Wang Zhiming (王志明牧师-1907-1973)

Minority Martyr

His Life

Miao pastor Wang Zhiming was little known outside his home in Wuding County, Yunnan at the time of his execution on December 29, 1973. Since then he has received two unique honors. In 1981, he became the only Christian martyr of the Cultural Revolution to have a monument erected at his gravesite. Then, in 1998 he was one of ten 20th century Christian martyrs memorialized with statues above the western gate of Westminster Abbey. These statues represent those who died for Christ in the century marked by the greatest number of martyrdoms in the history of the church.

Wang Zhiming was born in Wuding in 1907, the year after Christian missionaries first began work there. Their work among minority people saw much fruit, especially among the Miao in Wuding. By 1949, 130,000 Protestants, nearly 20% of the total for China, were found among Yunnan’s minorities. Five years later 1/2 of the Christians in Yunnan reportedly lived in the prefecture that included Wuding.

Wang was educated in Christian schools and later taught in one for ten years. In 1944 he was elected chairman of the church council in Wuding, and he was ordained in 1951 at the age of 44. During the 1950s Wang was one of six Miao Christian leaders who accommodated some of the demands of the new government by signing the Three Self Manifesto. Still, he refused to participate in denunciation meetings held to humiliate landlords, saying, “My hands have baptized many converts, and should not be used for sinfulness.” This was undoubtedly one of the reasons that, even before the Cultural Revolution, Wang was declared a counter-revolutionary.

His Legacy

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), at least twenty-one Christian leaders in Wuding were imprisoned, and many others were sent to camps, denounced or beaten. One later stated, “I cannot recall how many time I was made to kneel on the rubble and how much blood flowed from my knees due to their sharp edges. When I could not hold out and fell to the ground, merciless beatings followed. Then I was pulled up and forced to salute the portrait of Chairman Mao. My refusal to do so resulted in another round of beating up. Vicious cycles went on and on. This only paused for a little while when I almost lost consciousness.”

In 1969, Wang Zhiming, his wife and their sons were arrested. On December 29, 1973, Wang was executed in a stadium in front of more than 10,000 people. The largely Christian crowd was not cowed into submission by the spectacle, but rather many rushed the stand where they berated the prosecuting official.

After the Cultural Revolution, official attempts to placate the Miao included a compensatory payment of ¥1,300 (then $250) to Wang’s family. However, the real compensation for the great suffering of Wang and the other Christians in Wuding has come in church growth. When Wang Zhiming was arrested in 1969, there were 2,795 Christians in Wuding. By 1980 the church had grown to about 12,000, and Wuding now has over 30,000 Christians and more than 100 places of worship. Sporadic persecution in Wuding continues.

Wang Zhiming’s Last Words

You should not follow my example. (A humble statement meaning they should not waver in their faith in Christ.)

You should follow the words from above and repent. (A statement pointing them to God’s Word as their authority.)

In all of your work, you should pay attention to cleanliness. (A statement reminding them to be pure and holy.)

  1. Last Words from Wickeri, Philip L. The Abolition of Religion in Yunnan: Wang Zhiming in Chandler and Harvey (eds.) The Terrible Alternative: Christian Martyrdom in the Twentieth Century. (Mowbray, 1998), pp. 137-138.
  2. Tien, Ju-Kang. Peaks of Faith. (E.J. Brill, 1993).