In 1926, the Chinese Nationalists bulldozed their way to power, rumbling north to Beijing behind a phalanx of pamphleteers. In Hankou, the Religious Tract Society watched jealously as the Party, “using our means and improving upon them,” created a regime change. Propaganda, the General Secretary of the Religious Tract Society concluded, had established the new masters of the Middle Kingdom. Could it not also help to establish the Kingdom of God?

Between 1927 and 1949 millions of Christian posters hit the Chinese market. They were bright, symbolically rich, and conveyed multiple messages. At the same time, they were easy to comprehend. Christian propaganda posters intentionally aimed to topple China’s other ideological systems. Some images were explicitly produced to replace ancestral tablets or images of the kitchen god. Others competed directly with Nationalist and Communist propaganda, offering an alternative vision of what national salvation looked like for China.

In 1949, however, the Communists swept to power and, in victory, swept away their rivals. Communist posters have received extensive scholarly attention, but they are only the winner’s tale. Boston University’s Center for Global Christianity and Mission is recovering the forgotten and overlooked Christian materials that stood alongside, challenged, co-opted, and even subverted traditional religious, Nationalist, and Communist messages. Working with materials donated from Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Columbia University, Elizabethtown College, Harvard University’s libraries, Hong Kong Baptist University, the Joint Archives of Holland, Michigan, the Salvation Army’s International Heritage Centre, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Smith College, the Society of the Divine Word Archives, the University of Birmingham, the University of London, the University of Minnesota, Wheaton College, Whitworth College, the World Gospel Mission, and Yale University the CGCM has built a digital archive that showcases over 600 posters. The site allows users to search, examine, and even interpret the posters. Each user is invited to curate an exhibit.

Chinese Christian propaganda posters are a fascinating window into the complex political, social, economic, and religious landscape of China in the second quarter of the twentieth century. Enjoy the view.


The following people have been involved in this project:

Dana L. Robert is Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission, and Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission. Her research and teaching interests span mission history, World Christianity, and mission theology. An Editor of the journal Church History, she was a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology in 2016-2017, and Senior Research Fellow at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany. She is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In 2017, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Missiology.

Daryl R. Ireland is the Associate Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, and the project manager of Chinese Christian Propaganda Posters. He focuses on the history of Christianity and mission in Asia. His study of 宋尚節 (John Sung), a Chinese revivalist whose itinerant ministry renewed the spiritual life of tens of thousands in the 1930s, has prompted him to write more broadly about revitalization movements, the role of women in revivalism, and religious conversion in China and Southeast Asia.

Alex Mayfield is the architect of the Chinese Christian Posters website. He is a PhD student at the Boston University School of Theology studying world Christianity and mission history. His research interests include global Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, ecumenism, mission history in Asia, and the development of Chinese Christianity in the modern period. Beyond these interests, Alex has worked on several digital initiatives that aim to bridge the gap between the theological academe and the wider public.

Man-Hei Yip  is currently Visiting Researcher at the Boston University School of Theology’s Center for Global Christianity and Mission. Man-Hei is also an Adjunct at Wartburg Theological Seminary teaching an online certificate program. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Man-Hei worked with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) located in Geneva, Switzerland and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She has been invited on several occasions by the LWF and World Council of Churches (WCC) to speak about issues concerning justice, peace, and sustainable development. Man-Hei enjoys writing; she has written articles and book reviews for Currents in Theology and Mission, and she is a contributor to Global Lutheranism: Vitality and Challenges (2018).

Assistant Professor at the Evangelical Presbyterian Seminary in Cairo, Anne Zaki was born in Cairo, Egypt. She has worked as a research and development specialist for global worship for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship from 2003 – 2013, developing global worship resources and organizing global worship conferences worldwide. In 2011 she returned to Egypt, nine months after the Arab Spring. Anne currently teaches  courses on Preaching, Worship, Spiritual Formation, Psychology, and Communication.

Francisca Ireland-Verwoerd is a Visiting Researcher at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, and an adjunct professor of Art and Music at Eastern Nazarene College. She works at the intersection of art and theology. Her work in creative pedagogy has focused on the power of art in education.

Jesse Ciccotti is currently Assistant Dean of Spiritual Formation at Colorado Christian University. He completed his PhD in Chinese and Comparative Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University, and continues to work in Chinese, Greek and Roman, comparative, and contemporary philosophical and religious themes.

Soojin Chung is Assistant Professor and Director of Intercultural Studies at California Baptist University. Her research interest includes East Asian mission history, the role of women in missions, and history of transnational adoption. Previous to the theological training she worked for the Youth With A Mission in India, Thailand, Fiji, and New Zealand.  

Yan Wang has been a professor of Judaic Studies at Shandong University, China. In 2014, he came to the United States as a Visiting Researcher at the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies at Boston University. He has since enrolled at the BU School of Theology, and is currently a third-year student in the MDiv program.

Max Xue is currently a PhD student in sociology at Purdue University, where he is focusing on contemporary Chinese Christianity. He has written about Chinese Christian networks and the emergence of Presbyterianism in the mainland.

Maria Kexin Ren was born in Nanjing, China and came to the United States in 2008. Maria attended Boston University as a full scholarship recipient, and she recently graduated from BU summa cum laude for both her degrees in mathematics and harp performance. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in data science at Johns Hopkins University. She is also working as an android developer with TD Bank.

Wendy Yudi Xie is a second-year undergraduate student majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Art History.  She has a keen interest in both literary analysis and artistic expression, as well as the history of ideology, philosophy, and religion. Having grown up in China and finished high school in the United States, Yudi enjoys reading and writing in both English and Chinese. She thinks the ultimate job of a translator is not only to preserve the original meaning but also to open up channels for new interpretations.

David Li is a junior student at Boston University majoring in History. He was born in New Zealand and grew up in Guangdong, China. His interests, asides from his major, are Chinese etymology and dialects (three of which he knows), which induced him to this digital humanities project to make use of his knowledge in Chinese history and language.

Yinan Li recently graduated from Boston University with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Art history. He is now pursing a postgraduate degree in Accounting and Finance at London School of Economics. He is interested in modern art, Epistemology and Metaphysics.


Yoyo  (Yatian) Huang, a sophomore at Boston University, fulfills her passion for knowledge by majoring in International Relations (focusing in European Track) and Economics. During her spare time, she enjoys volunteering in Boston Cares to serve other people, trying new restaurants with her lovely friends, reading literature and novels as well as traveling to different places. To Killing a Mockingbird, The Reader and The Bridges of Madison County are three books she really cherishes, which bring her a whole new world.

Hongyu Lai is an undergraduate student in Boston University. She was born in Foshan, China. Majoring in Cultural Anthropology and minoring in East Asian Study, Hongyu takes great interests in understanding present-day’s social problems, conflicts and impacts of globalization on cultures. She is also keen on exploring gender issues. She is currently developing a research project which focuses on social media.

Robert Dean Carlson (1928-2019) was the son of Christian and Missionary Alliance workers C. Edwin and Carol Hammond Carlson. He was born July 2, 1928, while his parents were home on furlough in Wheaton, Illinois, from their mission station in Gansu Province, China. When he was only a few months old, his family returned to the Far East. Several years of Robert’s childhood were spent in the Tebe Valley in Tibet, where his parents were attempting to win converts to Christianity. In 1942, he was briefly at the high school run by the United Church of Canada in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, but this school was soon forced to close, whereupon Robert went to India to study at the Woodstock School in Mussoosie. Robert graduated from high school in 1948 and enrolled in Wheaton College, from which he graduated in 1951. While at Wheaton, he met his future wife, Margaret J. Larson. They were married in 1952 and they had four children: Roberta (1954), Eric (1957), Ted (1959), and Carol (1965). After service in the army, part of which he spent as an interpreter stationed in Taiwan, Robert attended Wheaton Graduate School, from which he graduated in 1957 with an M.A. in biblical literature. From 1956 to 1960, he taught Greek at Wheaton College. In 1960, he, Margaret, and the children traveled to Hong Kong, where Robert taught Greek and Bible courses at the Christian and Missionary Alliance School and Margaret served as school nurse. They remained in Hong Kong until 1968.

Flora Tang is a Masters of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School. Born in Beijing, China and raised in the Midwestern United States, she has always been interested in the intersection between Christian theology, poetics, and Chinese cultural expressions. She graduated in 2018 from the University of Notre Dame with double majors in political science and theology, two topics that she has since learned to never bring up at Thanksgiving dinners.

Sihan is a senior majoring in philosophy with a minor in art history at Boston University. Born and raised in Chengdu, China, she has learned Chinese calligraphy since she was 10, which delivered a background knowledge in East Asian art to her, and she is enthusiastic about doing further research in this field. Besides her major, Sihan has interests in graphic design, and the experience of being an intern in this area helps her develop her own taste of aesthetics.

Hengyuan Liu is an undergraduate student majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics, specializing in the Machine Learning field. He believes that the charm of technology lies in its universality and applicability. His vision and mission is people-oriented — he hopes, with his systematic optimization of the archived data structure and website accessibility, our research can spread to and help more people in the world.

Yutong Wang is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Relations at Boston University. Born in Guangzhou, China, she grew up with her grandmother who is a Christian and triggers her interest to learn more about cultural intersection and communication when she grows up. Cutting the gap between the classroom and the real field, she enjoys practicing the communication theories she has learned into the real world, exploring the difference between the propaganda techniques in the 20th century and today. She also extends her interests in cultures and languages as she runs a Chinese traditional dance club at Boston University for three years

Yue Xi graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Psychology. Art is an important medium for expressing emotions all across the world, and she is delighted to be a part of it.

Jiafan Wang is a recent graduate of BU with a major in the history of art and architecture. Born to an immigrant Christian family originated in the Fujian province in southeast coastal China, she was fascinated by the large amount of these Christian posters unknown to her. By assisting in transcribing and translating the texts on the posters, she was able to study a piece of history untold in China. She looks forward to seeing more of these art and humanities resources digitized and made available online.