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Section I: East Asia Missions

Part 13: Chekiang Mission, 1885-1934

This continues coverage of missions to China with the papers of the Chekiang Mission, 1885-1934. It includes the Letter Books, 1897-1934 and the Original Papers, 1885-1905.

The Letter Books, containing copies of outgoing correspondence from the Secretary in London to the missionaries and mission secretary, contain material on official and personal matters including all aspects of mission finance and administration. There are letters to missionaries on all manner of subjects including: interesting information on footbinding; letters to the mission secretary covering topics such as resignations, furloughs, salaries, missionary probation periods, travel to China, accommodation, health, deaths, mental breakdowns. There are Committee Minutes; Rules for the Mid-China CMS Women’s Conference; Memoranda re Women’s Work, Episcopal Jurisdiction in Shanghai, the Anglo-Chinese School; Circulars re the outbreak of war in 1914 and the Native Agency; discussions on the relations between doctors and staff at Hangchow Missionary Hospital; descriptions of the work done with the leper mission; details of the new building work to be done at the mission station and money to be allocated to the Biblewomen.

The Original Papers are the incoming papers sent by the missions to London. They contain letters regarding all manner of subjects: the first impressions of missionaries on their arrival in China; suggested lists of what items and clothing new recruits should take to China, with comments such as " …avoid taking too much luggage…live as nearly as possible to European fashion…do not eat Chinese food…."; a letter about the imminent war in North China from Miss Ella Green at Ningpo stating " Isn’t it a privilege to be living in such intensely interesting times: and in China too!" Dr Kimber’s letter from Hangchow Hospital written ten days later has a slighltly different feel. " They (the Boxers) burned the Ost’s home – the ladies house and the Girls School all to the ground….We feel very much like rats in a hole living in the city here." There are letters from the Foreign Office assuring CMS the safety of the missionaries in China during the Boxer Rebellion. This is followed by lists of the missionaries and members of their families who had been killed in the troubles – 64 including children. There are letters from missionaries requesting furloughs, increases in salary, permission to marry, descriptions of their travels in the countryside around the missions. Journals of the missionaries provide great detail on their work and their everyday life: a trip into Chuki in 1905 to see some of the Chinese people in the old mission stations is described by a lady missionary, "Two women came to hear the Gospel…. But the mind of the average (Chinese) woman is so stunted and dull in grasping a new idea, that (though I fear it does not sound very proper to say so,) I much prefer an audience of men".

Reports and Minutes of all kinds are to be found including: Reports of the Mid-China Conferences and Ladies Conference, Minutes of the Ningpo Native Church and the Shanghai Finance Committee, Reports from the Society for the Oppression of the Opium Trade, the Hangchow Medical Mission Hospital, the Ningpo Girls Boarding School and the Hao-Meng-Fong Hospital at Ningpo.

Items related to finance cover topics such as: discussions about missionary salaries, costs for building a new hospital and training college, expenses of the Medical Training College and Hangchow Hospital and annual grants. There are also statistics regarding work done with opium smokers, the amount of travelling done by missionaries, statistics for the missions showing baptisms taken place, number of Native Clergy and boy and girl Chinese scholars.

Miscellaneous items include: information on the role of Biblewomen in China, notices of examinations in Chinese, requests for ladies to go to China and run an orphanage for Eurasian girls in Shanghai, the uncertainty of letters reaching England from China as ships were liable to founder, notes and plans for a Ladies House in Hangchow, Lists of Agents, Evangelists, Schoolmasters and women, Biblewomen and medical evangelists and an article on the position and work of Women Missionaries. There is one outstanding item - a very beautifully but luridly illustrated booklet "The Cause of the Riots in the Yangtse Valley" which is a reproduction of a book circulated by the Anti-Foreign Party in China.

There are newspaper cuttings covering subjects as varied as the activities of the Shanghai Church Missionary Local Association and the complaints of a missionary regarding the rickshaw traffic in Shanghai..

Printed material includes : A pamphlet on "The Importance of Promoting Self-Support among Native Churches", a memorandum on Foot Binding in China, the pamphlet of "The Heavenly Foot Society", a leaflet on "The Remarkable Progress of the Anti-Footbinding Movement", "The Bulletin of the Hankow District American Church Mission, China" and the Pamphlet of The Christian Literature Society for China.


When CMS was founded China was closed to all missionaries, though a small Christian community survived from sixteenth century Roman Catholic evangelism. Knowledge of this stimulated English interest in China and in 1807 the London Missionary Society sent out Robert Morrison; he died in 1834 having failed to penetrate beyond the permitted foreign trading areas. CMS had consulted Morrison when he was in England in 1824 and in 1835 corresponded with Charles Gutzlaff, a Prussian evangelist working under the Netherlands Missionary Society. He was renowned for his journeys in defiance of the Chinese authorities, sailing along the coast, distributing tracts wherever he could. His zeal encouraged CMS to send Edward Squire in 1836 to investigate possibilities of work. His reports were discouraging, however, and the outbreak of the first Opium War between Britain and China forced his return to England.

Ironically it was the Opium War that opened China to the Gospel. By the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 five Chinese ports were opened to Europeans (including missionaries); and Hong Kong was ceded to Britain. Many missionary societies immediately started work in mainland China. CMS was in a financial crisis, but an anonymous gift of £7,000 to start a China mission enabled them to send out two missionaries, George Smith and Thomas McClatchie in 1844. By 1847 work was established at Ningpo and Shanghai. In 1849 George Smith became bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, having missionary jurisdiction over China.

The development of missionary work was beset by many difficulties. The country was vast with a large population and a sophisticated indigenous culture which was highly resistant to Christianity, regarding it as an insidious form of Western influence. Moreover, the language, with its innumerable dialects took many years to master. The educated Chinese (the literati) were violently opposed to the missionaries and encouraged the Chinese authorities to seek disputes with them, often (as at Foochow) over ownership of property. Property fights soured relationships with the British authorities too, exacerbated by the missionaries' denunciation of the opium trade. Then there were civil disturbances which could cause disruption for many years. The Taiping rebellion against the Chinese government which lasted from 1850 to 1866 was one of the most confusing as the rebels incorporated some Christian elements into their dogma and were at first viewed sympathetically by some of the missionaries. Outbreaks of hostility to foreigners were common, one of the worst resulting in the massacre in 1895 of ten missionaries (among them Robert Stewart and family) by insurgents in Fukien.

Despite all this the work prospered. Successive conflicts gradually opened up the interior of the country to Europeans and missionaries extended their work. In 1873 the Rev W Russell was consecrated bishop of North China and in 1880 the bishopric of Mid-China (Shanghai and Chekiang provinces) was established with the Rev G E Moule as its first bishop. In 1897 the mission was divided into three, South China (covering Hong Kong, Kwangtung and Fukien provinces), Mid-China and West China (Szechwan province); Fukien became a separate mission in 1900.

As in other missions prime emphasis had always been given to the training of native clergy and the development of the native church. One of the most important of the training colleges was that at Ningpo, founded by J C Hoare in 1875.

Unlike other countries, however, in which the British ruled, the authorities in mainland China usually opposed mission school education. Although schools were founded at most major mission stations (notably at Foochow, where Robert Stewart succeeded in establishing a college and boarding school) it was medical work that proved the most important instrument of evangelism.

William Welton, the first CMS doctor to go to China, began work in Foochow City in 1850. He was followed by Dr B Van Someren Taylor who started an itinerant mission, helped by medical catechists whom he had trained.

By the 1880s China had the largest group of dispensary hospitals in any one country in which CMS worked. Outstanding work was being done amongst opium addicts (begun in 1866 at Ningpo) and leprosy patients (notably at Pakhoi, from 1890, and Hangchow from 1892).

There were a very large number of missionary societies at work in China and co-operation and discussion were a particular feature, lacking in other areas of CMS work. The Society in particular learned much from Hudson Taylor's successes in Western China where he worked for the China Inland Mission. In 1890 a conference of missionary societies meeting at Shanghai called for 1000 new missionaries in the ensuing five years and of these a modest 44 came through CMS. Nevertheless by 1899 CMS had 196 missionaries assigned to China and, although Anglicans were a tiny minority of the Chinese Christian community there was scarcely a province to which the Gospel had not penetrated and congregations of believers were scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country.

By 1910 eleven Anglican dioceses had been formed. CMS worked on its own in three - Fukien (1906), Chekiang (1909) and Kwangsi and Hunan (1909), and in partnership with an Anglican section of the China Inland Mission in Western China (1895) and the diocese of Victoria Hong Kong. In 1912 the dioceses united to form the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (Holy Catholic Church of China) which in 1930 became a fully constituted province of the Anglican communion.

As CMS work developed the work was gradually separated into five missions. First the work was divided in 1885 between South China and Mid-China (from 1912 called Chekiang). In 1897 Western China was separated from Mid-China; in 1900 Fukien was split from South China; finally in 1911 the work in Kwangsi and Hunan was made independent of South China.


CMS work in Chekiang had begun in Shanghai in 1845 and Ningpo in 1848 and then spread to Hangchow in 1865. Ningpo and Hangchow remained the centres from which further stations developed:- Shaohing in 1870 to the west and Taichow in 1892 to the south of Ningpo; the Chuki district in 1892 to the south and Tunglu in 1913 to the southwest of Hangchow.

Chekiang province was assigned to the southern part of the diocese of North China until 1880 when it was divided and G E Moule, the first CMS missionary in Hangchow, became Bishop of Mid-China. There was overlapping jurisdiction with the missionary bishop in Shanghai, who was from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA. When Bishop Moule retired in 1908 the American bishops recognised Chekiang province as an "English" episcopal area and H J Molony was appointed as bishop in Chekiang. The CMS mission, however, continued to be responsible for work in Shanghai, where it had its headquarters office for all its work in China.

As with other missions the transfer of authority from mission to diocese which began in 1910 was delayed by the disturbed state of the country in the 1920s so that it was not until 1937 with the outbreak of war with Japan that real authority was given to the Chinese clergy.

The nub of educational work in Chekiang was Trinity College Ningpo, where W S Moule was principal for twenty seven years. It had a lower elementary practice school as well as a teacher- training class and a divinity class for catechists and pastors. For several decades it provided a steady supply of teachers, catechists and clergy, though by 1923 it was changing to become a source of general education on Christian lines. Apart from the college the main secondary schools were boys schools at Shanghai (where W H A Moule was principal 1890-1924) and Shaohing which opened 1906 with P J King as principal; and two girls schools, St Catherine's Ningpo which opened 1869 with Miss Matilda Laurence as headmistress and the Mary Vaughan High School, Hangchow. All the schools closed in 1927 but were open again by the end of 1928 and survived into the 1930s.

The hospital at Hangchow was the pivot for medical work in Chekiang and the other hospitals at Ningpo and Taichow depended on it for staff and expertise. James Galt started medical work in Hangchow in 1871 but the outstanding name connected with the hospital is that of Dr Duncan Main who developed it from the time of his arrival in 1882. When he retired in 1926 it was dealing with 3,000 inpatients and 60,000 outpatients a year with over 1,000 major operations annually. It also included a fine medical school, whose development had been Main's chief interest from 1908 when CMS had first discussed the idea of medical training. The school was given provisional registration by the China Medical Association in 1926. The hospital was commandeered by the Japanese in 1937.

The CMS Archives reveal much about Chinese history and culture. They record the collision between western and indigenous cultures and the changes that resulted from this. They describe the introduction of western medicine, the establishment of schools and the confrontations and compromises between differing religious beliefs. The papers are a rich source for ethnologists, social historians and all those trying to understand China before and after missionary intervention.

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