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Navigating Christian and Chaozhou identities: the life and career of Lin Zifeng (1892-1971)

Wing-hin Kam (College of International Education, School of Continuing Education, Hong Kong Baptist University, Shatin, Hong Kong)

Social Transformations in Chinese Societies

ISSN: 1871-2673

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




This paper aims to analyse how both Lin’s birthplace identity and his Christian identity contributed to his fruitful public career and to ascertain which identity became the most significant.


Archival research is the main method used in this paper. The most important archives drawn from are the Daniel Tse Collection in the Special Collection and Archives of the Hong Kong Baptist University Library. Oral history has also been used in this paper to uncover more material that has not yet been discussed in existing scholarly works.


This paper argues that although Lin’s birthplace identity and social networks helped him to start his business career in Nam Pak Hong and develop into a leader in the local Chaozhou communities, these factors were insufficient to his becoming a respectable member of the Chinese elite in post-war Hong Kong. He became well known not because of his leading position in local Chaozhou communities or any great achievement he had obtained in business but because of his contribution to the development of Christian education. These achievements earned him a reputation as a “Christian educator”. Thus Lin’s Christian identity became more important than his birthplace identity in contributing to his successful public career.


This paper has value in showing how Christian influences interacted with various cultural factors in early Hong Kong. It also offers insights into Lin’s life and motivations as well as the history of the institutions he contributed to/founded. It not only furthers our understanding of the Chinese Christian business elite in early Hong Kong but also provides us with insights when further studying this group of people in other British colonies in Asia.



Kam, W.-h. (2017), "Navigating Christian and Chaozhou identities: the life and career of Lin Zifeng (1892-1971)", Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 71-90.



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