Thursday, August 5, 2010

Whitworth history professor to host 13-part TV series on Chinese Catholic martyrs

Anthony E. Clark, assistant professor of East Asian history at Whitworth, will host the TV series "The Saints of China: Martyrs of the Middle Kingdom," which will air in spring 2011. Featured on the Eternal Word Television Network, the world's largest religious media network, the documentary is expected to reach millions of viewers.

The series will focus primarily on Chinese Christian martyrs who died during the violent Boxer Uprising near the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Episodes will outline the history of Christianity in China; the three faith traditions there – Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism; and the history of Christian martyrs in China, including Western missionaries who died and Chinese converts to Christianity who chose death over apostasy. The final episode will reflect on the current situation in China, particularly the suffering church as it struggles to grow under a Communist government that has officially vowed to eliminate all religion from the country.

"I'm very happy that so many viewers will be exposed to the astonishing Christians in China – they are too little known in the West," Clark says. "My largest wish for this series is that it spread awareness about China's faithful Christians. They have endured terrible persecutions for their faith in Christ."

He continues, "Tertullian said, 'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.' The Chinese church is comparatively young, and its seeds are still being planted."

As the show's host, Clark will write and deliver scripts for each episode, and will provide images and footage of Christianity in action in China. He describes some of the historical material as very uplifting, some as tragic. The materials used in each episode will be derived primarily from his work in the Vatican Archives, in Rome, as well as from resources from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, France, Germany and Italy.

Clark also will interview Paul Mariani, a Jesuit specialist in Chinese persecutions in China in the 1950s through the '70s. Mariani is an assistant professor of history at Santa Clara University.

Clark recently returned from a five-week trip to China, where he acquired material in preparation for "The Saints of China." He visited large cities such as Beijing, Taiyuan, and Shanghai, as well as many remote Christian villages. In Liuhecun Village, he found nearly 3,000 Christians worshipping at one service.

In another village, Clark asked a Chinese Christian what Americans can do for the church in China. He replied, "Tell them to get to know the church in China. That is what they can do for us."

Filming for "The Saints of China: Martyrs of the Middle Kingdom" will finish this month in Birmingham, Ala. EWTN will air the show multiple times; exact dates are yet to be determined.

Clark is the author of Ban Gu's History of Early China (Amherst, New York: Cambria Press, 2009) and editor of the forthcoming Beating Devils and Burning Their Books: Representations of China, Japan, and the West (University of Michigan AAS Press, 2010). His upcoming books are China's Saints: Catholic Martyrdom during the Qing (1644-1911) (Lehigh University Press, 2011) and Barbarians at the Gate: Crisis and Conflict in Shanxi, China, 1900 (forthcoming).

Clark, who joined the Whitworth faculty in 2009, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon, where he also earned his bachelor's degree. He has also studied language, historical literature and cultural studies at the Central University for Nationalities, in Beijing; the Alliance Fran├žaise in Paris; and the National Taiwan Normal University and the Taipei Language Institute, both in Taipei, Taiwan.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Anthony E. Clark, assistant professor of East Asian history, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4368 or aclark@whitworth.edu.

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.