Reichelt was born in the south of Norway and while still a young man became a noted revivalist preacher. After missionary training for the Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS) in Stavanger, he arrived in China in October 1903. For some years he carried out unspectacular work, first in local churches, and after 1913 in theological education. But already he had a dream of a specialist mission directed toward China’s Buddhist monks. In 1919 he met and baptized a young monk, Kuantu, and in 1920 he inaugurated what eventually became the Christian Mission to Buddhists, at first under NMS auspices (1922-1926), but later independent. Its first center in Nanking was destroyed in the civil war of 1927. After some uncertainty, a new site was found at Shatin in the New Territories of Hong Kong, and Tao Fong Shan (The hill from which the wind of the spirit blows) was dedicated in 1931. It is now known as Tao Fong Shan Christian Center. Reichelt had a pietist background, but intellectually he was moderately liberal, a believer in the Johannine logos doctrine and the fulfillment relationship between Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity. At the Tambaram International Missionary Council conference in 1938 he emerged as a critic of, and was criticized by, Hendrik Kraemer on these grounds. Mostly he wrote in Norwegian and Chinese, relatively little being translated. Religion in Chinese Garment, the best known of his books, appeared in English in 1951 (originally published in 1913). He also wrote Truth and Tradition in Chinese Buddhism (1930).
During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, Reichelt was held under house arrest at Tao Fong Shan. After the liberation he returned to Norway, but in 1951 he was back again in Hong Kong, where he died early the following year. He is buried in the Tao Fong Shan cemetery.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Hakan Eilert, Boundlessness: Studies in Karl Ludvig Reichelt’s Missionary Thinking (1974); Filip Riisager, Forventning og Opfyldelse (Expectation and Fulfillment) (1973, in Danish); Eric J. Sharpe, Karl Ludvig Reichedt: Missionary, Scholar and Pilgrim (1984); Notto Reidar Thelle, “Karl Ludvig Reichelt,” in Gerald H. Anderson et al., eds., Mission Legacies (1994), pp. 216-224.