Whoever is Lu Bohong? In 1938 one would have been more likely to know the answer than today, because the Catholic entrepreneur and active “apostle of charity” was internationally known; in fact alongside Ma Xiangbo (1840–1939), Joseph Lu Bohong (1875–1937) was probably the best known Chinese Catholic of his times, but due to the war with Japan (1937–1945), the civil war (1945–1949) and subsequent developments (Communist power take-over) he sank into oblivion.
His name Lu Bohong 陆伯鸿 was earlier on also written as Loh Pa Hung or Loh Pahung. He came from a traditional Catholic family. The first Christian in the Lu family was supposedly already baptized in the time of Xu Guangui (1562–1633), that is shortly after 1600. However, more precise information on the genealogy of the Lu family, which probably came to Shanghai from Henan in the 18th century, can only be traced back to about 1850, when Lu Songyuan (ca. 1810–1880), the grandfather of Lu Bohong, actively supported the emerging mission in Shanghai. In 1875 little Joseph Lu Bohong was born in Dongjiadu parish in the south-eastern area of the old city of Shanghai. As the only boy in the family, he was lovingly brought up by his mother and his two sisters. He witnessed the rapid growth of the city of Shanghai, which between 1840 and 1940 became not only the largest but also the most modern and wealthiest city in China, and also the largest centre of Christianity with many schools, publishing houses and hospitals. However, the great divide between the very rich and the poor slum dwellers was also particularly visible in the metropolis; there were many beggars, street children and refugees, but also epidemics, drug-related crime and prostitution.