Zhang Yong (Chang Yung) grew up in the Dong’an district between Beijing and Tianjin in northern China, where a country preacher and his wife adopted him as a child. The missionary Joseph Stonehouse, who was martyred in March 1901, took a keen interest in him and arranged for him to attend the Beijing Boys’ High School.
Later, after training to be a preacher, Zhang was married to the eldest daughter of Pastor Shao of Yanshan in Hebei Province, and she is the best witness to the cruel tortures his family suffered at the hands of the Boxers in 1900, which she alone survived. She had long before been a student at the London Missionary Society School in Beijing. By the start of the new century, her husband was a full-time preacher in the west of the city. A baby girl had been born to them, and her husband’s elderly blind mother also lived in their home.
When the Boxers started searching for Christians from door rot door, Zhang went into the countryside to find a hiding place for his family. By the time he returned to the city on 13 June, the massacre had begun. His wife, along with her child and mother-in-law, was forced out onto the street and was roaming the city, disoriented and full of fear.
When morning broke, she wandered on, her baby on one arm, the blind, feeble mother clinging to the other. A Boxer seized her by the sleeve, saying, “Follow me.” Pushed and dragged by a hooting crowd, she lost sight of her mother-in-law. Soon the Boxer was seized by one of the strange fits to which these demon-possessed murderers were subject. Throwing himself on the ground in a paroxysm of rage, he fumed and raved, then rising and pointing a stiff finger at his captive, he shrieked … “I am going to kill you.”
Zhang’s wife was taken to one of the gates of the city for execution. The place where she stood
was slippery with blood; a pile of dead bodies, sadly mutilated, lay beside her. She clasped her baby to her breast and looked into its face, thinking, “This is one of the places where the Christians are murdered, and here they are going to kill me and my precious baby. O Lord, she prayed, “give me courage to witness bravely for Thee until the end.”
She was asked if she was a Christian. Without hesitation, she replied: “Yes.” The leader of the Boxers placed a stick of incense in her hand and told her that if she would burn it before the idols, her life would be spared. “Never!” she boldly proclaimed. The bloodthirsty crowd started to shout, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” The wife of Zhang turned to them and in a confident voice said: “My body, cut in pieces, will remain scattered on the ground, like these, but my soul will escape you, and go to be with Jesus.”
Miraculously, God opened a door of escape for her and her baby. As the chief Boxer went to fetch the sword that would end her life, a soldier called out: “You hateful thing, you deserve to die; but it is a shame that the baby should be killed; and if you die, who will care for it? Quick! Run for your life!”
Mother and daughter found a hole to huddle in through the night, as screams of terror echoed around the city. Thousands of Christians were slaughtered before daybreak. By now, Zhang had returned to Beijing to find his home ransacked and his entire family missing. Fearing they were dead, he had walked the streets all night, hoping to locate their bodies. In the morning, he did indeed find his traumatized wife and child, but there was no sign of his mother. Realizing that they faced certain death if they remained in the capital, they tried to reach his childhood home. No inns would allow them to stay, and no villagers would let them drink from their wells. The Zhangs’ precious little daughter developed a fever and her skin cracked all over her face. When she died, they left her tiny body by the side of the road.
Zhang’s relatives paid a ransom to the Boxers to spare the lives of the Christian couple, but he could not bear the thought of his blind mother walking around Beijing alone, so he decided to return to look for her. For six long months his wife “waited in her country refuge for tidings of her husband. Then she was brought back to Beijing, and found that husband, child, father, mother, younger sister, and the blind mother-in-law were all numbered with the dead. She alone had been saved.”
Writing soon after Zhang’s death, his close friend and co-worker Joseph Stonehouse said:
It was a great joy to me when Zhang Yong joined me in Beijing. He was not a brilliant man, but he was good, and his life and work were beginning to tell. I do not think he had a single enemy. I cannot estimate his loss. I loved him as I have never loved any other Chinaman. He was worthy of the crown of life.
- China’s Book of Martyrs. Carlisle: Piquant Editions, 2007. Used by permission.