Y. T. Wu in 1937

Y. T. Wu or Wu Yao-tsung (simplified Chinese: 吴耀宗; traditional Chinese: 吳耀宗; pinyin: Wú Yaòzōng) (4 November 1893– 17 September 1979) was a Protestant Christian leader in China who played a key role in the establishment of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.[1] Wu also played an important role in the theology of K. H. Ting.[2]


Wu was born in Guangzhou on 4 November 1893 to a family engaged in commerce. Beginning in 1913, he studied tax at a school for tax studies in Beijing and, upon graduation, worked for a customs office.[3]

Wu converted to Christianity in his youth. In 1918, he became a member of a Congregational Church and was baptized. In 1924, he worked for YMCA, managing its schools and then went to the United States to study at Union Theological Seminary (affiliated with the Columbia University) at New York City, from which he earned a master's degree in philosophy.

Y. T. Wu and Mao Zedong (June 1950)

Wu became a proponent of the social gospel and emphasized the ethical teachings of Jesus rather than the supernaturally oriented theology. He had been a YMCA secretary, author, and editor of a Christian magazine before the communist revolution in China was complete. Wu was regarded as one of the earliest to reflect on the use of "violence in revolution and theological implications of communism" among Chinese Christian leaders. He was initially critical of the use of force by Chinese communists and considered himself a pacifist and did not want to join the communist party.[1]

However in the 1950s, in consultation with Premier Zhou Enlai, Wu and a number of other Christian leaders published "The Christian Manifesto", eventually signed by 400,000 signatories, that launched the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.[2] He was a dominant figure in the movement [4] until the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1977, during which he was put to forced labor.

Wu died in Beijing on 17 September 1979, one year before the re-establishment of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the creation of the China Christian Council, both of which were led for nearly two decades by Bishop K.H. Ting.


In the 1920s, Y. T. Wu was a pacifist and seek to create fellowship among youth. He aimed to cultivate the personality compatible with the spirit of Jesus for the liberation and development of the people's life. During next decade, Wu was attracted to the social gospel which aims to solve the problems of social injustice and to advocate gradual social reform. The focus would be shifted from individual salvation to social salvation. In his mind, Christians should participate in the social reform to create an ideal society, which is the way to advance the kingdom of heaven.[5] From the mid-1930s to 1949, Wu started to appreciate and sympathize with communist theory of social revolution and he gradually realized that communism would be the only way for the national salvation. In 1941, in his theological treatise No Man Has Seen God, he wrote:[6]

Our conclusion is that belief in God is not contradictory to materialism, just as it is not contradictory to "evolution," because both "evolution" and materialism can be taken as the means by which God reveals Himself in nature…. A person who believes in God can also believe in materialism…. Even a materialist should be able to accept faith in God…. How do we know in the future the two seemingly contradictory systems of thought will not achieve a new synthesis?

This paragraph illustrates his expectation of harmonious relationship between Christian faith and communism. This belief encouraged Wu to carry on his career in the new China in the 1950s when Wu was trusted by the communist leader, because of his intimacy with communism, and launched the TSPM in 1951.[7] In order to response to the purge the political sphere of the impact of "Three Mountains" including imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism in the political sphere, the churches which participated in TSPM started to charge foreign missions. In a serial article under the title of "The Reformation of Christianity: On the Awakening of Christians," Wu said:[8]

we believe that renovation within Christianity must come. Christianity once passed from the Roman religion under feudalism to Protestantism under capitalism. Now the development is from capitalism to socialism…. Christianity must learn that the present period is one of liberation for the people, the collapse of the old system.… God had taken the key to the salvation of mankind from its hand and given it to another.


  • Wu, Yaozong (2010). Wu Yaozong wenxuan [The Selected Works of Y. T. Wu] (in Chinese). Shanghai: TSPM and CCC.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b McGrath, Alister E., ed. (1995). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
  2. ^ a b Ng, Lee-ming (1972). "A Study of Y. T. Wu". Ching Feng. XV (1): 5–54.
  3. ^ Wu Yaozong (Baidu Encyclopedia) (in Chinese) (including his picture)
  4. ^ Dunch, Ryan (Spring 2008). "Worshiping under the Communist eye". Christian History & Biography (98): 14–18.
  5. ^ Wu Yaozong (2010). Wu Yaozong wenji [Collected Writings of Wu Yaozong]. Shanghai: China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. p. 386.
  6. ^ Gao Wangzhi (1996). "Y. T. Wu: A Christian Leader Under Communism". In Bays, Daniel H. (ed.). Christianity in China: From the eighteenth century to the present. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 342. ISBN 9780804736510. OCLC 33983799.
  7. ^ Gao Wangzhi (1996). "Y. T. Wu: A Christian Leader Under Communism". In Bays, Daniel H. (ed.). Christianity in China: From the eighteenth century to the present. Stanford: Stanford University Press. pp. 338–352. ISBN 9780804736510. OCLC 33983799.
  8. ^ Documents of the Three-Self Movement: Source Materials for the Study of the Protestant Church in Communist China. New York: National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. 1963. pp. 13–14.

Further readingEdit