1819  — ????

Deacon Wong

Deacon Wong's most distinguishing traits were purity of life, humility, cheerful faith in God, and liberality. In each of these he excelled.

Deacon Wong was born near Shanghai on Chinese New Year’s Day in 1819. He was a welcome and valuable New Year’s gift to his country, and to the cause of Christ.

As a boy, he worked on the farm with his father. A spirit of enterprise stirred through him, and when he was sixteen, he came to Shanghai and became an apprentice in a rice shop. In three years, he opened a shop of his own.

Not until he was forty years of age did he hear the gospel – from Mr. Carpenter, of the Seventhday Baptist Mission. The next year he was baptized by the Rev. M.T. Yates, D.D., and joined the Baptist Church of the Southern Baptist Convention. He at once began to close his shop on Sundays. The Chinese [falsely] reported that he received ten dollars a month from foreigners for doing so.

Countrymen who had once brought rice to market had so much confidence in him that they would wait until Monday. Then, if he could not buy, they secured from him the true market price of the day, so that other dealers could not cheat them. He dated his great prosperity from the time he became a Christian.

None of his family were as yet Christians, and his wife would secretly sell rice to customers while her husband was at church. A little later, Mrs. Yates, accompanied by the some of the women of the household, went to his home and taught his wife the gospel, and she, too, became a Christian, and a helpmeet to her husband. He continued in the rice business until he was fifty-eight, when he opened a cloth store. He had been very successful and owned much land and houses.

In 1885, he bought a lot inside the city, near the West Gate and built a small chapel on it. Here he preached the gospel regularly and faithfully for many, many years. He also gave away books, tracts, and other literature. Thus did he manifest a tender and practical interest in the salvation of his people.

He had always been economical; his habit had always been to walk when others rode, and this money he gave to the poor. His benevolence was rather remarkable. It is almost a literal fact that he had never refused when asked for help. He lost money by leniency with debtors. He lost a large amount of rent money – he could not resist the importunity of a tenant. In cases of distress, he allowed them to stay rent free. It was his declared intention to fulfill the Gospel injunction, “To them that ask, turn not away.” He really seemed to love his neighbors as himself.

For many years he was deacon – hence his popular title, “Deacon Wong.” In 1898, he became pastor of the church, without salary. He was quite old but still strong, and able to preach well.

At one time, he lost about twenty-five thousand dollars in the cloth business through the dishonesty of clerks. But he did not grieve over his loss. He said he brought nothing into this world, and it was certain he could carry nothing out of it. [See Job 1:22; 1 Timothy 6:7.] Such cheerful resignation was not too common in Christian lands. He seemed to be somewhat distinguished because he took his religion so seriously and literally. But all the more honor to him. He even refused to prosecute the head man in the store, although the man showed no contrition.

Although he became too old to preach regularly, he never missed being in his pew unless on account of sickness, and continued, even since his great monetary loss, to contribute in the same liberal spirit to all the works of the church and to works of charity.

His most distinguishing traits were purity of life, humility, cheerful faith in God, and liberality. In each of these he excelled.

In his old age, he became a prophet to his people. With earnest face and uplifted hands, he declared the wonder-working power of God. He recounted the mercies of the past, and, with prophetic vision, portrayed the triumphs of the kingdom soon to appear within the borders of his native land. He united the glowing faith of age with the enthusiasm of youth.

Even in his younger days, he used to preach until the point of exhaustion; he then had to rest before he could walk home. Now he used the last vestige of strength in foretelling the certain victories that await the faithful proclamation of the truth in the Empire of China; he himself was a living witness of its power and a monument of its grace.

Dr. Yates said of him: “Wong is a liberal Christian. When anything is required that calls for contributions, he craves the privilege of doing it or of having a large share of it.”

And about the chapel he built, and the work in it:

The chapel is unique and a very nice place. Here Wong is monarch of all he surveys. He preaches regularly three afternoons in each week. I call in occasionally and find his place full of attentive listeners. But my presence does not daunt him. He points me to a chair in the “amen” corner until he is finished. Then he tells the audience that he is a mere novice, that the old pastor will speak to them more satisfactorily. Before I get through I can see that he is just effervescing to get another chance at his congregation. Sure enough, when I descend he mounts the pulpit and hammers away for another half hour. Now, that is the direction we want to go. I have long worked and prayed for spontaneous work. Wang and his noble acts are an inspiration to all. He has pointed out a new and better way. He is a forerunner in ushering in the self-support and religious spontaneity so desirable in China.


Bentley, W. P. Illustrious Chinese Christians: Biographical Sketches. Cincinnati, Ohio: The Standard Publishing Company, 1906. Reprinted by Ulan Press, 140-147.

About the Author

G. Wright Doyle

Director, Global China Center; English Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.