????  — ???? 19th Century

Li Zizeng

First believer in the town of Taikang. Instrumental in leading others to Christ.

A man named Li Zizeng, from Taikang, eagerly received the Lord Jesus Christ in the early 1880s, gaining the honor of being the first believer in his town. Li was a highly respected scholar, and his family had held leading positions in the city for generations. One day, Li was caught in a heavy downpour, so he took shelter in a doorway with another man, who proved to be a missionary. While they waited for the rain to cease, the two struck up a conversation and the missionary gave Li some Gospel booklets to take home and read.

Over time, the vital truths contained in these texts were absorbed into Li’s heart. He repented of his sins and followed Christ and immediately began to share the gospel with everyone he met. The city leaders turned against him, and he was stripped of all the social privileges associated with his position

According to missionary Geraldine Guinness, when Li declared his allegiance to Christ:

Persecution, bitter and terrible, broke over his head. His father, his mother, his wife, and all the clan turned against him, and did everything they could to frighten him out of his new faith … On one occasion we noticed his hand bound up and in a sling. At first he would not let anybody see it. After a time the pain was severe, and he was prevailed upon to let the doctor to attend to it. We were surprised to find the hand inflamed and festering from the marks of human teeth. Very reluctantly, the poor man confessed that his wife had attacked him in blind fury, and had bitten his hand and arm almost to the bone.
This is the state in which that poor fellow lived for months. Often, when he came round to the mission house to attend the meetings, his wife would follow him … She would search him out, wherever he might be, and before the assembled people she would storm and swear, and order him out, working herself into the most terrible passion. Sometimes, to avoid a scene, he would go with her, and then she would follow him home, through the streets of the city, cursing and raving openly as she went along, to the delight of the onlookers and his most bitter shame.

Within a few years, five more residents of Taikang were baptized and the first Christian fellowship was established in the town. When the church had grown to 30 people, they asked Li Zizeng to become their pastor. He proved to be a faithful shepherd, and the number of Christians in Taikang grew rapidly.

One day, Li asked the Lord to give him and his wife a son, for he believed that much of her antics stemmed from the disgrace she felt at not having produced an heir. Approximately a year later, his wife gave birth to a little boy. It was the start of a change in her heart, and she later became a sincere believer in Christ. In 1890 it was said of Li:

The very bitterness of persecution seemed to develop a remarkable strength and sweetness of character. His life was fragrant with Christ, and he was much used of God in leading others to knowledge of the truth. Numbers of men in that little Taikang church today trace their conversion, directly or indirectly, to the beautiful life and earnest witness of dear Brother Li Zizeng.

Paul Hattaway


Source: Taken with permission from

Hattaway, Paul. Henan: Inside the Greatest Christian Revival in History. Book Five of The China Chronicles. U.K: Piquant Editions, 2021.

About the Author

Paul Hattaway

Paul Hattaway is the international director of Asia Harvest, an organization committed to serving the church throughout Asia. He is an expert on the Chinese church and author of the The Heavenly Man and Back to Jerusalem.