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Section I: East Asia Missions

Part 18: Fukien Mission, 1900-1934, Kwangsi-Hunan Mission, 1911-1934, China General Mission, 1935-1951 and South China Mission, 1935-1951

This continues coverage of missions to China. The Fukien Mission, 1900-1934 covers Original papers, 1930-1934 and Precis Books 1900-1934. The Original Papers, 1930-1934 consist of the documents sent by the missionaries and the mission secretary to the CMS headquarters in London. 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.

Other material includes: Minutes of meetings; reports on the Fukien Christian University at Foochow giving details on finance, salaries, allowances; reports on the Fukien Church Day Schools; reports on the Union Kindergarten Training School at Foochow, the CMS Mission for Blind Boys at Foochow and the Fukien Annual Missionary Conference. There are telegrams giving the latest news for example:
" Primary School has been totally destroyed by fire. Cause not yet known"; documents in Chinese; photos of schoolchildren.

The Precis Books, 1900-1934 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.

The Kwangsi-Hunan Mission, 1911-1934 covers Letter Books 1911-1934, Original Papers, 1911-1934 and one Precis Book, 1911-1934.

The Letter Books, 1911-1934 contain private and confidential letters from the Secretary in London to individual missionaries. A wide range of subjects is to be found covering all manner of missionary activity.

The Original Papers, 1911-1934 consist of the documents sent by the missionaries and the mission secretary to CMS headquarters in London. There are letters, journals and annual reports from missionaries describing their work in the mission station and on their itineraries and other interesting papers such as: issues of The Newsletter of the CMS Kwangsi-Hunan Mission including vivid descriptions of the famine in China and uprisings; newspapers cuttings detailing events in the mission; maps of the mission and China; reports of missionary conferences; statistics; Executive Committee Minutes; notes on the educational work; letters in Chinese with translations.

The Precis Book, 1911-1934 contains 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.

The China General Mission, 1935-1951 papers are arranged by subject area. They begin with General material and are then divided into Finance, Outside Organisations, Politics and Miscellaneous.

The General papers contain: correspondence with the central office in Shanghai, including letters re the withdrawal of missionaries from China in 1938; letters between the Financial Secretary and the treasurers; copies of The Baptist Layman – the newsletter of the Baptist Layman Missionary movement; descriptions of tours of the China missions; details re the training and terms of service of the missionaries; reports of the committee work of the China Advisory Council.

The Finance Papers concern property matters, grants and special appeals for money.

The papers of the Outside Organisations contain minutes, newsletters and correspondence for organisations such as Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, Universities, Christian colleges, the National Christian Council, the National Committee for Christian Religious Education in China, Conferences of the British Missionary Societies concerning China Middle Schools and education, the Asia Christian Colleges Association and British United Aid to China. The papers include: memos re the crisis in the diocese; finance; reports on colleges such as the Ming Hua College; copies of the newsletter, CHSKH- Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui; newspaper cuttings; reports on the future of Christian missions in China; periodicals such as The China Colleges; reports on student life at the University of Nanking; descriptions of fighting near Cheeloo; copies of the newsletter of The National Christian Council of China; statistics on the growth of the church in Nigeria and Uganda; numerous copies of The Overseas Newsletter giving information on the general situation in China, the government and church, conferences, the Iron Curtain, the Ecumenical movement and Christian literature; copies of The China Christian Universities Bulletin.

Politics concerns Sino-Japanese relations and the papers describe the general situation re the invasion of China by the Japanese in 1939, letters from the Bishop, the evacuation of missionaries, reports of the International Red Cross, opinions of missionaries on the conflict, pamphlets, reports by missionaries on the bombing of missions by the Japanese, descriptions of the occupation of Chuki by the Japanese and pamphlets such as The Canton Committee for Justice to China which contains a description of the bombing of Canton by a missionary doctor.

Miscellaneous papers contain items such as: a memo on "The Mui Tsai System" of slavery in China, pamphlets on Christians under the Chinese Communist State and reports on nursing schools.

The papers for the South China Mission, 1935-1951 are also arranged by subject area. They begin with General material relating to the mission and are then divided into Diocese related material and papers regarding Education.

The General papers contain material as diverse as: correspondence, Committee Minutes, reports from missionaries, conference reports, reports on the Hong Kong University and the Youth and Religious Movement Mission, appeals for women recruits, accounts of missionary itineraries, lists of contributors to the CMS Birthday Fund, missionary salaries and allowances, Diocesan budgets and treasurers’ reports.

The Diocese papers include: reports of the Standing Committee, the Medical Board and of Conferences. There is correspondence from the Diocesan Office, lists of new appointments of missionaries and details of the commemoration of the Diocese’s centenary.

The papers for Education consist of: Minutes, reports on schools, tables showing the amount of Christians compared with Non-Christians attending the schools, reports of the Finance Committee, plans for new schools, arrangements for the training of women workers, the income and expenditure for the year for the establishments, newspaper cuttings. The establishments covered are: Canton Union Theological College, Canton Union Women’s Hostel, Canton St Hilda’s School Hostel and St John’s Hall and St Paul’s College in Hong Kong.


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.


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.


Work had begun in Hong Kong in 1862 and although it was a natural centre for the mission the main work was concentrated on the mainland. In 1886 Dr Horder opened a hospital in Pakhoi and medical work spread to Limchow in 1902 where a dispensary was established and to Yunnan (later called Kunming) in 1913, where Dr Gordon Thompson was head of the hospital from 1915. Canton was declared a mission station in 1898. Its two outstanding institutions were Holy Trinity College begun in 1908 as a boys' school and until 1914 also a training college for pastors; and St Hilda's school for girls, opened in 1916 under Gertrude Bendelack's leadership. Both schools survived until the Japanese invasion of Canton in 1938.

The greatest concentration of schools, however, was in Hong Kong. St Paul's College founded in 1850 became a boarding-school in 1914 and was still flourishing in the 1970s. St Stephen's College was founded by E Judd Barnett, an outstanding pioneer missionary who was its first warden from 1903. Barnett, who was skilled in organisation and fundraising was also instrumental in the setting up of St. Stephen's Girls' College in 1907 and he played a large part in the founding of Hong Kong University.

As the South China mission was the longest-established CMS mission in China it was not surprising that it achieved more nearly than the other missions the gradual transfer of power from mission to church which was a hallmark of CMS activity in the 1920s and 1930s. A Chinese Church Body had been formed in Hong Kong in 1902 and in 1913 the diocese was formally set up with a constitution and synod. By 1929 the diocesan board of missions had authority over foreign missionaries.

The diocese was led by a succession of men very closely connected with CMS and quite clear that mission was their primary task. R O Hall who was Bishop of Hong Kong from 1932 to 1966 was a remarkable and far-sighted man deeply committed to building up a vigorous Chinese church. He was ahead of his time in ordaining worker-priests (the first in 1938) and in 1944 he ordained Deaconess Florence Lee Tim-oi to the priesthood to serve the Anglican congregation in Macao, who were isolated by the Japanese occupation of south China.


The first bishop of Kwangsi-Hunan, William Banister, was consecrated in 1909. CMS had work in Kweilin from 1899 and in Yungchow from 1903, and in 1910 with the impetus of Banister's appointment missionaries entered Hengchow. The following year CMS declared the diocese an individual mission with its own secretary and conference, though it was the smallest of the CMS China missions, having only 18 missionaries. Its only large institution was the hospital at Kweilin, which had opened in 1910 and was in the charge of Dr Charlotte Bacon (ne Bailey). Negotiations about the constitution of the diocese were begun by Bishop Banister in 1913, but the small numbers of Christians made progress slow and CMS did not agree the formal constitution until 1921. But the Church grew steadily and gradually control moved from the mission to the diocese.

By 1930 it was almost complete and the 'Five Years Movement' initiated throughout the land by the National Christian Council of China gave a fresh impetus to evangelism. These years of peaceful growth and development had contrasted with the first twenty years of the century when there were continual power struggles and missionaries ran a constant risk of being captured by bandits. But in 1937 war with Japan broke out and many of the missionaries had to leave. When the republic was proclaimed in 1949 only a few returned and by 1951 they had all gone.

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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