Xi Lian

David C. Steinmetz Distinguished Professor of World Christianity


Gray 217

Duke Divinity School
Duke University
407 Chapel Drive
Duke Box #90968
Durham, NC 27708-0968


  • B.A. (Fujian Normal University)
  • M.A. (Fujian Normal University)
  • D.A. (State University of New York at Albany)

Professor Lian’s research is focused on China’s modern encounter with Christianity. His first book, The Conversion of Missionaries (1997), is a critical study of American Protestant missions against the backdrop of rising Chinese nationalism in the early twentieth century. His second book, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (2010), winner of the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award, examines the development of missionary Christianity into a vibrant, indigenous faith of the Chinese masses. Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China (2018) is his most recent book. It is the first authoritative, documented biography of the most important political dissident in Mao’s China, whose open opposition to communism was sustained by her Christian faith. Dr. Lian’s other research projects include the flourishing of Christianity among minority peoples on the margins of the Chinese state and the emergence of Protestant elites and their prominent, if also precarious, role in the search for civil society in today’s China.

Selected Publications


《血書:林昭的信仰、抗爭與殉道之旅》(台北:商務印書館, 2021). View online; 詳見;

Chinese edition of Blood Letters, with revisions

See details on YouTube.

Cartas de sangre: La historia jamás contada de Lin Zhao, martir en la China de Mao (Madrid: Encuentro, 2020). 

Spanish edition of Blood Letters

Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China (New York: Basic Books, March 2018). 

Reviewed in The New York Review of BooksLos Angeles Review of Books, The Christian Century, Christianity Today, The Washington Times, South China Morning Post, The Daily Mail, Foreign Affairs, and others. 

Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010).

Winner of Christianity Today 2011 Book Award (Missions/Global Affairs category); winner of the 2010 Award for Academic Excellence given by Chinese Historians in the United States, an affiliate of the American Historical Association and the Association for Asian Studies; chosen as one of Fifteen Outstanding Books of 2010 for Mission Studies by International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Read review highlights.

Yuhuo dejiu: Xiandai Zhongguo minjian Jidujiao de xingqi 浴火得救---現代中國民間基督教的興起 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2011).

Chinese edition of Redeemed by Fire, translated by He Kaisong and Lei Ayong in collaboration with the author.

The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in American Protestant Missions in China, 1907-1932 (University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997).

Refereed Journal Articles

“Fulfilling Prophecies on China’s Ethnic Frontiers in Southeast Asia: Peripheral Peoples’ Encounter with Christianity in the Twentieth Century.” Church History 92, 1 (March 2023): 99-121.

"Returning to the Middle Kingdom: Yung Wing and the Recalled Students of the Chinese Educational Mission to the United States." Modern Asian Studies 49, 1 (January 2015; first published online in July 2014).

“‘Cultural Christians’ and the Search for Civil Society in Contemporary China.” The Chinese Historical Review, 20. I (May 2013): 71-88.

"A New Journey in the Study of Christianity in China." The Chinese Historical Review, 20. I (May 2013): 1-4.

“A Messianic Deliverance for Post-Dynastic China: The Launch of the True Jesus Church in the Early Twentieth Century.” Modern China, 34, 4 (October 2008): 407-41.

“Western Protestant Missions and Modern Chinese Nationalist Dreams.” East Asian History 32/33 (December 2006/June 2007): 199-216.

“The Search for Chinese Christianity in the Republican Period (1912-1949).” Modern Asian Studies 38, 4 (October 2004): 851-98.

“Evangelists of Pluralism.” The Journal of Presbyterian History 81, 2 (Summer 2003): 106-9.

Book Chapter

“Missionaries in the Making of Vernacular Christianity in China.” In Shaping Christianity in Greater China: Indigenous Christians in Focus, edited by Paul Woods (Oxford: Regnum, 2017).

Other Publications/Book Reviews

「狱中血书:中共为何害怕死去的林昭」 (Blood Letters from Prison: Why the Chinese Communist Party Fears a Dead Lin Zhao), The New York Times (Chinese edition), February 13, 2019. 

“The Chinese Dissident Who Wrote in Blood,” The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2018. 

“Christian dissident Lin Zhao continues to needle the Chinese government 50 years after her death,” Dallas Morning News, April 29, 2018. 

Featured review of David Hollinger, Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America. Princeton University Press, 2017. International Bulletin of Mission Research 43, 2 (2019). 

"China's Gospel Valley" (cover story). The Christian Century 132, 20 (September 30, 2015).

“The ‘Spiritual Gifts Movement’ in War-Torn China” (online article), copyright © 2007 by The Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity and Yale University Press (http://www.calvin.edu/nagel/resources/files/XiASCH07.pdf)

"A New Lens and a New Picture of Christianity in China," featured review of Daniel H. Bays, A New History of Christianity in China. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. China Review International 19, 2 (2012).

Review of Paul P. Mariani, Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai. Harvard University Press, 2011. American Historical Review 117, 5 (December 2012).

Review of Kang Liao, Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge Across the Pacific. Praeger, 1997. H-Net Reviews, July 1998.

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