Xining, Qinghai, China 西宁
For more context, please first read the previous entry.
Continuing from Yushu, I was again received by church members in Xining (西寧, Tibetan: Ziling), home of the head office of the same ministry. Being an office, there wasn’t much field work to see, and so the pastor here organised for me a whirlwind week of visiting Xining’s surrounds, famous across China for its particularly unique geographical offerings — and oh my, there is a *lot* to see.
Yet in between it all, I still got to learn and see the fruits of their church network’s labour, and learn about their works with Muslim Hui minority communities, aiding the impoverished and building genuine, lasting relationships.
Yushu, Qinghai, China 玉树
My visit to Greater Tibet was extended to twice as much as I had originally planned for, in anticipation of the Tibetan horse racing festival in Yushu. It’s hilarious (and a little disappointing, but mostly just hilarious) then that I went for five days and missed all of the horse racing, due to the lack of a written schedule and multiple venues. No regrets though! That Garzê detour would not have happened otherwise.
I was received in Yushu (trad. 玉樹, Tibetan: Jyekundo) and Xining by pastors and members of a loose affiliation of churches whose ministry my dad supports through Partners International. (For my previous entry on ministry in Xi’an, click here.) This group of unsanctioned, “underground” churches, based primarily in Qinghai province 青海, supports mostly ethnic minorities of China, although their reach has now widened to virtually all corners of China along with parts of Nepal and northern India. Given that most of Qinghai is considered the Amdo region of Greater Tibet, it’s no surprise that Tibetans are by far the largest group they support, although they also have outreach to Hui people and the majority Han. Their mission is simply to bring the church to areas it hasn’t been, pointedly picking empty-looking places on a map where no churches exist.
But this brings to question: given Tibet’s history of forced cultural change and repression at the hands of the Chinese government, having suffered irreparable harm, where does Christianity fit in? And given that Tibetans (Buddhist) and Hui (Muslim) are both ethnoreligious groups (like Jewish people, you could sort of say), how could you possible spread a different faith to them? Despite what you often see in the United States, Christianity considers itself counter-cultural. I’d say never more so than in this case.
Xi’an, Shaanxi, China 西安
Xi’an is one of the most significant cities in China, having been its often-renamed capital during some of China’s most significant dynasties. It’s so full of cultural and historical significance, with plenty of attractions showcasing it, that one of my hosts says “You could pick up a rock and it would probably be considered a cultural artifact.” At one point during the Tang dynasty sometime around 750, Xi’an (then Chang’an 長安) was the largest city in the world, and now it’s a sprawling 10000 square kilometre megalopolis of 8 million people, with its ancient city wall still intact and forming the core of the city’s downtown.
And yet, within two hours of getting off the high-speed train from Shenzhen, I found myself in an alley next to a large hotel just outside the city wall, handing out condoms to grateful cross-dressing prostitutes. Talk about an introduction to the city.