Introduction / History
The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group in the world, numbering more than 1.3 billion. Although the vast majority live in mainland China, many have immigrated to other countries, and today they reside in nearly every nation of the world. In a number of these countries, including Laos, Nepal, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Thailand, the Chinese communities remain largely unreached with the Gospel.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Most Han Chinese speak one of the many Chinese dialects, which include Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hokkien. Although the dialects are very similar, the speakers of one Chinese dialect cannot understand the speakers of another.
The Han Chinese began fleeing to other countries in 1276, after the Mongol invasion. Many other upheavals and conflicts followed, and the Chinese continued to settle in other nations, particularly in Southeast Asia. Wherever they went, the Chinese settled almost exclusively in urban areas and became involved in business and commerce. Today, they are very influential in the economies of many of these nations, though they represent only a small percentage of the population.
The Diaspora Han Chinese continue to live primarily in cities. In a number of countries, particularly the westernized nations, many of them are businessmen. Their businesses range from small shops to international corporations. They live in a wide variety of houses, ranging from small apartments to costly mansions. Most of them have retained their traditional Chinese diet. Rice continues to be their staple food and they generally prefer to use chopsticks as utensils.
What Are Their Beliefs?
During the Japanese occupation of China during World War II, a nationalist movement began to grow among the Han Chinese who lived outside their homeland. The members of this movement began to support China vigorously. When the Communists took over China in 1949, many of the Diaspora Han Chinese supported the revolution-not because they agreed with Communist ideology, but because they desired strong leadership and unity for their motherland. As a result, they became a source of concern for the governments of the countries in which they lived. Because the Diaspora Han Chinese had supported the Communist takeover of China, the government officials feared that they would also support Communist revolutions in their new homelands.
Many of the Han Chinese who live outside of China have maintained their culture and language to varying degrees, depending on the country in which they live. Except for those in Thailand, the Han Chinese continue to speak their various Chinese dialects. In most countries, the Diaspora Han Chinese have also continued living by their traditional Chinese customs, especially those regarding marriage and the family. One of the primary reasons they have kept their own languages and customs is because they have a deeply ingrained belief in the superiority of their culture.
The Han Chinese treat their children affectionately and usually indulge boys more than girls. The children are pushed to do well in school and are given much time to devote to their studies. The Han Chinese are known for their politeness and will go to great lengths to avoid disputes. However, once a dispute begins it is very difficult to stop because the Chinese place a high value on "saving face." Giving ground in an open dispute would cause them to lose face-something the Chinese try to avoid at all costs.
The Diaspora Han Chinese have generally maintained their traditional Chinese religion, which is characterized by a blending of philosophies. It has added elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism over the course of time. Their beliefs are centered around the concept of maintaining harmony.
What Are Their Needs?
The Han Chinese consult horoscopes in an attempt to determine what course of action will promote harmony and bring good luck. They also believe in a pantheon of spirits who inhabit the earth. The spirits of their ancestors supposedly roam the earth, and if treated properly, are benign and bring good luck. Ghosts are believed to exist as the spirits of people who are angry at the circumstances of their death; these spirits are said to be malicious and capricious. Deities are supposedly the souls of people who lived especially virtuous lives. They are believed to have spiritual powers that can be used to benefit those who worship them.
Although the Han Chinese still claim adherence to these beliefs, they seem to have little effect on their everyday lives. In fact, many of them are non-religious in practice.
The Diaspora Chinese are often mistreated in the lands in which they live. In some countries, anti-Chinese riots have occurred. In nearly all of the countries, nationals are envious of the Diaspora Han Chinese because of their success in business, commerce, and trade.
The Han Chinese suffer from great spiritual needs. Many of their adopted nations are open to the Gospel, and several evangelistic tools are available in their Chinese dialects. Nevertheless, only a few Diaspora Han Chinese in Laos, Nepal, Tanzania, and Thailand have converted to Christianity. These precious people need loving Christians to introduce them to the One who can truly set them free.
Pray that the Lord will grant favor to the missions agencies that are focusing on the Diaspora Han Chinese.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Han Chinese towards the Gospel message.
Pray that Han Chinese believers will begin to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
Pray that Christian broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be effective tools for reaching the Diaspora Han Chinese.
Ask God to use Christian businessmen to boldly share the Good News with the Han Chinese.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Diaspora Han Chinese.
Scripture Prayers for the Han Chinese, Min Nan in Myanmar (Burma).
Bethany World Prayer Center