Bao Zheqing was born in 1893 in the small town of Chaiqiao, about forty miles east of Ningbo, Zhejiang. Since Ningbo was one of the earliest ports opened to the outside world, Christianity was introduced there very early. In 1842, the Rev. Dr. D. J. MacGowan, a missionary from the Northern Baptist Church in America, came to Ningbo via Hong Kong to preach the gospel, establish a church, and preach to the surrounding villages with Ningbo as the center. Soon, the gospel of Christ also spread to Chaiqiao Town, and Bao Zheqing’s parents became the earliest believers of the Baptist Church.
Bao Zheqing studied at the church elementary school in Chaiqiao from early childhood. Because of his hard work, he was appreciated and cultivated by the missionary, the Rev. J. R. Goddard. In 1910, Bao Zheqing was admitted to Shanghai Baptist. The college started as the Theological Seminary (Shanghai Baptist Theological Seminary) in 1906, and the Baptist College was added in 1909; the two colleges merged to become Shanghai University, with Dr. K. J. White as the first president.
With the support of the Rev. L. C. Hylbert, Bao Zheqing graduated with honors from Hujiang University in 1914 after four years of diligent study, and was hired as a mathematics teacher by his alma mater. After teaching for a while, he took all theology courses to lay a good foundation for future pastoral work.
In 1919, Bao Zheqing became the pastor of the Northern Baptist Church, as he had wished, and began his pastoral career in Hangzhou. Since the 1920s, the voice of the indigenization of the Chinese church had increased in volume. Following the trend, the Northern Baptist Church gradually transferred the leadership of educational administration to the hands of the Chinese pastor. As Bao Zheqing had lived up to expectations for many years, and his pastoral work had been outstanding, he was elected as the first executive officer of the Zhejiang-Shanghai Annual Council of the Northern Baptist Church in 1922 and held this position for 25 years, displaying extraordinary leadership skills.
Under his leadership, the Zhejiang-Shanghai Annual Assembly quickly embarked on the road of autonomy, self-support, and autobiography. By 1928, the executive members of the assembly for that year were all the leaders of the Chinese churches, and Western missionaries were sitting in on the meetings as consultants.
These achievements further established Bao Zheqing’s leadership in the Christian world. In 1913, in the thirteenth issue of the Yearbook of the Church of Christ in China, Bao Zheqing published a special article entitled “Zhejiang-Shanghai Baptist Council,” introducing the history, purpose, practice, and experience of the Council, and finally pointing out:
The Council represents Baptist societies organized in various places, and the center lies in the church. The council is no more than a service organization that handles missions, education, medicine, and other undertakings to fulfill the purpose of Christ’s mission.
In addition to the educational ministry of the Northern Baptist Church, Bao Zheqing was also enthusiastic about the exchanges and cooperation between various Protestant denominations. In 1913, after the establishment of The China Christian Continuation Committee, he was one of its leaders; when the committee developed into The National Christian Council in 1922, he was twice elected as the president (1929-1930; 1949-1950), and he consistently promoted and encouraged cooperation among various denominations of churches.
In 1931, the six major associations of the Chinese Christian Church, the Chinese Anglican Church, the American-Israeli, the North China Congregational Church, the Chinese Baptist Association, and the Supervisory Committee jointly produce the hymnal “Universal Praise.” Bao Zheqing was the representative of the Chinese Baptist Association. He was a member of the editorial board. From editing to publishing, “Universal Praise” reflects his efforts.
Bao Zheqing also served as a representative of the Chinese Church twice, participating in the World Missions Conferences in Jerusalem in 1928 and Madrid in 1938. After the Jerusalem conference, he returned to his country via Europe and Canada. For his outstanding contribution in missions, McMaster University in Toronto awarded him an honorary doctorate in theology.
During the Anti-Japanese War, the churches in Zhejiang and Shanghai suffered great damage due to the Japanese invasion. After the Western missionaries were evacuated or imprisoned, academic work was even more difficult. The Zhejiang-Shanghai Baptist Church’s ability to continue its faith and gatherings during the war, and the continued maintenance of schools and hospitals, is inseparable from Bao Zheqing’s tireless persistence and hard work.
After the end of the war, he led the churches under his jurisdiction in the work of restoration and reconstruction.
In 1946, Bao Zheqing was invited to the United States to participate in the conference of the Baptist World Alliance, and was elected as the vice president, becoming the first Chinese person to hold this high post. In 1948, the Northern Baptist Church held its 100th anniversary golden jubilee meeting in Ningbo. At the meeting, Bao Zheqing was presented with a special award in recognition of his hard work and contributions during his 20 years as the Director-General of the National Assembly.
According to the statistics of the Zhejiang-Shanghai Annual Council, by 1949, under the leadership of Bao Zheqing, there were 55 churches, 641 preachers, and more than 5,800 congregations under the supervision of the Council. In addition, there were three large-scale Western hospitals, eight elementary schools, eight middle schools, a girls’ Bible school, and Shanghai University, which is co-organized with other Baptist missions.
After 1949, Bao Zheqing stayed in China to continue his pastoral responsibility. In September 1950, with the support of the government, Wu Yaozong of the Shanghai YMCA and others initiated the Chinese Christian Three-Self Reform Movement and issued the “Three-Self Reform Manifesto.” Among the forty promoters, Bao Zheqing was among them. In October of the same year, the 14th Annual Assembly of the Chinese Association for the Advancement of Christianity was held in Shanghai, and Bao Zheqing, then chairman of the Association, participated in presiding over the conference. At the meeting, a new leading member of the Association was re-elected, with Wu Gaozi serving as the chairman of the Association and Bao Zheqing as one of the executive members.
In July 1954, at the first Chinese Christian National Conference held in Beijing, the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee was formally established. Wu Yaozong was the first “Three-Self Chairman”; Bao Zheqing became one of the 42 standing committee members. On September 2, 1957, Bao Zheqing died in Hangzhou at the age of 64.
Cha Shijie, “A Biography of Chinese Christian Figures,” Press Publishing House of China Gospel Theological Seminary, 1983.
Edited by Xu Songshi, “A Brief History of the East and West China Baptists in the Prewar War,” “The First Series of Chinese Baptist History-Mainland China,” Hong Kong: Baptist Press, 1972.
Edited by Xu Songshi, “The Biography of Dr. Bao Zheqing,” “The Fifth Series of the History of the Chinese Baptist Church-Biography of the Fathers,” Hong Kong: Baptist Press, 1972.
Who’s Who in China. 5th Edition, p. 197.