Shaanxi (see photos). The first two decades of the 20th century saw a significant growth in missionary work. In 1900, there were 4 mission agencies at 21 mission stations. By 1920, there were 11 agencies with 126 missionaries working at 35 mission stations, all but 8 of those belonging to the China Inland Mission. That year found Shaanxi with 7,081 Protestant Christians, a number which grew to 30,000 by the time the Communist Party took power in 1949.

CURRENT CHURCH SITUATION. Shaanxi has been one of the provinces experiencing rapid church growth. Although the numbers are still believed to be relatively small, problems with authorities continue. In May 1999, police forcibly removed about 500 Christians from a church in Xi’an where they had been maintaining a vigil to protest an alleged sale of the building for a commercial development. The church building was later demolished, resulting in an impasse because the site offered as a replacement is too remote to serve the needs of the congregation Problems due to the crackdown on the Falungong (see January) caused many house churches to stop meeting in early 2000.
Shaanxi is the province where a peasant named Ji Sanbao started a cult known as the Disciples. Ji holds himself to be the “second Christ” and has his followers pray in his name. In 1995, after many Communist Party members joined the Disciples, the group was banned. The army arrested over 500 members and shut down over 2,000 meetings in Shaanxi alone. The Disciples hostility to the one-child policy has contributed to continuing persecution in Shaanxi, Sichuan and other locations.

KEY PRAYER POINTS:

1. Pray for Shaanxi’s Christians to continue to reach out to their neighbors and for millions to come to Christ in her Gateway Cities.

2. Pray for wisdom and honesty for government officials who are in charge of promoting economic development in poor inland provinces like Shaanxi.

3. Pray for foreign Christians to develop holistic and innovative ways to enter the market place and assist both spiritual and economic growth in Shaanxi

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