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Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By Frank L. Norris

London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray, 1908.

Chapter VIII. The Church in Chehkiang

THE circumstances under which the Church was planted in the Province of Chehkiang were apparently very much the same as in Fuhkien, but, as we have seen in a previous chapter, the work seemed to take root more rapidly in the former province. There is a significant lesson in the fact that since those early days of hope it has grown far less rapidly than in Fuhkien, where the first ten years were barren of results. A glance at the map will show that, whereas in Fuhkien the stations are now scattered from Sieng-in in the southern half to Fuhning in the northern, and to Kienyang in the north-western portion of the province, in Chehkiang, with the solitary exception of Taichow in the south, the work touches only the northern fringe of the province from Ningpo on the east to Hangchow at the head of the bay of the same name, the one really inland station in the north being at Chu-ki.

[99] The first converts at Ningpo were baptized in 1851, and six years later the number of converts in that city had grown to sixty, while a promising field had been opened up in the Sanpoh district on the coast. Work among women had also been begun by a Miss Aldersey in connection with the Female Education Society; and a ward of Miss Aldersey's, who had lived with her from childhood in Ningpo, afterwards became the devoted wife and fellow-labourer of Mr. (afterwards Bishop) Russell, one of the first pioneers. Mrs. Russell thus enjoyed the almost unique advantage of being an Englishwoman brought up with Christian Chinese girls, having a perfect knowledge of the local dialect, and an insight into the minds of Chinese women that nothing else would have given her. In later years she used these advantages to the full, and became a great power for good amongst the women and girls of Mid-China.

In 1858 the Mission was strengthened by the arrival of the Rev. G. E. Moule, destined to work in the field for fifty years, and for half that period to rule the Diocese of Mid-China as its Bishop. In the same year Bishop Smith, of Victoria, visited Ningpo, and an interesting conference was held, [99/100] at which the few native workers were allowed to be present and to make proposals, which led eventually to the opening of Hangchow as a Mission centre. Once the capital of China (under the Sung dynasty), Hangchow has remained "a great and striking town," though robbed of something of its old glory. Marco Polo in the thirteenth century described it as "without doubt the noblest and finest city in the world"; and we cannot but appreciate the patriotism of those early Chinese Christians who felt that if the Gospel was to be preached in Chehkiang province at all, an immediate effort should be made to plant it in the city of which that province was so justly proud. In consequence of their representations, the Rev. J.S. Burdon made an effort to gain a footing there forthwith; but the outbreak of hostilities between England and China, and the spread of the Taiping rebellion, for a time made the effort of none effect.

The last-named cause for some years grievously interfered with the Church's progress. Such disturbances from without were bound to affect not only the progress of mission work amongst the heathen but also the steadfastness of the converts already won. We need not be surprised, [100/101] therefore, that four divinity students, preparing for ordination, were so shaken in their allegiance, that they had to be suspended for a time, or that even so trusted a catechist as Mr. Bao should have been temporarily unsettled. [See The Chehkiang Mission for the story of Mr. Bao's conversion.]

His case is so typical of one of the commonest difficulties which the missionary in China has to meet that it deserves further notice, the difficulty arising from the extraordinary importance attached to "face," i.e., something between reputation and personal pride. Charges were brought against Bao to the effect that he and his family had appropriated to their own use spoils left behind in the city by the Taipings, when they were driven out by the British sailors. These charges, brought in a most public manner by a native Christian, were inquired into, with the result that nothing was proved against him beyond a certain want of judgment. The Rev. G. E. Moule made known the result of the inquiry as clearly as possible to the native Christian community; but the mere fact that such inquiry had been deemed necessary appeared to the catechist a serious affront. He threw up his work, separated himself from the [101/102] Church, and resumed his original trade of tailoring.

It is pleasant to know that some years later he repented and humbled himself, and was able once more to be employed as a catechist: but the incident serves to illustrate a very common difficulty. In the Mission in North China, some thirty years later, a very similar case occurred.

The close of the Taiping rebellion was the signal for carrying out a forward movement for which the missionaries had long been waiting. In 1865 the Rev. G. K. Moule occupied Hang-chow, where he has since lived and worked for over forty years, as priest and Bishop. A year or two later Bishop Alford, of Victoria, visited Ningpo--episcopal visits were in those days so few as to be regarded as great events--and ordained two English deacons to the priesthood: but the total number of Christians was only about one hundred and fifty. Still the work was pushed on, and Mr. Gretton reoccupied Shaohing, and on the first anniversary of the Day of Intercession, in 1874, he baptized seven converts there; while in Hangchow the hospital and opium refuge, which has since became famous under Dr. Duncan Main, was first opened by Dr. Gait, in 1871.

[103] Fortunately for the Mission, this period of development was coincident with the consecration of one of the senior missionaries, Mr. Russell, as first Bishop of North China. [His jurisdiction extended over what is now Mid-China and nominally over all China to the north of latitude 28°.] His arrival was followed by a series of Confirmations in all the stations of the Mission, and in 1875 and the following year he ordained four Chinese deacons and one priest. Altogether, during the first five years of his episcopate, Bishop Russell confirmed three hundred candidates; a significant fact when it is remembered that seven years before there had only been one hundred and fifty Christians.

In 1876 Joseph Hoare landed in Ningpo, and the Bishop at once set about the erection of the first Theological College, with which Mr. Hoare was for so many years identified. But to that we shall return later; for the moment let us follow out the beginnings of work in the district south of Hangchow, since known as Chu-ki.

It was in December, 1876, that the Rev. Arthur Moulc rented a small room in the south suburb of Hangchow "at a cost of fivepence a week, with £1 for caution-money and £ 1. 10s. 0d, for fittings." The inscription over the door, "The Holy Religion [103/104] of JESUS," caught the attention of a Mr. Chow, a native of the Chu-ki district, and he soon became an earnest inquirer. In the following September he was baptized by the name of Luke, and in the following month nineteen of his fellow-villagers were baptized. All went well for over a year, but early in 1878 persecution broke out in the village, directed especially against Luke Chow, as the leader of the little band of Christians. Archdeacon Moule in The Story of the Chehkiang Mission gives an intensely interesting account of this trouble, in all its details so typical of much that has happened since in every part of China; but it is not everywhere that the Church emerges so strong as it did in "The Happy Valley" at Chu-ki. For in May Bishop Russell confirmed twenty-seven Christians there, and within a year the Christian roll contained a hundred names, the Gospel having spread to no less than fourteen villages in the neighbourhood.

But the revered and saintly Bishop was not allowed to pay a second visit to this promising station; on October 5, 1879, after thirty-two years of faithful and devoted labours in the cause of CHRIST, he passed away from the scene of those labours to his rest. Two brief testimonies [104/105] to Bishop Russell's character may fitly be quoted here. One of the strongest missionaries of the Church in China said of him "that he was so good a man that it seemed wrong ever to differ from him"; and one of his native clergy, after dwelling on his exceeding sympathy and courtesy, added, "In whatever he did, he trusted in the power of God." [See W. A. Russell, a Brief Sketch, p. 14.]

The Rev. G. E. Moule was consecrated as his successor on October 28, 1880, the Rev. C. P. Scott being consecrated at the same time as Bishop in North China, strictly so-called, i.e., with jurisdiction over the six northern provinces. Bishop Moule's jurisdiction extended over Kiang-su, Chehkiang, Nganhui, Hupeh, and the greater part of Iz-chuan, as well as parts of Kiangsi and Hunan, no notice being taken by the authorities in England of the presence of a Bishop of the American Church in Shanghai. But we are, for the present, concerned only with the work in the Chehkiang province, where the work developed steadily along certain marked lines. The medical work of the Mission has grown very much in importance during the last twenty-five years; its evangelistic work is typified by the successful [105/106] opening of the southern district of Taichow; the educational side has been mainly represented by the Ningpo College; and diocesan organization and development have been marked both by the increasing numbers of native clergy and by the institution of the Diocesan Synod, side by side with the usual C.M.S. Conference of missionaries. Each of these points merits a brief notice here.

Mention has already been made of the opening of medical work at Hangchow; but it was in the first years of Bishop Moulc's episcopate that Dr. Main was able to develop it to its present importance. In 1886 a large hospital was erected, with a separate building for women-patients, another for lepers, and a school for leper-children; and since then a convalescent home, lecture-rooms and students' quarters, and a special hospital chapel have been added. The hospital contains about two hundred beds, and receives over a thousand in-patients every year, while the out-patient roll exceeds fifty thousand. Nor has medical work been confined to Hangchow. The hospital at Ningpo has for years done a growing work, and there is yet another English doctor working in the Taichow station, in the south of the province.

[107] But we must pass on to note the striking episode of the evangelization of the Taichow district.

It will be remembered that during the earlier years of the Mission the work spread north-west from Ningpo to Izuki, and Sanpoh, and later on to Shaohing and Hangchow, the extension to Chu-ki some fifty miles south of the last-named city coining ten years afterwards. The development we are about to notice, which was in a new direction altogether, followed at another interval of ten years.

Taichow stands on the river of that name, now distant some twenty miles from its mouth, though formerly it occupied the site of Hai Meng which is now its port. It is, therefore, more than a hundred miles south of Ningpo, and quite outside the sphere of the other Chehkiang work But it affords a good instance of how missionary operations to-day are overruled by the same Spirit which guided S. Paul in his journeys long ago.

A band of students from Mr. Hoare's college at Ningpo had been preaching in the Chu-ki district, and had mentioned the opium cures effected at the Ningpo Hospital. This news, carried home by a casual hearer to his native village, came [107/108] to the ears of an opium-smoker living in the hills near Taichow, who forthwith visited Ningpo to see for himself whether the report was true. There, in the hospital, he was not only cured but converted, and his father, who also had come to Ningpo at his son's suggestion, was baptized at the same time.

The immediate results were tragic. The father returned home, fell ill with cholera, and died. The clan, attributing this calamity to the just anger of heaven, thought to propitiate that wrath by destroying the family-home. The son, on his return, found his father dead, his home a ruin, and himself an outcast from his clan. But he stood firm against all threats, and teachers were sent from Ningpo to help him in his evangelistic work, with such good results that on a single day (the Eve of S. Andrew's Day), in 1888, Mr. Hoarc baptized seventy-seven adults, and five years later Bishop Moule confirmed nearly a hundred candidates at one time. There are now more than a thousand Christians in the district, and the Church is strongly planted there.

To the end of his life Bishop Hoare was wont to refer to Taichow as the best example he knew of the spread of the Gospel through native agency [108/109] and preaching. The work had been begun through the preaching of some of the students from the college at Ningpo; the first preacher in Taichow itself had been the man who had listened to those students; and for many years it was carried on entirely by native evangelists and clergy, with annual visits from Mr. Hoare himself during the holidays of the Ningpo College.

To the work of that college, as the keystone of the educational work in Chehkiang, we must now turn.

School work has always been a most fruitful field of missionary effort, but in former days, at least, its results were often weakened through lack of organization. In the case of the Chehkiang work this was foreseen and guarded against, as soon as Mr. Hoare assumed the headship of the Ningpo College. Day schools were gradually planted over all the Mission area, staffed very largely by teachers trained at Ningpo. From each school the best boys were afterwards drafted into the high school at Ningpo, from which, in due course, selected students passed into the college. That institution was truly fortunate in its first principal.

The method which Mr. Hoare adopted may be [109/110] stated in his own words: "In the spring of 1884 I was joined by the Rev. W. L. Groves. This set me more free for carrying on the work of the theological class in the method which I had originally proposed to myself, viz., by taking them into the country, and living either in boats or in native houses, and combining lectures with aggressive evangelistic work. In this way we made many expeditions, with much profit to the members of the class. We had three spells of some two months each in Chu-ki, and several others in boats in the Ningpo district." [Faithful Men: a record of twenty-five years in Trinity College, Ningpo, p. 5.]

The object of the college had been defined from the first as being "to give to Chinese youths, the sons of native Christians, a sound religious education, with a view to their future usefulness either as ministers, catechists, or schoolmasters"; and this object has been kept steadily in view. The students have not been taught so wide a range of subjects as has been found possible in other institutions, such as S. Stephen's College at Hong Kong, or S. John's College, Jessfield, which we shall notice in a later chapter; but, both under Mr. Hoare and under his loyal successor, the [110/111] Rev. W. S. Moule, they have learnt to set the highest value on Christian earnestness and a thorough knowledge of their own Chinese Bible.

And at least Mr. Hoare's method has given Mid-China many faithful Bible-teachers, both within and without the ranks of the native ministry. Of nineteen clergy ordained since the founding of the college, all but two passed through it; and about one-third of the boys who have been educated at the school are in the Church's service to-day.

The last feature of Bishop Moule's episcopate which calls for notice is the organization of the native Church. The three key-notes of such organization--self-support, self-government, and self-extension--are all to be found in the Cheh-kiang Mission. The Diocesan Synod is fully representative of the Chinese and European clergy and laity, and it " tends strongly towards self-government and the corporate life of the Church." The contributions of the native Christians are steadily increasing, and it is now an essential condition of "foreign" help that there should be some Chinese help forthcoming to meet the grant-in-aid. Two native evangelists are supported entirely by Chinese subscriptions, and are at work on the [111/112] Tsientang River, at the mouth of which Hangchow is situated.

The progress of the Church's work in Cheh-kiang may seem to have been slow when compared to that in Fuhkien, but it has been on sound lines, and it has the promise of further developments in the future. One name, in recent years, stands out as typical of the loving devotion which has marked the work, a name borne by several of the missionaries in the diocese. For fifty years George Evans Moule has worked in Chehkiang as priest and Bishop. His brother Arthur has been with him through the greater part of that period, and has done much by his eloquent pen to forward the missionary cause. Four of the Bishop's children are, or have been, at work in the mission-field, and three of the archdeacon's sons are working in Ningpo or in Shanghai. Such a record is hardly to be paralleled anywhere or at any time; and we may well close this chapter with an expression of thankfulness to GOD for the inspiration and example which it affords to all who have been privileged to work in the same field.

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