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Nee, Watchman (1903–1972)

  1. Allan Anderson

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0974

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Anderson, A. 2011. Nee, Watchman (1903–1972). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Ni Doushen, better known in the west as “Watchman Nee,” is founder of possibly the largest and best known of the Chinese “Old Three-Self” churches, known in China variously as the Christian Assembly, the Local Church, and the Little Flock. Nee found traditional Christianity unsatisfactory, denounced denominations and resigned his membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1924 he set up a Christian book room in Fuzhou and began writing the first of many devotional books for which he was to achieve international acclaim. The best known of these books might be The Normal Christian Life, a popular commentary on Romans. In 1928 he moved to Shanghai, and together with Wang Peizhen (a woman) and Li Yuanru, set up the first “Assembly Hall,” the name given to the church's meeting place. By 1932 there were over 20 Assembly Halls, each one autonomous, and with a total of 4,000 followers. In 1935 Nee had an experience of being filled with the Spirit, and a new emphasis entered his meetings. Although Nee is thought by some commentators to have rejected ecstatic manifestations like speaking in tongues, faith healing, and spiritual dance, others suggest that Nee did speak in tongues and that his movement became Pentecostal. In 1945 Nee invited his friend Li Changshou (“Witness Lee”) to work with him in Shanghai. They began teaching that Christians must “surrender” their personal possessions to the church. A training program was initiated and a strategy for the evangelization of China launched, including “gospel emigration,” when believers left the coastal cities for the unevangelized interior. In 1949, in the face of the Communist invasion, Li and many other believers fled to Taiwan, which resulted in the rapid growth of the church there.


  • Nee, Watchman (1903–1972);
  • Ni Doushen, as “Watchman Nee”;
  • the normal christian life, commentary on Romans;
  • three self patriotic movement (TSPM);
  • local church/little flock churches, in China