Professor introduces book on Chinese Catholic martyrs

by Natalie Moreno

Not many speakers would be willing to admit that much of their audience is comprised of students who have been promised extra credit for attending.

But that is exactly what associate professor of history Anthony E. Clark did within the first five minutes of introducing his new book “China’s Saints: Catholic Martyrdom during the Qing (1644-1911),” at Auntie’s Bookstore Friday, Feb. 24.

Clark, associate professor of Chinese history and director of the Asian studies program at Whitworth, has previously written two other scholarly books and numerous articles. He most recently wrote a television series, “The Saints of China: Martyrs of the Middle Kingdom” which was produced and aired on EWTN.

Clark switched frequently between English and Chinese as he greeted the audience at Auntie’s on Friday. He apologized in advance as he expressed his agony at trying to fit 16 pages of prepared notes, of which he only got through two, to the 30-minute time span.

Clark said his book “China’s Saints” stems from his hope that more Catholic martyrs from China will be better recognized.

“[I] hope to help martyrs be martyrs by acknowledging their martyrdom [in this book],” Clark said. “The word martyr means witness; how can these martyrs be witnesses of their faith if no one acknowledges them?”

Sophomore David Rhyoo agreed with Clark.

“[Coming to this event] gave me another perspective on the historic significance of China,” Rhyoo said. “Christian martyrs in China should be better recognized.”

Much of the background that Clark covers in his book includes the violence of the Opium Wars and the Boxer Uprising. He said the intent of his book is not to criticize China or the Chinese but to acknowledge the martyrs.

“It’s not OK when anyone is martyred for their beliefs,” Clark said.

Clark said he hopes his book will appeal to people of all beliefs by focusing on the similarities, rather than the differences, between all people.

During the presentation, Clark passed around several rare photographs that were featured in his book.

“I enjoyed seeing the photos that Dr. Clark presented,” junior Emily Hanson said. “I wouldn’t normally have gotten the chance to see them.”

The photographs, gathered from across China, displayed a rare glimpse into China’s past.

One audience member asked if the motivation of Clark’s book had stemmed from his Catholic faith or his historical perspective.

“My spiritual life and my historical life [are] the same,” Clark said. “One cannot completely be divorced from one’s heart.”

Clark also briefly mentioned the upcoming release of his next book, currently titled Imagine Spiritualities, which will center on the quote by Sun Tzu, an influential Chinese philosopher, which says, “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

Clark said he hopes “Imagine Spiritualities” will help people realize that differences between people are, in fact, created by people and can therefore be bridged by people.

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