“One of China’s great, if unsung Christians, after Pastor Hsi (Xi) Shengmwo… he was perhaps the most notable Chinese connected with the China Inland Mission (CIM).”
A painter and interior decorator by trade, he was up a ladder in Hudson Taylor’s house when he heard Feng Ninggui, a basket-maker who had been converted through Taylor, explain why he could no longer make incense containers for idol worship. After his baptism in 1959 he was given personal instruction by Hudson Taylor as part of a small congregation in Ningbo.
When Dr. William Parker went on furlough later that year, he turned his hospital over to Hudson Taylor, whose reputation as a physician was not yet solid. Funds ran low, and Taylor told the staff that they could seek other employment or continue on the same basis that he worked, “nothing promised but a share of whatever the Lord provided.” Wang was one who accepted these terms, thus beginning a life of Christian service in utter dependence upon God alone to supply.
He soon learned how to read and write the Romanized Ningbo vernacular and was teaching others the Scriptures out of his own growing knowledge.
Wang went with Hudson Taylor when broken health required him to return to England in 1870, receiving personal instruction and discipleship as he lived with the Taylors and their children. While in London, with F.F. Gough and Hudson and Maria Taylor he revised the Romanized vernacular Ningbo New Testament for the Bible Society; his ability as a native speaker ensuring that the final product would lack a “foreign” flavor. Wang also took turns with the Taylors serving their many guests as coo and, laundryman, as well as in caring for the children.
On the other hand, Hudson Taylor recognized Wang’s abilities as a preacher from the start, and interpreted for him when he spoke to English churches. Aside from teaching him theology, Taylor also gave Wang medical instruction, as well as training in Christian ministry and exposure to the cultural riches of London. He eventually ended up staying four years, during which he had absorbed a great deal from many hours spent with Hudson Taylor. Wang’s role in the early China Inland Mission grew rapidly, as he instructed new candidates in the Chinese language
Returning to Ningbo in 1864, Wang at first worked with the newly-arrived R.R. Fuller of the United Methodist Free Church, with Hudson Taylor’s full blessing, but in 1866 he accepted Hudson Taylor’s urgent request to take charge of the new church in Hangzhou. He served as pastor of that self-governing congregation for several decades along with his wife. She had been known for an irascible temper, but the prayers of many people, including English Christians for whose intercessions Wang had pleaded, she became his valued helper.
Hudson Taylor wrote of Wang that “he gives us much joy - and what is more, his wife works as hard as he does in the Gospel.” Mrs. Wang became a close companion and co-worker with Jennie Faulding, at that time a single member of the China Inland Mission. According to Wang Lae-djun, Jennie Faulding was responsible for the conversion of more than fifty members of his congregation.
Wang had the closest relationship with Hudson Taylor and his wife Maria (and, after her, Jennie Faulding). It was he who, with his years as a painter, lovingly polished and lacquered the coffin which he and Taylor had bought for Taylor’s daughter Gracie, for whom Wang had acted like a nurse when she was an infant, when she died in 1867.
In 1870 he opened a country chapel at his own expense. By the middle of 1871, three other rural meeting points with regular services had been founded. Not accepting any salary from the CIM, Wang himself supervised seven full-time evangelists and colporteurs, who ranged hundreds of miles from their base in Hangzhou. In time he became virtually a superintendent-pastor (i.e., bishop) of this growing network of churches planted and led by Chinese, and financially supported by the converts.
By no means was he proud or excessively independent, however, as late as 1877 he went from Hangzhou to Shaoxin to consult with Taylor about problems in his group of congregations, and Taylor was always welcome as an elder brother, even “father in God,” to preach in the Hangzhou church. In 1877, for example, Taylor assisted in the ordination of Ren Ziqing as assistant pastor to the peripatetic Wang and offered advice about how to finance the construction of a new church building. Without any loss of authority or “face” he also readily accepted the counsel of Jennie Faulding before she became Taylor’s second wife. On more than one occasion he invited CIM missionaries to address the pastors’ conferences which he organized for his scattered co-workers.
His own example of reliance upon God backed up his teaching that one day in seven should be given to rest and worship, and that believers should give at least a tithe of their income to the work of the Gospel.
More than the fiery Xi Shengmo, Wang was able to work amicably with CIM missionaries, to whom he gave ample scope. His devotion to CIM and its ministry expressed itself in many ways, as when he once pawned some of his own clothes to give to John McCarthy for two boarding schools run by that missionary in Hangzhou. McCarthy served under Wang’s leadership. Wang often assisted other CIM workers, as when he and James Meadows escorted two single women missionaries from Shaoxing to Hangzhou and when he helped to soothe the suspicions and anger of citizens in Suzhou against CIM missionary Henry Cordon. When CIM funds were low in 1894, Wang’s churches sent $1,000 to Hudson Taylor as an offering for the missionary work of foreigners.
Wang’s faithful, wise, and effective service formed a substantial basis of Hudson Taylor’s conviction that the evangelization of China would be accomplished more by the Chinese themselves than by foreign missionaries, who would serve as pioneers, trainers, and helpers, not leaders of local congregations. Wang’s influence grew further as his wisdom and harmonious relationships with non-CIM missions in Hangzhou led missionaries to seek out his advice.
He was succeeded by a man Ren Ziqing, also called Ren Chengyuan.who had married his daughter.
- A.J. Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century, Volumes Two through Seven (now published in two volumes as The Shaping of Modern China.
- Photo from The Story of The China Inland Mission by Geraldine Guinness; 1893; London; Morgan & Scott