Code of the spirit

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The Code of the Spirit (Simplified: 密码教; Traditional: 密碼教; Hanyu pinyin: mìmǎjiào; literally "religion code") is a term for a Chinese religious movement from the 1970s and 1980s. It was an effort to spread Christianity using familiar elements.


It is not known when the Code of the Spirit was invented; however, the term was first used in the late 70s. It was used by groups of native Chinese who converted to Christianity in the United States and Canada. There is no official version of the Code, as it is more a way of teaching.

The concept of mimajiao was teaching Christianity by attaching people and events from the Bible to people and events from Chinese stories. Usually, this was done with literature - Water Margin and Romance of the Three Kingdoms were commonly used. Sometimes, works of philosophy were used instead. Parables would be compared to parts of the Analects or the Dao De Jing. This had two purposes: It allowed the teachers to keep their lessons secret, and it made the material easier for the students to understand. It was similar in some ways to santeria, except that there was no mixing of the religions.


Mimajiao lessons were usually held in small family-owned restaurants or shops. The teachers advertised them as historical lessons in newspapers and fliers. The first few lessons were readings and discussion with no religious content. In later lessons, the teacher started by connecting one or two characters in the story to Christian figures. He then told a variant on the story, combining the original story and the religious lesson.

Example Lesson

A sample lesson, based on the Battle of Changban and Matthew 14:13-33:

While traveling South with his men, Liu Bei encountered a group of peasants who were fleeing the tyranny of Cao Cao. His officers came to him and said "These people are in need of aid, but we do not have the means to protect them. We should send them West, where Cao Cao will not follow." Liu Bei replied, "That should not be necessary. We shall bring them with us." Zhuge Liang was uncertain that they could support the peasants, but he put his trust in Liu Bei's judgment.

As they neared Changban Bridge, the weather grew rough, and their pursuers grew nearer. Zhuge Liang again instructed Liu Bei, "We can not shelter these men. Send them West, that they may find shelter." But Liu Bei replied, "Is it our skill that you doubt, or our righteousness?" With that, he dismounted his horse and gathered the peasants to cross the river. Zhuge Liang realized the righteousness of his master, and he took to Liu Bei's side.[1]


The Code of the Spirit was most widespread in the 1980s. Because there was no central organization, exact numbers are not known. However, there was at least one chapter in every provincial city.

During the early 1990s, there was an effort to put mimajiao resources online. The government blocked most of the websites, and other methods were more successful anyway, so it was largely abandoned.

Because Christianity is more widely understood, the Code of the Spirit is rarely used today. It is still used on occasion in Xinjiang province, and there are similar movements in central Asia.


  1. "A Lesson Analyzed - Battle of Changban"