The most outrageously crazy Christian Cults in China

Bustling Beijing
12 min readJan 14, 2021

While researching for an article about the Taiping rebellion in 19th century China, I stumbled across modern day versions of weird cults in the Middle Kingdom. Let’s have a look at some of the nuttiest Christian inspired movements in today´s China and their impact on society.

Christian faith under state control

The unassuming spirituality googler could easily fall into the trap of anti-Chinese channels that tell you anything even remotely anti-Chinese must be wonderful and good and all in all a treasure trove of sophistication. Plus, of course all of them will tell you they are unjustly suppressed.

Rarely you find an outlet doing their own research and looking behind the facade of these so-called churches or Christian movements. And if something gruesome happens, it is laughed away as communist propaganda. If the Chinese government is against it, the cult must be good, goes their rational.

In contrast to what seems international/ Western consensus, China does not suppress religion per se. My European perspective might be different from the US-American way of judging religious movements though. The US based faith scene is much more varied and seems to accept a broad spectrum of what Europeans would subsume under the definition of cultic activity.

While it is true that Christians are under strict observation in China, the state separates the officially sanctioned groups that follow protocol from those underground groups out of government control.

This policy is not unique to China. The Romans did it, and in many European countries it is quite natural that the state has an eye on what is being taught in mosques and other non-mainstream spiritual circles.

The two most productive religions that produce lots of new sects in China have either a genuine East-Asian flavor or come from the Christian realm. Additionally, there are several branches of Islam, some more modern, some more traditional. But they seem to not multiply as fruitfully as the above mentioned.

The following selection of Christian wacko cults is based purely on how crazy I personally thought these sects to be. There are plenty of others. If you feel another one should be in this selection, tell us.

The most dangerous Chinese Christian Cults

1.Church of the Almighty God or Eastern Lightning

What sounds so harmless and could be mistaken for a protestant congregation that meets for mass and some cookies afterwards, is quite the cult. It easily is -next to Falun Gong (another cult that might be the most beloved Chinese sect of Western media outlets)- the one group, that gives headaches to government officials.

Propaganda Posters from “Church of the Almighty God or Eastern Lightning”

The official wariness of the Almighty God sect is interpreted as a fear of and hate for religion in general. While it is true that communism in general sees religion negatively, China is not eliminating religion by a long shot.

The cult was founded in the 1980 and at first existed as one of many weird but all in all harmless offshoots of mainstream Christianity. After it was forbidden, it went underground and emigrated to other countries. One of its main harbors in South Korea, which like US-America harbors many questionable spiritual movements.

Members believe something that easily puts them at odds with any real Christian congregation. They are convinced that Christ is reborn as a Chinese woman. This divine leader is not easily found. Some assume she lives in New York now. Why are these humble spiritual leaders so often drawn to the lavish life in America?

The true number of believers in this only nominally Christian faith are unclear. It could be that only a few hundreds to several thousand follow this cult.

The government took action against the sect when a murder happened in 2014, allegedly by missionaries that tried to proselytize. When that did not work out, well they killed a woman in a Mac Donald’s that was not open to their ideas. Some sites affirm this fact, others claim that it is all a government ploy. Hard to say what´s true in times of fake news.

The sect follows the usual pattern of faking openness and luring in new members with offering a feeling of community. Then step by step catching the new member in their net they suck their money and then manipulate them into leaving their families and sever all ties with their former life.

Their outlook on life and the world in general will give you the creeps. While believing God is incarnate in the world once more, will make most Christians shake their heads, their cultish doomsday preaching is less funny. They believe the world is full of demons and it is their duty to fight a spiritual warfare. One might wonder in how far this is (hopefully) a metaphor or is meant literally.

Many acts of violence are reported. From killing people who want to leave or endangering family members of their followers to kidnapping followers of other Christian groups to integrating them into their cult. The list goes on and on.

And of course, the sect has its own books and propaganda leaflets that show itself in the brightest colors.

Online one can find many voices that oppose this view and claim everything is propaganda to destroy this harmless religion. But again, this could easily be propaganda as well.

In today´s anti-Chinese climate however it is better to be careful with judgement and go with the facts at hand. Which is that this cult has a dubious origin at best and behaves like any other cult.

Critics of the government´s clamp down often cite another sect that allegedly unjustly was forbidden: Falun Gong.

Ironically enough, this is another cult that should be avoided like the plague. Yet, Western media outlets often present it as a wise ancient mystical tradition, which sounds nice to the Western New Age crowd.

Alas, it is all fake. The reasons for the positive evaluation might be varied. On the one hand it is the negative attitude to China, on the other hand lack of information or ignoring the available information.

2. Children of God

An American cult that entered the country in the 1980s after China started opening to the West is the Children of God (天父的儿女), also called the Family of Love (爱之家), Family International (家庭国际) or the Family (家庭). Their founder and leader was David Berg. He died in 1994. Since then, his wife is the head of the operation.

“Children of God” preached sexual Violence

David Berg founded the cult already back in 1968 — in California of all places. You might get an idea of how he came to his revelation. He started calling himself Moses, messenger of God claiming to be nothing else but a conservative Christian.

The problem with this cult is the same as with many others. Being secretive, closed and having absolute control over their flock is an important part of their policy. Additionally, they found a very flower-power way of proselytizing: Sex. Any form -apart from homosexuality- is allowed, till the mid-80s allegedly age barriers did not exist either.

The cult´s publications are understood as divinely inspired and equal to the Bible. So, nothing new there. Just another criminal nut claiming divine inspiration that preys on the innocent and defenseless.

3. Three Grades of Servant Sect (三班仆人)

Sometime in the 1980s a certain Xu Wenku (徐文库) founded a quite successful cult with over a million members in many provinces of China.

Xu Wenku

In contrast to many other Chinese cult leaders, he grew up as a traditional Christian, was involved in a local church in Henan and so seems to have at least some basic idea, what it is all about.

Yet, like all sect leaders, he interprets the Bible in his very own way twisting the content so it fits his entrepreneurial or shall we call it nutty spirit.

Salvation is of course only possible for those joining the cult. Nothing new here. Another scoop of doom anyone? Of course, the world will end soon. Typical.

The troublesome aspects come to light, when you read about their contact to the Eastern Lightning cult and that they allegedly train how to kill and abduct people. The fact that they exploit their members and embezzle money seems only a minor problem then.

4. The Spirit Sect (灵灵教; 属灵教、灵灵派)

Hua Xuehe

The leader of this group was Hua Xuehe (华雪和), who died in 2000. All in all, this is just another run of the mill sect. However, he started on a completely different level. For Hua it was not enough to be a messenger of some divine entity.

Then he formed the group in 1983 this farmer from Jiangxi province decided he was a “second Jesus Christ” and his hometown of Huaiyin was Jerusalem. He might have something mixed up there. Nazareth or Bethlehem ring a bell?

Yet, his influence seems to never have surpassed much more than 15.000 members. In typical sect style these were told the world would end and they should abandon their daily lives to prepare for the inevitable.

The usual fraudulent activities ensued, and some nice exorcism was practiced occasionally. But hey, demonic possession happens to the best of us. And withholding medicine in favor of praying till health ensues is nothing new either.

5. Disciples Society/ Association of Disciples (门徒会)

Once again a somewhat Christian mish-mash sect. It is also known as The Narrow Gate in the Wilderness (旷野窄门). Their origins can be traced back to Hunan.

In 1989 this cult was founded by the farmer Ji Sanbao (季三宝). Chinese farmers seem to have a special connection to the spiritual realm. Ten years later it was assumed to encompass up to 500.000 members. They are extremely secretive.

Ji Sanbao

And again, this sect leader doesn´t do it below divine powers. Ji claims to be the “Christ established by God.” So, in effect he is a new Jesus. And that of course gives him miraculous powers to resurrect the dead and wonderous healing abilities.

Like all sects, they want complete control over their members, encouraging them to abandon their former life and all social contacts.

They predicted the end of the world in 2000. Yet, like many 2000 doomsday cults they were disappointed. What to do, if your end time prediction did not come to fruition and you decide that mass suicide is a bad idea as well? You try something new. Just become a crime syndicate.

Abducting women, rape, and fraud are all on the table and in typical mafia style they try to exert power deep into the area of local state affairs by rioting or interfering with official business.

6. Established King (被立王) and Lord God (主神教) Sects

Another wacky cult is the Lord God Sect (主神教). It is also called the Supreme Deity cult. This group had several 10,000 members at its high point mainly in Hunan, but quickly spreading to over 20 provinces. Their leader Liu Jiaguo was sentenced to death in 1999.

This guy himself was somewhat of an evil genius. His ascent to leadership makes one smile. In his earlier years he was a follower of the Established King Sect (被立王).

Wu Yangming

Their co-founder Wu Yangming (吴扬明) claimed to be another of God’s sons. It seems these sect leaders believe the Christian God is something like a Zeus, copulating with half of the human women available. Or it is the usual „No, I am the real deal, the other one is the fraud“!

His promise was the usual doomsday cult program: Establish a new heaven and new earth in the year 2000. According to the official investigations he abducted more than 130 girls — to safe them! By doing what he called „union“ with him. You get the point!

But then, oh wonder, Liu Jiaguo found out that his beloved leader was only human. He was of course outraged, but then made the best he could out of the whole dilemma.

In true entrepreneurial spirit he created his own cult in 1993. He started luring in members of the Established King Sect by claiming to be the true “Lord God” himself. When his competitor died, he was able to hunt on foreign grounds and convert many of the original Established King Sect to follow him.

In good sect tradition Liu enriched himself by sucking his followers´ money and had fun with his female followers. In the end the charges were nothing unusual for a cult: Embezzling money, raping his disciples even the very young and similar ungodly behavior. Although the group collapsed with his execution, it seems that the core of believers still haunts some areas.

What is the allure of pseudo-Christian cults?

While statistically 90% of all Christians adhere to classical denominations in China, the 10% of bizarre groups are the ones causing problems for state, society, and believers.

Because, make no mistake. Most Chinese have hardly any idea about Christianity and will either believe any half-truth or absurd claim. Or they hear about those criminal cults and think this is how Christians behave, which sheds a negative light on the average believer.

Researchers assume the lack of valid religious knowledge to be one major reason for this. Mainly in rural China these cults gain adherence because the local population´s lack of higher education and the ability to critically evaluate what they hear.

The existing branches of folk religion with their believe in spirits, ghosts and mystical rituals are a breeding ground for those syncretic faiths that have hardly anything to do with the original thing.

Oftentimes preachers themselves receive only basic training by some proselytizing organizations and are then sent out without proper theological foundation. Some become cult leaders or just invent what seems right in the moment to gain followers. Most of course not, but a few bad apples are enough to cause trouble.

One major reason surely is the long-term suppression of faith and the seclusion of China till the 1980s. Religion was suppressed, and people had more serious problems than thinking about their soul.

When you are not sure if you find food the next day or if some radical youngsters drag you to the street to beat you and your family to death, religion might comfort you. But the simple fact that you have a faith will make you a target.

When China gave up its closed-door policy and opened itself, new ideas also entered. And when the market of ideas and ideologies is growing then people will evaluate, what they know and decide that maybe, just maybe, what they have known as the only true thing, is not what they think to be true at all.

And in that vacuum of faith new untainted ideas will offer alternatives that might fit better for some if not many.

Additionally, the locals were practically trained over decades -if not millennia- to follow leadership and charismatic single men. And sect leaders exploit this without hesitation. They spread fear and provide a way out, that only their group can give. The old recipe!

These Christian cults mainly are creations of overseas Chinese or come from outside the mainland. They have a local flavor, readily find their way into Chinese mentality and are themselves often less than orthodox. With the right monetary backing they quickly gain influence in contrast to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, the Mormons, and others.

Probably most of them are still somewhat Christian -albeit with strange ideas- and will probably not become dangerous cults. But their weirdness factor is quite high. So, there are several groups that believe salvation is only possible with them, other claim you must cleanse yourself by vomiting or practice weird feats of screaming and mostly you must slavishly follow the leader.

Suppressed by the state they become an underground gathering place for the disillusioned and unhappy that easily fall into the hands of skilled imposters and criminal cult leaders.

Instead of enriching the lives of the faithful and making a positive contribution to the development of country and society, these cults drag their followers in the gutter and destroy their lives.

Official congregations and unofficial house churches are the victims of these groups (next to the duped individual) because there seems to be a trend of actively stealing followers from the real Christian mainstream churches.

Who knows, one day the government might decide that working closer together with the mainstream Christian movement will benefit society overall.

If you are interested in reading more in depth about these topics and Christianity in China in general, have a look at the site of China Christian Daily:

and the many informative articles on the site: China Source



Bustling Beijing

Long-term German Expat in China. PHD in History. Deep understanding of Chinese Culture. Commentate current Affairs and question the western Stereotype of China.