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Section I: East Asia Missions

Part 16: Western China Mission, 1898-1934 and Fukien Mission covering 1900-1934

This continues coverage of missions to China with the papers of the Western China Mission, 1898-1934 and the Fukien Mission papers for 1900-1934. For the Western China Mission it concludes the Original Papers with the years 1929-1934 and covers the Precis Books for 1898-1934. The papers of the Fukien Mission, 1900-1934 cover the Letter Books for 1900-1934 and the Original Papers 1900-1910.

Western China Mission, 1898-1934
The Original Papers, 1929-1934, continuing the Original Papers from Part 15, are the incoming papers sent by the missions to London. They contain letters regarding all manner of subjects, the current political situation in China being covered in depth. There are letters from missionaries describing their first impressions, requesting furloughs, increases in salary, permission to marry, illness and retirement and there are vivid descriptions of their travels in the countryside around the missions. These are contained in the missionaries’ letters, journals and annual reports.

Reports, Minutes and Pamphlets of all kinds are to be found including: Report for the year of the West China Union University; Executive Committee Resolutions; Minutes of the West China Mission Conference; Report of the Women’s College; Pamphlet on the Council of Education; Report of the Hospital Board.

Items related to finance cover: discussions about missionary salaries, Diocese statistics; educational statistics; minutes of the Standing and Finance Committee; statistics of staff and churches.

Miscellaneous items include: notices of examinations in Chinese, maps of the Western China Mission area; certificates of good health of missionaries; photographs; plans for missionary buildings.

The Precis Books covering 1898-1934 contain a precis of all the incoming papers prepared for the Group Committee. The precis comprises the number, date, writer, date received, summary of contents, proposals for committee action to be taken and/or the Secretary’s remarks.

Fukien Mission 1900-1934
The Letter Books for 1900-1934 contain private and confidential letters from the Secretary in London to individual missionaries. A wide range of subjects is to found covering all manner of missionary activity.

The Original Papers, 1900-1910, are the incoming papers sent by the missions to London. They contain letters regarding all kinds of subjects, the current political situation in China being covered in depth. There are letters from missionaries describing their first impressions, requesting furloughs, increases in salary, permission to marry, illness and retirement and there are vivid descriptions of their travels in the countryside and their work carried out in the missions. These are contained in the missionaries’ letters, journals and annual reports.

Reports, Minutes and Pamphlets of all kinds are to be found: Report on the Church Day Schools of Fukien; Report of the Theological College; Report of the Boys School; Minutes of the Standing Committeee; Minutes of Conferences; Report of the Finance Committee; Report of the Anglo-Chinese College; Report on the Chinese-Opium League.

Miscellaneous items include; certificates for language exams; notes from the Medical Board regarding the health of missionaries; plans for mission houses and schools; an analysis of the missionaries in the area by doctor, clergy, layman and newspaper cuttings.


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.


The Western China mission began in 1891 when J H Horsburgh led a pioneer party to Chungking in the province of Szechwan. By 1894 work had started in Mienchow, Chungpa, Anhsien, Mienchu and Sintu. All missionaries wore Chinese dress and their hallmark was direct personal evangelism. The province was isolated, the missionaries scattered and the persistent disturbed state of the countryside with war, banditry and general unrest made the work difficult and dangerous.

The diocese of Western China was formed in 1895 and the CMS work was in the west of the region, the eastern part being worked by the China Inland Mission. Bishop W W Cassels was working on a draft constitution for the diocese in 1910 but the reluctance at CMS headquarters to encourage rapid constitution making when there were no Chinese clergy in the CMS area and also the delicate relationshp with CIM areas where church membership was considerably in advance of CMS made progress slow. Only the evacuation of all the missionaries in 1927 forced the pace. In 1929 C T Song and H L Ku were consecrated assistant bishops but even in the 1930s the missionary conference was still more influential than the diocese.

Medical work in Western China centred on dispensaries with a hospital at Mienchu for thirty years under the charge of Dr J H Lechler. In education the missions provided primary schools in most stations and there were boarding-schools at Mienchow, but they never developed the large schools and colleges such as those in Hong Kong.

CMS also contributed to West China Union University College by appointing H G Anderson to the teaching staff (from 1938 to 1959 he was to be Medical Secretary at headquarters). The Union University had been set up by four missions from other denominations (American and Canadian) as a centre of Christian education and CMS was not connected with it until 1910 when Bishop Cassels appointed James Stewart as warden of the Anglican hostel. In 1919 CMS became a full partner, providing a series of members of staff in both the medical and arts faculties.


One of the distinctive marks of Fukien province was the large number of dialects spoken by the people. Most missionaries lived upcountry with little or no contact with other foreigners and because of the language problems they did not move about much. Even the Chinese church workers were limited in this respect.

The first work in the area began at Foochow in 1850 but in the 1880s it spread to Funing, Kutien, Lienkong and Loyuan and in the 1890s stations opened at Hinghwa, Kienow, Ningteh and Futsing. The development of the work warranted the mission being set up as an administrative unit in 1900 and in 1906 a diocese was formed with H McC E Price, a CMS missionary in Japan, as its first bishop. He was followed by John Hind who served from 1918 to his retirement in 1940. Bishop Hind was a missionary sent out through the Dublin University Fukien Mission. This had been founded in 1885 to recruit CMS missionaries from the university and to support them financially. DUFM dealt directly with CMS London, not with the mission secretary in Fukien. Together with the CEZMS which had many women workers in the province the three societies formed a strong partnership.

The process of diocesanisation was urged by Bishop Price from 1918 onwards and to some extent was spurred on by the recurring financial difficulties and retrenchment of the 1920s, but as with other missions, progress was slow and transfer of authority was not completed until 1930. Even then the hospitals and dispensaries, which were numerous and widespread, were not accepted by the diocese, but continued under the Medical Mission Auxiliary, controlled from London. They were finally transferred in the 1940s by which time CMS had completed its gradual withdrawal of financial support.

CMS work was widespread in both education and medicine. There were hospitals with dispensaries in many places, the largest at Hinghwa begun in 1894 by Birdwood van Someren Taylor, who was principal of the Union Medical College in Foochow from its opening in 1911 until 1918. The college, a joint venture of Anglicans, American Congregationalists and Methodist Episcopalians closed in 1922. In 1937 another cooperative venture between CMS and the Methodist Episcopal Mission began at Sienyu. The Christian Union Hospital provided training for maternity nurses, who could help in the development of maternity and child units, particularly in the villages.

In education Fukien mission was responsible for more schools and training institutions than any other of the CMS missions in China. As well as elementary schools in villages, boarding schools, boys and women’s schools there was a divinity college at Foochow, theological classes at Hinghwa and Kienning, a teacher training school and the Stewart Memorial College for Bible Women in Foochow.

CMS shared in a number of ecumenical projects in Foochow, including Fukien Christian University ( mainly American and started in 1916), the Union Kindergarten Training School (CMS and CEZMS sharing with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the Methodist Episcopal Mission) and the Foochow Christian Women’s School of Industrial Arts planned by CMS, CEZMS and the American Board and started in the early 1920s.

The Foochow Union Theological School which was opened in 1912 was a joint co-operative venture in Christian higher education by six Protestant missions. The co-operation ended in part because of differences in outlook and working practices between the American missions and CMS. There was also difficulty in finding educationally well-equipped candidates for the ministry which several missionaries acknowledged was caused by sheer lack of training offered by the mission.

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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