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from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Part 3: Minutes and Papers of the China Inland Mission

“The China Inland Mission … possessed a number of unique features which set it apart from established missionary societies and gave it an intensity and, perhaps, a glamour, which other more conventional organizations must have envied. The CIM was a single field mission which, unlike the denominational agencies based at the Treaty Ports, concentrated on the unevangelised areas in the interior of China. Unlike other missions, it was not societal in form with a committed body of supporters and contributors but depended on faith and prayer for its continuance. Its candidates were selected across denominational (and later national) boundaries and were chosen (in its early years at least) for their spiritual qualities, irrespective of education, social class, and gender. Finally, until his retirement in 1903, the mission was led from the field by its founder and director, James Hudson Taylor.”

Rosemary Seton, University of London

The China Inland Mission (CIM) was founded in Brighton, England, in 1865 by James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), who was raised as a Methodist in Barnsley, and converted to evangelical Christianity at the age of 17. He had already served as a missionary with the Chinese Evangelisation Society in Shanghai, 1853-1856, and Ningpo, 1857-1860, and realised that there was a need for a different sort of missionary organisation focussing on the evangelisation of China’s inland provinces.

The CIM sent its first missionaries to China in 1866 and it was given major impetus by the famous Lammermuir mission (18 missionaries with 4 children) headed by Taylor, which is often seen as a turning point in the history of missions to China.

CIM missionaries were notable for a number of reasons:

  • They were international and interdenominational.
  • They were chosen for their spirituality, rather than their education, social class or gender, so included a number of working class and female missionaries.
  • They all adopted Chinese dress.
  • They were all expected to learn Chinese.
  • They were expected to support themselves in the local community that they served and to find a way of living without a guaranteed salary.

They thought that the Mission could be supported by prayer and action, but they also set up an organisational headquarters in London under the direction of William Thomas Berger (1815-1899), who publicised the activities of the mission, accepted donations, selected potential missionaries and liaised with those working in the field.

An American office was opened in 1888 and an Australian office in 1890.

The CIM was struck hard in the Boxer uprising of 1900, when 58 of their missionaries (and 21 of their children) were killed. Undaunted, by 1911 the CIM had managed to raise £1,471,000 and had 968 missionaries in China.

It is estimated that the number of Christians in China rose from c100,000 in 1900 to c700,000 in 1950. At that point the Communist Revolution put an end to most Western Missions in China and CIM were forced to withdraw.

Parts 1 and 2 of the CIM archive make available the papers of its remarkable founder, James Hudson Taylor, and include his diaries, correspondence, notebooks and files assembled to illustrate key episodes in his life.

This third part concentrates on the organisational files of the London Office. A rich array of important manuscript material is brought together, including:

  • Documents relating to the foundation of the mission.
  • Minute Books of the London Council, 1872-1951, giving good details of the key discussions and regular appraisals of the financial status of the mission.
  • Detailed correspondence regarding donations to the mission, the purchase of buildings, baptisms, marriages and mission preaching.
  • A Register of Missionaries, compiled in China.
  • Handbills and internal publications describing mission work.

These will be invaluable for anyone studying missiology and the history of missions in China.

Thanks are due to Susannah Rayner, Head of Archives & Special Collections at SOAS, for her help in the preparation of this microfilm edition.

Useful articles concerning Taylor, his papers and the CIM can be found at:




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