Nature’s Revelation

新东元 蒋

Nature's Revelation
The Influence of Nature on Chinese Christian Posters During the Republican Era

        For centuries, Chinese art and literature have been influenced by the natural world, inspiring artists and writers to integrate nature into their works of art. This reverence for nature has also extended to the realm of religious art, as evidenced by the Biblical posters from the Republican era of China. These posters, created in the early 20th century, combine traditional Chinese artistic techniques with Christian themes, highlighting the artists’ affinity for nature to reflect the divine word of God. Each of the four posters shown above has the key element of using depictions of nature to illustrate biblical verses, showcasing how the beauty and power of nature have inspired the artists to explore spiritual themes such as natural revelation and express their reverence for God and His creation as seen in the natural world.


        The large characters say, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” which is a central teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically to Matthew 6:33. The poster depicts birds and lilies, which may seem strange to someone unfamiliar with the Bible. However, upon closer inspection of the poster, readers will find that the birds and lilies are used to connect the scripture verses with the natural world as the artist saw it. The meaning of the passage is that God’s care and provision extend to the natural world and, therefore, must extend more so to humans. The birds and lilies are an indication of His goodness and provision, which would have been particularly meaningful in China during the Republican era, a time of great social and political upheaval when many people were looking for hope and stability in uncertain times. 


        This poster shows three verses describe how to become pure of heart. The first verse, Job 14:4, asks the rhetorical question of making an impure thing pure. The second verse, Psalm 51:10, is a plea to God to create a pure heart within the supplicant. The third verse, 1 John 1:7, claims that the blood of Jesus can cleanse every sin. The artist has chosen to pair these verses with a painting of water lilies, a symbol of purity, divine birth, and union, as in a wedding. Water lilies are also an important flower in Chinese culture (Xiong, “Water lily research: Past, present, and future”). By using this imagery, the artist suggests that becoming joined with Christ results in a new, pure, and divinely-birthed nature. This message would have resonated with many during the turbulent Republican era in China, providing hope and reassurance amidst uncertainty and change. 


        There is a Bible with three words around it, the top one being “Jesus,” the left side says “The Word of the Lord,” and the right side says “Seeds.” The book is identified as the Bible and the text that is displayed in it is the Parable of the Sower as written in Luke 8. The words coming from the Bible to the images are explaining the different types of seeds and the soil on which they fell. The bottom of the poster explains the moral of the parable and in big characters says to heed the passage. This would have connected well with many people at the time because during the Republican era in China, agriculture played a vital role in people’s lives, and the parable’s message would have resonated deeply with the people. The imagery of farming and sowing seeds would have been familiar to them and they would have understood the importance of preparing the soil, planting the seed, and tending to the crops in order to reap a harvest. Therefore the underlying message would have made sense to them as they faced social and political upheaval and were looking for hope and stability amidst the uncertainty. The Parable of the Sower reminded them that just as a farmer needs to prepare the soil, sow the seed, and tend to the crops, they too needed to prepare their hearts to receive the word of God, and to hold it fast in an honest and good heart even in a time of turmoil.


     The four fans represent the four seasons of the year. Although it is difficult to determine exactly which fan represents which season, the verses match up with the assumption that the top right represents spring, the bottom right represents summer, the top left represents autumn, and the bottom left represents winter. This is partially because Chinese was traditionally read from top to bottom and from right to left during the time when the fans were made (Norman, “Chinese,” 80). Therefore, it is logical to assume that the bottom left corner represents winter. Following this same logic, the verses on the fan also match up with each season. For example, it would make sense for the verses in the top right corner to talk about hope, which is often associated with new beginnings and the renewal of life that comes with spring. Similarly, the verses in the bottom right corner speak of mercy and peace, which could relate to the warmth and abundance of summer. The verses in the top left corner discuss grace and blessings, which could relate to the harvest season and the abundance of autumn. Finally, the verses in the bottom left corner describe joy and delight, which could relate to the quiet and reflective nature of winter. The significance of these fans lies in the fact that the use of seasonal themes and imagery would have resonated with the traditional Chinese understanding of the cyclical nature of life and the natural world. By combining Biblical verses with seasonal imagery, these fans may have served to bridge the gap between Western Christian beliefs and Chinese cultural values. They helped frame Christian concepts and ideas in a way that was familiar and accessible to the Chinese cultural worldview.  

        These four Biblical posters from the Republican era of China demonstrate how nature influenced some Chinese Christian posters and how artists were inspired to explore Christian themes and make them more familiar by incorporating traditional art styles. The posters effectively blend traditional Chinese artistic techniques with Christian themes to provide a unique insight into how Republican-era Chinese Christian artists were able to interpret and express their beliefs to a Chinese audience. Overall, these posters serve as a testament to the enduring power of God through nature and His ability to connect people across different time periods, cultures, and traditions.



Norman, Jerry. Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Xiong, Xianghui, Ji Zhang, Yongzhi Yang, Yuchu Chen, and Qun Su. “Water lily research: Past, present, and future.” Tropical Plants 1 (January 29, 2023). TP-2023-0001. 

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