Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Boxer-Murder Mystery in Hainan: Part 4

by Maple, guest blogger

[in translation, continued from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 / 阅读中文原文]

"No fears, I can guide you there," an onlooker volunteered. "Just you alone, no others." The man said he knew a secret path into George's old residence. Karl followed the man without hesitation. Elder Wu, who noticed our uncertain expression, said with a smile, "Rest assured. Poison snakes don't bite their master."

Karl and Elder Wu

Soon Karl appeared on the other side of the wall, in the old cottage. He ran up and down the building excitedly, putting a finger by his lips to shush us. Situ shook his head, "Oh my God, I don't recognize him anymore. So excited!"

At lunch, Karl asked if he could go visit the Miao ethnic villages in the Five Finger Mountains. Elder Zhou smiled knowingly: "You really want to go? It's very far, the road's not good." Karl said firmly, "I very much want to go!" Elder Zhou replied with alacrity that he would make arrangement.

He then told me the story.

In 1915, in the Five Finger Mountains, the Miao ethnic foreman of Nanmao named Chen Riguang was injured by a wild boar while hunting. The situation was severe: the entire skin of Chen's face was peeled off. Because of the difficulties of transportation, the Five Finger Mountains area had always been the most backward and poorest place in Hainan, where no medical treatment was available. The Miao villagers brought Chen to Jiaji's Christian gospel hospital, where he received free treatment and Christian preaching. After he was cured, Chen Riguang returned to his Miao village and broadcasted the benefits of Christianity. His story won the Miao people over. From then on, Miao people often sought medical treatment in Jiaji gospel hospital, where they were also baptized and joined the church. Led by Chen Riguang, more than 300 Miao families in 30 villages of Nanmao and Zhongping abandoned their traditional shrines and incense burning to become Christians. At the time, all those villages elected their own elders and ministers, and set up simply constructed thatch churches for services.

Meanwhile, George and other missionaries from Jiaji opened schools and simple clinics in those Miao villages, sending teachers and hospital staff who took turns going in the mountains. This improved the living quality and education level of the Miao people.

After George's death, the area suffered from the chaos caused by wars. First wrecked by the Nationalist army, then plundered by the Japanese, the Miao villages' simple churches were being destroyed, villagers being killed, and services virtually stopped. After liberation, services gradually resumed but were again prohibited during the Cultural Revolution. It was not until the 1980s that services started again.

After hearing Elder Zhou's description, Situ added that Karl's grandmother had often mentioned the name Chen Riguang, and she very much wanted to know how Chen and his descendants were doing, whether the Miao villagers of Nanmao still believed in Christianity. Karl hoped to fulfill his grandmother's wish in this trip.

Elder Zhou promised he would contact the elders in Nanmao shortly and take Karl over by car the next morning. Hearing this, Karl looked as joyful as a child.

Because my husband and I needed to return Haikou for something else, we had to leave Karl and Sutu in Elder Zhou's care. About 3 pm, we said good bye in the hall of Sofitel Hotel. Karl was reluctant to part; he hugged me and kept saying "Thank you, thank you very much!"

Situ said, "Karl originally just wanted to find some information about Jiaji Church through Doctor Cai and friends, he didn't expect a trip so perfect, therefore he's very surprised, very pleased! He says after he returns home he will tell the story to all his friends, and they'll all feel happy for him. He says he will come here again with his wife and children. He says you should visit America when you get a chance, he will show you around. He lives near Disney in Los Angeles."

"Therefore," I mimicked Situ, "we will visit him for sure."


Several days later, Elder Zhou phoned to give us the follow-up.

The day after we left, they departed from Jiaji at 7 am, in the car driven by Elder Zhou. The car bumped along the mountain roads for four and a half hours to reach Nanmao's Miao ethnic villages. "It is a really beautiful place, you should go see it. They built a formal Christian church in 1986, very handsome."

But they did not find Chen Riguang's offspring. Villagers said the Chen family might have been exterminated by Japanese in 1939. That year, the Japanese army killed over 2000 Miao people there.

Before that, Chen Riguang had become heterodox. He had set up a temple in the Diaoluo Mountain area, believing in God, worshiping images, performing chicken divining, and venerating spirits, all at the same time.

Today, the Nanmao area has over 200 Christians – all are Miao people.

I thanked Elder Zhou for all the trouble he'd taken for Karl and Situ. "Nine hours back and forth, plus sending them back to Haikou, that was a lot!"

Elder Zhou said, "It was nothing, we were in a car after all. In George's time they did it all by foot; I heard it'd take half a month. That really was a lot! This trip moved me very much. They had done so much hard work back then!"

Karl's grandparents must be gratified to know this.
(The End)

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