Zhang Xueliang (张学良先生-1900-2001)

Soldier for Christ

His Old Life

In his youth, Zhang Xueliang played a prominent role in China’s political development and lived the life of a patriotic playboy, but for his last 37 years he was a devoted soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ. Zhang was born in Haicheng, Liaoning on June 2, 1900. His father was the warlord of Manchuria, now China’s three northeastern provinces. Together they became known as the “Old Marshall” and the “Young Marshall”. Zhang captured Tianjin in 1924; there he met famed Christian educator Zhang Boling and also Zhao Si, the woman who would later become his wife. He also played basketball at the YMCA in Tianjin, but the gospel had no appeal for the rich, handsome young soldier.

When Zhang’s father was assassinated by Japanese agents in 1928, he inherited a fortune worth US$50 million, territory the size of Western Europe, and an army of half a million. He deeply wanted to see China unified and the Japanese expelled, but this desire came in sharp contrast to his out of control personal life. He drove fast cars, escorted fast women, flew a fast plane, and played cards for huge stakes at all night parties. He was also a drug addict. Zhang gained a larger place in Chinese history during the Xi’an Incident in 1936 when he kidnapped his hero, Chiang Kaishek, in order to force him into an alliance with the Communists against the Japanese militarists. Zhang achieved his political aim, but in the aftermath, he was placed under house arrest, first in the mainland and after 1949 in Taiwan.

His New Life

In captivity, Zhang studied Ming history and collected art, but his Buddhist faith left him empty. He began to read the Bible, trusted Christ, and in 1964 was baptized. That same year he married Zhao Si in a Christian ceremony performed by an American missionary, and the couple lived for Christ for the remaining three decades of their lives. At his 90th birthday party, he said, “I live by the love of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. I never thought I would live to be 90. Apart from thanking God, what can I say?” Soon after he was released from house arrest and moved to Hawaii in 1995. A reporter there wrote, “On the steps of a church in Honolulu, I watched a Chinese couple of great age, both in wheelchairs, arrive for morning service. The woman was still beautiful, the man still had a soldier's bearing. Other members of the congregation stood to attention as they passed. A line of taxi drivers left their vehicles to join them, all bowing deeply.” Mrs. Zhang once told visitors from China, “We both are Christians. Every day we pray, read the Bible and worship.” She went to be with the Lord on June 22, 2000 and Zhang followed her on October 14, 2001. One of his eulogists noted that Zhang had disappointed his former comrades by not writing memoirs or visiting the museum built in his honor in Liaoning, and noted, “Instead, he spent his time reading the Bible.” Zhang’s himself explained his refusal to settle scores by quoting from Philippians 3:13, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead”.

His Words on Life

It is easy to become a Christian, you just need believe God in your heart, and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God with your mouth. Now whether something is important for me or not, I pray to God to show me His way. I once was a libertine, but now I have given my body to Jesus, so I do everything to glorify His name.

Zhang Xueliang Zhao Si Xiaojie Zai Taiwan de Rizi p. 422.

  1. Boorman, Howard L. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China. (Columbia University Press, 1967-79).
  2. Heller, Richard. “The Young Marshall.” BBC History Magazine. (Feb. 2002).