Paul GE Tingzhu was born in 1839 at Xiaotun, a village that today is located in Henan Province. He was a poor farmer. At the same time, he was the leading Catholic layman in his village.
In 1900, a loosely organized, quasi-religious, quasi-nationalistic faction known as the “Boxers” in English unleashed a wave of attacks against foreigners and Western culture in China. They viewed Christianity as a Western religion and so saw Chinese Christians as traitors. Chinese Christians were in no way betraying their country. The God to whom they owed allegiance was universal, not Western. However, the Boxers were not open to theological fine points, and instead unleashed their fury and intolerance on their fellow Chinese who had become Christian, as well.
On August 9, 1900, Paul was setting out to begin his routine farm work when he was confronted by a band of Boxers. Having been told that the sixty-one-year-old farmer was a Catholic, the Boxers demanded from him a denial of his faith.
Paul answered, ‘Absolutely not! No, no! It does not matter if you kill my body; I want to save my soul.’ The Boxers tied him to a tree and brutally tortured him to death. Throughout, GE Tingzhu remained steadfast, reaffirming his faith and trust in God, and continually invoked the holy names of Jesus and Mary.
While the Boxers saw GE as betraying their country, that was not his own perspective. Rather, Paul GE Tingzhu was affirming his faith in God, and in Jesus as the one who most truly reveals who God is.
Saint Paul GE Tingzhu, pray for us!