Pastor Shao of Yanshan was a graduate of the London Missionary Society’s theological seminary in Tianjin, which had been founded in the early 1870s. Shao was a student in one of the earliest classes, and had been faithfully serving in his appointed field of Yanshan for almost 30 years at the time of the [Boxer] rebellion.
Shao and his brother were lamp-makers by trade when they first heard the gospel. Although he was not able to read well, Shao was convinced of the truths of Christianity and forced himself to read the New Testament, which became his constant companion. After he and his brother became followers of Christ, the whole Shao household changed. They refused to worship their ancestors any more or to partake in any Buddhist or Daoist ceremonies. This infuriated their widowed mother, who
“induced Shao’s wife to unite with her in opposition to his new faith, so that peace fled from the home… . Her cruelty was extraordinary. His beloved books were constantly destroyed, and whenever the whim seized her the angry woman would take a bamboo and, ordering her grown-up son to lie down upon the ground, would beat him furiously. According to Chinese law, if Shao had any time retaliated, the woman only needed to bring a charge against him and the magistrate would at once have sentenced him to death” (Bryson 67).
Through all these trials, Shao continued to grow spiritually. Such hardships generated in him a strong zeal for the gospel, so that he committed himself to the service of the King of Kings regardless of the cost. He became an excellent preacher, serving for several years in a large church in Tianjin before moving to his hometown of Yanshan, where he led the local church. It was said of him, “When Mr. Shao was the preacher there were no listless hearers in the congregation. He was especially fond of illustrations, and they were always so apt that they fixed the truth he wished to impress upon the people in their hearts forever.” Bryson, 68. When the Boxers started their slaughter, most of the Yanshan Christians fled into the hills. Shao refused to run away. “As long as God’s house is here,” he said, “I shall remain.” He sent his son John to safety in Shandong, but he himself remained at home, along with his wife and their third daughter.
On 16 June, the Boxers arrived in large numbers. They surrounded the mission complex and burned the chapel and other buildings to the ground. The Shao family, who were living on the opposite side of the street, were captured and dragged into the compound. One report records:
“With the intention of disturbing the preacher’s calm demeanor, the cruel Boxers cut down his wife and young daughter in his presence with rightful cruelty. According to the testimony of the Boxers themselves, Shao did not change face through these terrible moments, but kept calm and courageous as if sustained by superhuman strength… . Thus bravely and calmly he met his death” (Bryson 73).
The bodies of the three Shaos - along with that of the ”Bible woman” of Yanshan, a Mrs. Wang, who was killed with them - were sliced into thin pieces and burned. The few bones that remained were later curried at the foot of the city wall.
The sacrifice of Pastor Shao and his family was not in vain. Today, the population of Yanshan County includes at least 1,000 Protestants Christians, and a similar number of Roman Catholics.
- Bryson, Mary I. Cross and Crown: Stories of the Chinese Martyrs. London: London Missionary Society, 1904.
- Hattaway, Paul. China’s Book of Martyrs (AD 845-present). Fire & Blood: The Church in China: Volume 1. Carlisle, CA: Piquant Editions Ltd, 2007.