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October 2016: Looking Into the Human Heart

(above) Page 1 of seven-page series of posters titled "The Human Heart." (below) Small versions of pages 2-7 of series. Published by Christian Witness Press in Kong Kong. Ca. 1930s-1940s.

This wordless poster series, each page measuring 30.75" x 21.25", builds entirely on symbols to communicate its message about human need, struggle, and salvation; only its title, item number, publisher name, and location are printed in English. The likely venue for use of the poster was in small church or evangelism meetings, or on street corners. These and similar posters were used to explain the need for salvation, Christian discipleship, and sanctification. An accompanying tract in English, not available to the Archives, explains the posters. Without the tract, the following is an approximate interpretation of the posters based on Christian and traditional Chinese symbolism. The dominant image is the human heart, governed by God or natural appetites, qualities, and vices.

In the poster above, possibly depicting the unregenerate person, Scripture and the Holy Spirit radiate light on the black heart of the person not yet a Christian, while appetites along with the devil at the center rule; the Law (six-pointed star) is present but darkened. Although it is unclear how much the creators depended on a traditional Chinese world view to formulate what they represent, possible meanings for the symbols from left to right, top to bottom:

  • The open book symbolizes the Bible
  • The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit
  • The cross symbolizes Jesus Christ crucified
  • The wolf could symbolize self-interest, savagery, and greed
  • The eye could symbolize human perspective
  • The mouth symbolizes speech and witness
  • The peacock could symbolize vainglory and showing off
  • The snake could symbolize cunning and power
  • The 6-pointed star could symbolize God's Law as expressed in the Ten Commandments
  • The devil could symbolize both the devil, demons, and evil influence of Christian theology
  • The goat (or sheep) could symbolize respect for parents and masculinity
  • The tiger could symbolize courage, bravery, and strength
  • The turtle could symbolize longevity and immortality
  • The pig could symbolize tolerance and optimism or laziness and gluttony

In some ways, the series becomes a puzzle with the missing tract's guidance. See and compare each poster below for suggested meanings across the series.

The poster set was recently transferred from the BGC Museum Collection (held by Buswell Library's College Archives & Special Collection as accession 1981.0472). See other examples of Chinese evangelism posters.

Page 2. Scripture and the Holy Spirit radiate light on the gray heart of the person who is coming to faith in Christ, with the appetites and devil disarrayed while the Law (6-pointed star) is being enlightened at the center.

Page 3. Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the cross of the risen Christ surround the sight, speech, and witness of the committed Christian, with the Law fully enlightened at the center. All of the appetites and natural qualities are expelled from the joyful yellow heart.

Page 4. The Bible is closed, the Holy Spirit is flying away, the devil rules, the Law is muted, and demons control all the appetites and natural qualities that occupy the black heart of the unrepentant person.

Page 5. The death of the Christian is depicted with family kneeling in prayer nearby, light streaming down from the awaiting heaven, and angels welcoming and guiding him to heaven.

Page 6. The death of the non-Christian is depicted by taunting demons, the fires of hell, the scale of justice tipped against him, drink and cigarettes nearby, and in billowing smoke overhead.
Page 7. With eyes closed, the wayward Christian is inattentive to the Bible, the Holy Spirit, the cross, and the Law, while the devil and natural appetites crowd in to regain control of the dull gray heart.

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Last Revised: 10/01/16
Expiration: indefinite

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