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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 414

The novel God's Chinese Son by Jonathan D. Spence is written in the present tense, eschews a scholarly tone in favor of simple language, and succeeds in presenting a vivid description of the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-nineteenth century.

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Reverend Edwin Stevens is an ordained minister, a student of the New Haven Theological Seminary, who has arrived in Qing China as the chaplain of the American Seaman’s Friend Society. He devotes his days to missionary work in and around Canton, preaching to foreign sailors and the local Chinese.

William Milne is a Scottish Protestant missionary who translates the Bible into Chinese. He insists that his employees attend his sermons, regardless of their religious persuasions. He introduces Liang Afa to Christianity and later on baptizes him.

Liang Afa, born in 1789, is a practicing Buddhist who carves wooden printing blocks for a living. His employment under Milne and exposure to the Bible leads to his eventual conversion to Protestantism. In 1814, he first publishes the Chinese Monthly Magazine, a journal aimed at spreading the Gospel among the local populace. Liang Afa moves to Malacca with his family after being arrested in Canton for distributing religious tracts.

Hong Xiuquan is the titular Chinese son of God, and the architect of the Taipeng Rebellion against the Qing dynasty. Hong's reading of the Chinese translations of missionary religious tracts convinces him that he is the younger brother of Jesus Christ. He leads the Taiping Heavenly Army to victory against the imperial forces, even conquering Nanjing, but fails to run over Peking.


(The entire section contains 414 words.)

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