????  — 1900

Li Te Kwei

Li Degui?

One of the Boxer martyrs.

The village of Tsaofang, nor far from the city of Tung Chow (fifteen miles from Peking [Beijing]), was the home of Li Te Kwei. The family were in very moderate circumstances, yet managed with industry to support themselves from the few acres of land they owned.

Li Te Kwei turned “donkey driver,” during the winter months; that is, he made the donkey support itself during those months by carrying passengers between Peking and Tung Chow. It may be said that this is a very humble occupation, and will be readily be believed that very, very few “donkey drivers” have ever achieved distinction of prominence.

The father died when the children were all young, and the care of the family fell upon the mother, with the help of Li Te Kwei, as he became older.

At the age of eighteen (not an early age in China), he was married to the daughter of a woman in the employ of the missionaries in Tong Chow. Her son, from the time he was a little boy, had studied in the mission school, and in time both mother and son became Christians, but the daughter was in this heathen house.

It was this family that one of the young helpers, going about from to village to village, found. Little by little, step by step, this faithful young man, not much older than Li, led him on.

For months, all the teaching he received was from this young man, who went there regularly each week until Li was induced to visit the missionaries and attend the church services. It was not long before he believed with his whole heart, became a great student of the Bible, and every Sabbath was found in his place in the church, and happy to impart what he had learned, to others.

One of the missionaries, seeing what an earnest man he was, and how faithful in everything, took him into his employ as a servant, thus bringing him within reach of daily instruction, which was a great joy to him.

One of the Bible classes in the school was taught in the evening; he joined, and as the teacher can testify, was one of the most interested members. Thus, for two years he filled a servant’s place until it was clear that he could enter a larger sphere, and he was asked to join the theological class and prepare for his life-work. It was evident that God had called him to a higher enterprise. Most faithfully did he spend his years of preparation. Then came two years of preaching in the street chapel – faithful, earnest, hand-to-hand work. In those years many were brought into the church.

From the chapel work he was called to an important out-station, the home of his wife and many relatives. As one of the results of his efforts here, three families were led into the truth. When the massacre [of the Boxer Rebellion] came, this church was almost swept away – forty-five being killed, among them his mother-in-law, his own sister, and her husband and some children.

During his seminary course, and while engaged in his work, his own family was not forgotten. When his mother knew that he had become a Christian, she was very angry and looked upon it as very sinful that he should leave the gods she trusted, to follow, as she said, “the foreigners.” She railed at him and persecuted him, all of which he suffered with a patient, loving spirit, his happy face always speaking of the peace within. He prayed, worked, and waited.

After ten years of his work for souls, his health failed. For two months it seemed that his work here on earth was done; then, when a little better, he went to visit his mother, telling her that when he was so sick he thought he must die, his heart was at peace and he was very happy, because he knew the Savior he trusted had a place prepared for him. “If I had not believed God, how could I have had this hope?”

This time the whole family was moved, and he soon had the great joy of knowing that not only his mother, but his grandmother, brother, and his wife, had all come out on the side of Christ. Li Te Kwei’s patience and love had conquered, and his prayers were answered.

Many of his family laid down their lives for their Master during those fearful months of the summer of 1900. They were not all together when the end came, but oh, the joy that reunited family around the throne above!

After Helper Li’s work at Fu-yo, he was called to a larger and more important place (Gung-lo-tien), and here he cared for the little flock with untiring love and faithfulness for ten years. We do well to try to realize what a term of ten years in such ministry means. The preaching, the teaching, the visitation, the administration of ordinances [baptism, the Lord’s Supper], the performance of marriage and funeral ceremonies – these we understand in the West. But in a Chinese pastorate there is the additional burden of personal, family, financial, and social affairs, inevitable in China, but entirely unknown with us.

He strengthened the faith and the courage of his people. By faithful preaching and a beautiful life, he drew many more to the Saviour, and with great tact he adjusted the misunderstandings and troubles of his bishopric [parish]. Not only so, but he also went out into the surrounding villages, in true apostolic fashion, and taught with zeal the doctrine of eternal life. And here he was working when the tragic end came.

Two of the missionary ladies were there only three weeks before, and his great anxiety was for them; he spent the greater part of the last night of their stay, on the roof of the house watching, expecting a mob before morning. He hurried them off early in the morning.

He well knew the danger, but was unwilling, himself, to leave the flock. Affairs grew more threatening. Only a short distance away a helper and some Christians were murdered. Now he realized that it was his duty to get away, if possible. He took his wife with her three-week-old baby, and his three other children, and went about collecting the members of his church. Then he started with this precious company for Tung Chow.

Not far out the Boxers surrounded them. Mr. Li, his wife, and the four children were all cruelly murdered. Of the party, only two or three escaped. Thus, he died for his faith, our beloved helper – and what a true helper he was! He went to receive his crown. How true it was that he carried his sheaves with him [referring to Psalm 126:5].

As a man his faithfulness was remarkable. And even when a child in a Chinese school he showed great love for his books. After he became a Christian, the Bible was his delight. He studied it as for hidden treasures, and thus was qualified to be an excellent instructor in Bible truth. He was also distinguished as a man of prayer; he believed this was the source of power for all Christians.

He has gone from us, but he will live, not only enshrined in the hearts of his associates, but in the affections of remaining Christians, as well as of those outsiders to whom he had shown his loving character and life. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” [Revelation 2:10].

William Preston Bentley


Taken entirely from William Preston Bentley, Illustrious Chinese Christians: Biographical Sketches by W. P. Bentley. Cincinnati, OH: The Standard Publishing Company, 1906.

About the Author

G. Wright Doyle

Director, Global China Center; English Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.