Christian Spirituality of Korean and Chinese Americans

While both Chinese Americans and Korean Americans are included under the broad umbrella grouping of Asian Americans, general differences and also similarities can be observed in how they practice their Christian faith.

Tapestry of Grace

In Chapter 5 of Tapestry of Grace: Untangling the Cultural Complexities in Asian American Life and Ministry (by Benjamin C. Shin and Sheryl Takagi Silzer), the authors carefully disclaim that their observations are broad general tendencies that may not apply to every single person of these groups.

For instance, Korean spirituality have practices like early morning prayer, with their expressions described as passionate, loud, and fervent. By contrast, Chinese spirituality comes across more reserved, moral, and cognitive. On the theological and ecclesiological side, differences arise in preaching, music, and architecture. 

  • a high view of God
  • acknowledgement of the authority of Scripture
  • high moral values and lifestyle (due to the honor/shame culture)
  • strong commitment to the local church

Along the lines of similarities, Asian Americans tend to have 4 values that are intrinsically baked into their cultures:

The authors, Drs. Benjamin Shin and Sheryl Takagi Silzer, wrote a valuable book about Asian American Christianity. Chapter 5 in particular can help someone put some words to articulate why they’re feeling differently when experiencing the spirituality of a Korean American versus a Chinese American.

Numerical Differences Too

I would add that Korean American and Chinese American spirituality differ because of its embedded context. The proportion of those who self-identify as Christians are inversely proportioned: about 70% of Korean Americans versus about 30% of Chinese Americans.

Because of this corporate sociality, the Korean American church has a much greater influence among the Korean American family relationships than that of a Chinese American family. As Asian cultures and peoples are more holistic in their perspectives on life, I believe this may well be a contributing factor in how much more socially-acceptable it is for Korean young adults to become pastors and missionaries, more so than Chinese Americans, for instance.