Story of Zhang Chengzhai: First Chinese Pastor of Hangzhou

A historical picture of Rev. Zhang Chengzhai holding two foreign infants
1/2A historical picture of Rev. Zhang Chengzhai holding two foreign infants
A picture of the old Sicheng Church in Hangzhou, Zhejiang
2/2A picture of the old Sicheng Church in Hangzhou, Zhejiang
By John ZhangJanuary 11th, 2024

Located at 132 Jiefang Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Sicheng Church was built in 1924 to commemorate Zhang Chengzhai, the first Chinese pastor of Hangzhou. This year 2024 marks its 100th anniversary.

Zhang, who was born in Ningbo, Zhejiang, in 1839, enrolled in further education at the Ningbo Biblical Institute (transliteration) at the age of 14 and underwent baptism the following year. After graduating, he preached in the areas of Zhenhai, Shangyu, and Shaoxing.

In 1864, Zhang and American missionary David D. Green arrived in Hangzhou from Ningbo and temporarily resided in an Anglican church. In December, they rented a place for a chapel. That same year, their eldest son, Zhang Baoqing, was born, later becoming a renowned physician in Hangzhou.

The following year, Zhang Chengzhai moved to Hangzhou with his family. In 1866, Green and Chinese Christian Xie Xingdong established a branch in Hangzhou and recommended Zhang as an elder. In 1868, Zhang rented a house as a preaching place, being appointed as a pastor at the Pishi Lane Chapel, known as the first pastor of Hangzhou.

In 1872, American missionary D.N. Lyon came to Hangzhou and, together with Zhang, purchased a three-room hall for use as a chapel and the pastor's residence. Due to an increase in believers, in 1890, they started building the Pishi Church at 35 Pishi Lane, and Zhang donated a bell tower. In 1903, they completed the move to the new church for worship.

In 1902, due to illness, Zhang resigned and passed away on August 22, 1917, at the age of 78.

In 1921, the congregation at Pishi Church increased to 141 people, and they discussed building a new church. To commemorate his father, Zhang’s son, Dr. Zhang Baoqing, led the donation of ten thousand silver dollars (one silver dollar was about 250 yuan), and an additional twenty thousand silver dollars were raised domestically. They also raised three hundred thousand dollars abroad, totaling six hundred thousand dollars. In 1924, they rebuilt the original site of the 1872 Fengle Bridge Church (the current site of Sicheng Church).

The construction was completed in 1927, and in memory of Rev. Zhang Chengzhai, it was named Sicheng Church ("sicheng" means commemorating Chengzhai). On Easter Sunday in 1930, the congregants moved into the new church, appointing Fan Guangrong as the senior pastor.

(The article is reposted with permission from the Wechat public account: "Searching for the Missionary's Footsteps".)

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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