Reichelt, Karl Ludvig
- ( 1877-1952 )innovative evangelist in ChinaKarl Ludwig Reichelt was born on september 1, 1877, near Arendal, Norway, and raised in a lively pietist form of Lutheranism. A natural mystic, Reichelt developed an early calling to the mission field. Upon completing the Norwegian Missionary Society curriculum in 1903, Reichelt was ordained and almost immediately left for CHINA. He studied Chinese and then settled at Ninghsiang in Hunan Province. He made his first visit home in 1911, when he lectured and wrote about Chinese religion. His first book, The Religions of China, appeared in 1913.Reichelt encountered Buddhism during his first sojourn in China. He found it backward and superstitious in practice, while richly appealing in spirituality. Unable to talk meaningfully to the monks, he later dedicated himself to mastering the means of communicating Christ to Buddhists.Upon his return to China, he became a professor of New Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Shekow. He used his free time to master Buddhism, making numerous visits to nearby temples and monasteries. The first result was his 1923 book published in English as Truth and Tradition in Chinese Buddhism.In 1922, with backing from the church, he founded a small community in Nanking, a Christian version of a Buddhist monastery. Buddhist monks would stay for a few days or longer, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, and engage in discussions about Christianity. The center became famous throughout China as a meeting ground between the two faiths. In 1926, Reichelt separated his work from the Norwegian Missionary Society and reorganized as the Christian Mission to Buddhists.Reichelt continued in Nanking until the bloody Nanking Incident of 1927, in which many people were killed as the city moved from Chinese to Japanese rulers. Looking for a more stable site, Reichelt moved his center to the New Territories in Hong Kong. Here, on top of a mountain, he built Tao Fong Shan or The Mountain of the Logos (Tao) Spirit. The fame of the Nanking center followed him, and monks from all over China made Tao Fong Shan a pilgrimage site. With those who had become Christians, he founded outposts at other Chinese centers. The work continued until the Japanese overran Hong Kong in 1941.After the war, Reichelt retired to Norway and published his last book, a three-volume work on Buddhist monastic life (1947), the English version of which appeared in two volumes as Meditation and Piety in the Far East (1953) and the Transformed Abbot (1954). He returned to Hong Kong shortly before his death on March 13, 1952. Tao Fong Shan continues as a Christian center in Hong Kong, but the postwar situation has not allowed it to continue as Reichelt envisioned.Further reading:■ Sverre Holth, Karl Ludvig Reichelt and Tao Fong Shan (Hong Kong: Tao Fong Shan Christian Institute, 1953)■ Karl Ludvig Reichelt, Meditation and Piety in the Far East (London: Lutterworth Press, 1953)■ ----, Truth and Tradition in Chinese Buddhism: A Study of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism/Karl Ludvig Reichelt, trans. from the Norwegian by Kathrina Van Wagenen Bugge (Shanghai, China: Commercial Press, 1927)■ Eric J. Sharpe, Karl Ludvig Reichelt: Missionary, Scholar and Pilgrim (Hong Kong: Tao Fong Shan Ecumenical Centre, 1984)■ Notto R. Thelle, "Karl Ludvig Reichelt, 1877-1952: Christian Pilgrim of the Tao Fong Shan," in Gerald H. Anderson, et al., eds., Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of the Modern Missionary Movement (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1998): 216-24.
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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