Yang Qing was from Zhongshan County, Guangdong. He grew up in Macao, a naturally very intelligent lad. When American Baptist missionary John Lewis Shuck and his bride Henrietta Hall began their work in Macao, they opened a school, took in students, and began to educate them. They were all helpless, penniless orphans, some of them street children, others starving, physically-abused maid-servants. Yang Qing was one of these children. At this time the Chinese educated elite (literati) of Macao maintained an unfriendly attitude towards Western missionaries. The Shucks, however, tirelessly poured their energy and time into these poor children. After a while Yang Qing accepted the Gospel message, and was baptized by Mr. Shuck, the first fruit of his missionary labors in China. In time, Yang became Shuck’s most useful Chinese assistant in the work of ministry, and Shuck relied as heavily upon him as Robert Morison had upon Liang Fa, the first Chinese Gospel minister.
In the winter of 1844, Shuck went to Guangzhou, along with Issachar Jacox Roberts. Renting a room on Lianxing Street, they used it as a preaching station and base of operations for further evangelistic outreach. At the time, because of the impact of the Opium War, missionaries were encountering opposition wherever they went, and progress was difficult. In order to promote missionary work more quickly among Cantonese people, they needed the help of an assistant who was from Guangzhou, so Lewis Shuck asked Yang Qing to come and be their co-worker. Yang then left his own business in Macao, resolutely said goodbye to his family and friends, and accepted the call to Guangzhou. With the status of a preacher, he wholeheartedly cooperated with Shuck and the others. Overcoming all difficulties, they expanded the Gospel ministry there. After a year of hard work, they finally established the first Baptist church in Guangzhou, so it was called “The First Baptist Church.”
In October, 1845, Yang traveled to America, partly to engage in theological studies, and partly to help raise funds for the mission work in China. He often accompanied Shuck on preaching trips, receiving a warm welcome from the churches wherever he went. He and Shuck returned to China after two years. Once they had visited the churches and believers they had left in Guangzhou, they headed for Shanghai to open a new work. A Baptist church was established there after many years of arduous labor, and Yang was ordained as the church’s pastor, thus becoming the first Chinese Baptist pastor.
It was very hard to preach the gospel in those days, because traditional Confucian concepts were deeply rooted, Buddhism was entrenched, and the Qing government, having been bullied by Western incursions, held on to blind xenophobia, so that its rejection of all things foreign was total and fixed. Western missionaries, therefore, were called “foreign devils,” Christianity was dubbed “foreign religion” or “doctrines of devils,” and Chinese preachers and believers were called “slaves to the foreigners,” just as in the days of Jesus, when the Jews considered publicans as sinners. In this sort of society, culture, and religious environment, unless one possessed great faith and love, as well as extraordinary perseverance, evangelism would have little success. Yang Qing met this harsh environment, which included violent attacks, with firm faith, the love of Christ, profound self-restraint, and a patient and gentle attitude. Many people, including some very stubborn opponents, were softened by his love and sincerity. As a result, Western missionaries called him, “the Apostle John after he had been transformed by Jesus.”
Many years later, Yang Qing returned to Guangzhou to engage in ministry there. Aside from weekly preaching to workers in Sha’mian, he spoke almost daily at the Bayue Baptist Church. Over several decades, his unremitting labors made him a pioneer and good shepherd to the Guangdong Chinese Baptist church. He was also a patriot, whose patriotism influenced his son Yingcai, who was both a physician and a participant in anti-Manchu revolutionary activities. Arrested and jailed, Yingcai suffered cruel torture, preferring death to disgrace, and becoming one of the first revolutionary martyrs.
In the Centennial History of the Chinese Baptist Church, this evaluation of Yang Qing is recorded: “First as an assistant in 1844 to the Rev. Shuck and I. J. Roberts, he initiated church work at Linaxing Street preaching station; in 1856, when British and French troops attack Canton, Yang Qing was entrusted to take care of the church; he was the first preacher of the Chinese Baptist Church. A native of Zhongshan, he had learning and vision, and after his conversion bravely violated tradition and zealously preached the truth, and was greatly appreciated as an assistant to Mr. Shuck. In 1845 he was brought to America, where he participated in the great union conference at Richmond held in every three-year. He visited many churches with Mr. Shuck and preached with great effect; more than 5,000 were deeply affected. Returning with Mr. Shuck to China in 1847, he was invited to serve as pastor of the Baptist church there in Shanghai, where he co-labored with Matthew Yates and Huang Mei for many years, after which he returned to Guangzhou to serve there. On the wall in the library at Richmond University there is a portrait of him as a memorial.”Just as this record states, there is really such a portrait, with Yang Qing robed in a long blue Chinese gown, on the wall in the Richmond University library.
- See also Coughlin, Margaret Morgan, “Strangers in the House: J. Lewis Shuck and Issachar Roberts, First American Baptist Missionaries in China,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1972.