Localization of Christianity through Chinese Traditional Bamboo Clappers Allegro "Kuai-Ban"

Localization of Christianity
Localization of Christianity (photo: Screenshot)
By Phoebe Zheng May 11th, 2016

As shown by the video, two sisters are performing through an exquisite local art through allegro or so-called Kuai-Ban, to recite stories of Jesus while rhyming with bamboo clappers.

Originated from Tianjing Provinve, Kuai-Ban is an extremely popular folk art well-liked by the Chinese nationals. It enables story-tellers to deliver their messages through marvelously rhythmic words, thus leaving an exotic impression among the audience.

This performance was delivered by members from Xulou Church in Anhui Province. They managed to creatively combine folk art and the gospel message, stunning the audience with both their impressing artistic talent and their intended message, the Gospel. 

In the Bible, Jesus also explains his message in a manner so simple that the mass could easily understand. As the king of the universe, Jesus humbles himself to dwell among us, embracing human emotions and facing temptations like we do. When he saw birds soaring in the sky, he said," Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew6:26)

In Corinthians 9, Paul said, "“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians9:20-22) 

As a disciple of Jesus, Paul has devoted his life to God's mission by spreading the gospel to the Jews and Gentiles. He, however, never expects gentile believers to conform to his own culture or tradition, but rather humbles himself to live like one of them in order to effectively guide mans mentor them.

When foreign missionaries first entered China to spread the gospel, they often tapped on the local mode of communication such as folk art to which the Chinese people can easily relate. The book "Searching for Su Weilian" has recorded the church planting strategies used by a British missionary while developing his ministry in Wenzhou, China. Despite how Wenzhou Dialect can be named as one of the toughest dialects in China, Su still strived hard to master the local dialect and live like a local in Wenzhou. At that time, people in Wenzhou loved to watch performances delivered by street artists such as local magician shows. Su thus tapped on locals' interests by performing "teeth extraction" as he played the trick of extracting his teeth and then plugged them back again. He then told the audience that there was another "magic" of higher power that he knew about, which was to replace not people's teeth, but people's hearts when an ill-natured heart could be replaced by a kind and loving heart. Apart from magic shows, he once replaced the lyrics of the popular song " Jasmine Flower" with bible verses, transforming it into a worship song!  Moreover, Su served the local community painstakingly through exploring what the locals really concern about and meeting their urgent needs. Through simple but relevant acts such as providing tea, cigarettes and lunch for the locals, he brought the gospel through the hearts of the locals. 

From Jesus to his disciples and from Wenzhou Dialect to Tianjin Kuai-Ban, we can come to realize that the gospel is full of penetrating power as it's highly adaptable to local culture. Jesus is God becoming as man, speaking human language. Paul puts aside his identity as Roman citizen to advance  God's mission. Missionery Su learns to master Kuai-ban in order to spread the gospel message. All these testimonies have proved that making Christian relevant to Chinese culture will not just be a lip service, but a practical vision. We should strive to relate the kingdom's truth closely to the hearts of Chinese people through media that are familiar to them. In view of countless amazing testimonies of foreign missionaries pouring out their hearts to master difficult Chinese dialects, all the more should we Chinese Christians humble ourselves by sincerely embracing our unbelieving friends' perspectives and concerns in order to effectively reach out to them.   

The Gospel is never meant to be a self-centered message. When Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman, he started the conversations by the topic of drawing water from the well. Similarly, we should be able to draw examples from daily life if we truly understand the core of the Gospel.

Translated by: Maggie Li

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