Editor’s note: Zang Waimiing is a middle-aged tea merchant. He is a member of a small minority people group, but now lives in a large urban area. He grew up in a small, rural, autonomous area, populated mainly by other minority peoples.
This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with Chinese Christians about their personal stories of faith, and how they came to know and follow God. This interview has been both edited and condensed, and some identifying details have been altered.
“I Had to Study”
Zang Waiming: I grew up [in my small village] until I finished elementary school, and then I went to middle and high school in our county capital. In our area, few people went to school. One of the reasons was we had inconvenient transportation. When I was studying, traffic was inconvenient and backward. Because there was no road, many people did not want to go to school. However, I wanted to study hard, then go to work in the city. I did not want to work in the rural areas, because the labor is too demanding. Although it was not easy, I knew that if I wanted to leave, I had to study hard to have a chance to work outside. So, I studied.
I did not want to work in the rural areas, because the labor is too demanding. Although it was not easy, I knew that if I wanted to leave, I had to study hard.
China Partnership: Did a lot of people around you at that time same this same idea?
Zang: I think not so much. The girls, especially, didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. For girls, there were very few opportunities to complete even first and second grades, because their parents thought they would grow up to be married off, so it was worthless for them to study. Boys usually went to school through third grade, then they stopped. However, I was more hardworking. I finished elementary school. Since my results were good, I entered middle school.
CP: Tell me about your family.
Zang: There was my dad, my mom, and a younger brother.
Another cultural thing was that every family must have a boy. Because one of my uncles did not have a boy, my parents gave me to that uncle to be adopted into his family. In his family, I have a sister.
When I was about 11 or 12, I left home to attend the county middle school. I lived in the dorms, and grew up in boarding school most of the time.
CP: What kind of experiences did you have in school? What was life like?
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Zang: At that time, we needed to bring rice to cook in school. Every month we needed to go back to the village to get this rice. We had to walk three or four hours to go from the school to our village. It was a difficult time. But when I was at school, I could learn.
Even though I was by myself at the school, I was able to make some friends. But most of the people at the school were Han Chinese. There were some [people from my minority group], but not many. At that time, my dream was to leave. I didn’t want to stay in the village, because life in the village was very difficult. We worked very hard; nothing was easy. I studied hard throughout middle and high school, and later went to the city to go to college.
My last year in college was the first time I heard about the gospel.
We have a tree god, a water god, a stone god. Every month we had a festival. In each festival, we sacrificed to a different god. In the biggest festival, every family in the village offered money to buy a buffalo. Then we killed the buffalo, and sacrificed it to one of our gods.
“I Didn’t Know What a True God Was Like”
CP: When you were young, what kind of ideas did you have about God?
Zang: My people group is polytheistic. We have a tree god, a water god, a stone god. Every month we had a festival. In each festival, we sacrificed to a different god. In the biggest festival, every family in the village offered money to buy a buffalo. Then we killed the buffalo, and sacrificed it to one of our gods.
CP: Why did you sacrifice to this deity?
Zang: Our god is a tree god. The trees protect the people in the villages, so the trees are spiritual. If you go to our villages, you will see forests, and villages, and rice terraces. We eat rice, and rice is very important. But since the water comes from the forest, the villagers think the forest is also important. They kept the trees well, and worshiped the big trees.
CP: Did you believe this as a child?
Zang: It was confusing. In school, Communism taught us that there is no god; but in our village, they worshiped gods. For me, I wasn’t so sure. When I returned to the village, I thought about why my village worshiped the trees. The trees were so normal. Why did they worship them? I didn’t understand why they feared the tree god, and said that many things were spiritual. In our village, when someone was sick, the people would make an offering of some sort. They would take rice and tea to the gods, and pray for the sick person to get better.
CP: You thought this was foolish?
Zang: I thought they were afraid. In school, they said there was no god, and no religion. They taught us that powerful people used religion to control others. It was very complicated, and I didn’t know what a true god was like.
In school, Communism taught us that there is no god; but in our village, they worshiped gods. For me, I wasn’t so sure.
I didn’t think a lot about it. That’s how I got by. At that time, a lot of my energy was spent studying. Although our family was not very rich, they saved money for me to continue my studies. I thought it was important to focus on studying, and I didn’t think too much about these things. I just studied hard so I would have a chance to get into college.
CP: Is your family proud of you?
Zang: A little bit. They think it is rare for someone to study so much, coming from that place. I am the first one in my area to go to high school and college. At the time, I didn’t think much about spiritual things. But when I was in college, I heard someone preach the gospel to me.
Zang Waiming is a pseudonym for a Chinese Christian from an ethnic minority group.
Pray for more opportunities for Chinese from remote and impoverished minority people groups to hear the gospel.