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Manuscript Records of Traders, Travellers, Missionaries & Diplomats

Part 8: Diaries, Notebooks and Writings of Rewi Alley (1897-1987) from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

This project offers the diaries, journals, letters, photographs and scrapbooks of a host of businessmen, tourists, scholars, missionaries, doctors, journalists and diplomats from the first British mission to China in 1792-1794 through to the 20th century.   All are in English and they are ideal sources for student project work.

Part 8 covers the diaries, travel notes and letters of Rewi Alley, a New Zealand writer and social worker who went to China in 1927 and stayed there throughout the Revolution, the Long March, the periods of Agricultural Reform and the Cultural Revolution.  All are documented in this collection.

  • During the 1930s he made important friendships with Mao Zedong and other Communist leaders, travelling frequently and often living rough. 
  • After 1949 Alley was one of the few foreigners allowed to stay on and work in CCP China, devoting himself to international peace work.
  • He promoted China’s foreign policy and criticised American military intervention in Korea and Vietnam.
  • He helped set up the Chinese Industrial Co-operative Movement, a nationwide organization which utilised refugee labour in the Sino-Japanese War, which Rewi led under the 'Gung Ho' motto.
  • He championed  the cause of Chinese youth, stressing the importance of education, training and technical schools.

Rewi contributed in an original way to the development of New China. The Chinese Industrial Co-operatives, which he initiated and organised, provided the blue-print for the communes which now exist under the People’s Government. For many, however, Rewi Alley’s greatest contribution has been his literary achievements. His poems are very personal, close and deeply felt… His documentary and diary accounts are all first hand… these writings are generally good.
National Committee for the Commemoration of Rewi Alley’s 75th Birthday, 1972.


Rewi Alley with students


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