The Chuncao Mansion is a core element of the World Cultural Heritage and also a famous scenic spot of the Sea Garden on Gulangyu Island, Xiamen, Fujian Province. Many documentaries and entertainment programs related to Gulangyu Island would mention this building. Xu Chuncao, the owner of Chuncao Mansion, was a legendary Christian. He was not only a member of the Xiamen Tung Meng Hui (Chinese Revolutionary League), but also won praise from all walks of life for initiating the Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls.
Born in 1874, Xu Chuncao had never seen his father since he was a child, so he had to live only with his mother. Xu made a career out of hard work and became the president of the Xiamen Construction Association. He was very hostile to the “foreign religion” (Christianity) in his early years, and had been to various churches to stir trouble. But after his contact with some Christians, he was attracted by their wonderful testimony. Later, he came to know Jesus Christ and was baptized.
Xu Chuncao served as an elder in the church, enthusiastic about various social welfare with a good reputation inside and outside the church. In his early years, he followed Sun Yat-sen and propagated revolutionary ideas. After the outbreak of the Revolution of 1911, he was in the Revolutionary Party which attacked the yamen (government office) of the governor of Xiamen and freed his hometown. He was a staunch supporter of Sun Yat-sen until the victory of the Northern Expedition, and once served as commander in chief of the Fujian Army of Crusading Bandits.
The most commendable achievement in Xu's life is no doubt the establishment of the "Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls", which saved countless women from the fate of slavery. Although it was the period of the Republic of China, many wealthy families still kept maids. Most of the maids lived a hard life. It was common for them to be beaten and scolded, and some of them were even beaten to death by their masters.
When Xu Chuncao knew that a maid committed suicide after experiencing unbearable insult in Gulangyu Island, a righteous fire of anger gushed out from him. He was determined to “liberate the maids first, as Lincoln liberated the slaves!” In 1929, he held a mass meeting at Bijia Mountain, Gulangyu Island, and proposed to set up the Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls to rescue maidservants.
Many maids in Xiamen area were informed of the news, so they left their masters and came over for shelter. According to Xu Chuncao’s son, Xu Mushi (a modern Chinese translator), “Within a few years of its establishment, this hospice had taken in 50 or 60 handmaids, sometimes more than 100. It lasted until the Pacific War broke out and my father entered the mainland, and then it was handed over to an international relief agency for management. The maids learnt to read in the hospice, and there were devotional meetings in the morning and evening. The loving sisters of the church would come to teach them to read the Bible, learn to sing and pray, and if they were old enough for marriage, they would marry the persons they like. Most of these women later accepted salvation and became believers. They adored my father in the hospice and even after they left it.”
Xu Chuncao’s staff were all engaged in the construction industry. They often decorated the house of the wealthy. Through this convenience, they found some abused maids and encouraged them to escape from the “den of monsters”. Many people in the society also strongly supported for Xu Chuncao’s charity. For example, a maid went to the police for help several times, but according to the laws at that time, it was difficult to sue her master, so the police told the maidservant to go and find Xu Chuncao for help, thus getting rid of her tragic fate.
His behavior offended a lot of powerful people, such as Wang Jing, the adjutant of the Naval Guard Command, and Lin Guan, the leader of a group of Taiwanese hooligans. They put pressure on Xu through a variety of connections, asking him to hand over the runaway maids. Xu Chuncao was not afraid of these powerful people and resolutely fought against them. As a result, the Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls received support from all sectors of society, so those powerful people finally had to give up looking for trouble.
Many people also strongly backed Xu's career. Adequate financing was needed to take in the maids, so Zhuo Quancheng, a famous businessman, Yin Bixia, the wife of Lin Wenqing (president of Xiamen University), and other celebrities donated money to support his career. Many among the medical staff at Salvation Hospital (hospice founded by Xu ) were devout Christians. They sympathized with the plight of the maidservants, actively supported the work of the Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls, and worked tirelessly for the maidservants in the hospice. Many women were covered all over with cuts and bruises when they reached the hospice, and Xu Chuncao would immediately send them to the hospital for treatment. They would get meticulous care from doctors and nurses. The hospital also reduced medical fees whenever it was appropriate. During the 7 or 8 years of treatment, more than 200 women had been successfully treated, except for one woman who died of severe injuries.
Xu's act of justice also changed the social atmosphere, and many families did not dare to abuse the handmaid at will anymore. To the point where a popular saying had spread in society, “Stop beating them, else there will be trouble when Xu Chuncao learns about this”.
The women who entered the hospice were all well taken care of. They not only acquired a lot of useful knowledge there, but also grew up to be good wives and mothers, as well as useful people to the society. Xu’s Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls had won recognition in the international community. In 1930, an inspection delegation of the Organization Against Slavery of the League of Nations in Geneva came to the Far East. While they were in Shanghai, they learned about the deeds of Xu Chuncao. So they specifically came to Gulangyu Island to visit and highly commend the anti-slavery mission of Xu Chuncao’s Society for the Relief of Chinese Slave Girls.
His actions to rescue maidservants made many women escape from the “dens of monsters” and lead a normal life. His act of righteousness demonstrated the glory of Christ. Mr. Zhuo Quancheng, an elder, once recalled, “I unconditionally approve of what Xu Chuncao is doing. For everything he does is according to the word of Christ.”
(The original article is published by Gospel Times.)
- Translated by Nicolas Cao