Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion


By Frank L. Norris

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

Chapter IX. The Church in the Yangtse Valley

THE great rivers of China are the most striking geographical features of the country. The Yellow River, known as the "Scourge of China," is almost as famous for its floods and the changes of its bed as for its length; but it cannot compare in importance with the magnificent highway of Central China, the Yangtse-kiang, or River Yangtse. Ocean-going steamers to-day, like the great tea-clippers a hundred years ago, can find their way right into the interior of China, passing within a few miles of Shanghai, which lies up a short but deep tributary, the Whampoa, at the mouth of the Yangtse, and calling if need be at ports such as Chinkiang, Nanking, Wuhu, Nganking, and Kiukiang, before they reach the twin towns of Hankow and Wuchang, which face one another across the river nearly seven hundred miles from its mouth. Above Hankow [113/114] navigation is much more restricted, but small steamers can get some hundreds of miles farther at certain seasons of the year, past Hsinti, Yochow, and Shasi to Ichang, and boats of special design have even reached Chungking, some five hundred miles above Hankow. It is to the development of the Church's work along this highway that we must now turn our attention.

Shanghai, the greatest commercial port in China, was the first point of attack by the English Church, Mr. McLatchie, as we have already noticed, taking up his residence there in 1845, a few months before Bishop Boone, of the American Church, returned from the United States to reside there also as the first Bishop of the Anglican communion. But the Church Missionary Society have never grappled with the work there on any large scale, much of what has been done having been really connected with a congregation of Ningpo Christians settled in Shanghai, rather than with indigenous converts. It is not improbable, therefore, that hereafter what work now exists in connection with the Diocese of Mid-China will pass under the rule of the American Bishop, who not only lives but a mile [114/115] or two out of Shanghai, but whose work already includes several congregations of Christians in Shanghai itself.

Before turning to the work of the American Church, however, a word must be said about the work in the English community at Shanghai.

With a liberality not unworthy of its wealth, that community has from the first supported its own church and chaplain. The original church was pulled down some forty years ago to make room for a fine brick church built from designs by Sir Gilbert Scott; and--perhaps not unnaturally--it was suggested that Bishop Russell, on his arrival in China after his consecration as Bishop, should be enthroned in the Shanghai church as his cathedral. Into the difficult question of jurisdiction thus raised--the American Bishop living hard by, and Bishop Russell intending to live at Ningpo--we need not now enter. It is sufficient to say that the Church has ever since been called a cathedral, rather by courtesy than by right; and the senior priest attached to it, though appointed by the trustees, is often known as the Dean. To Dean Butcher, who was chaplain for many years and who was in many ways [115/116] a very exceptional man, the Shanghai Church owes much; [Afterwards Archdeacon of Cairo, till his death in 1905.] and the Rev. H. C. Hodges, who followed him, did a great deal of quiet work in various directions. But under the guidance of the present chaplain, the Rev. A. J. Walker, there has been such marked development, that the work of his predecessors has already become somewhat "ancient history."

Growing congregations, increased opportunities of worship, the help of additional clergy, and a choir school, mark the development in the cathedral itself; while the active prosecution of the Seamen's Mission, in connection with S. Andrew's Church, is only one of the many directions in which the Church is successfully doing her work amongst the foreign community of Shanghai.

The first American Bishop, whose arrival in China was noticed in a previous chapter, died in 1864 and was succeeded by Bishop Williams, who was entrusted also with the oversight of the American Church Mission in Japan. In 1874 he elected to leave China and remain Bishop in Japan, but the ten years of his episcopate in China left its mark on the Mission in the opening of work at Hankow and Wuchang. In the latter town Bishop Williams started the [116/117] "Boone School" in memory of his predecessor, a school which has of recent years developed very largely, and which is now an educational institution of very high merit.

This development of the work far up the river was more than matched under Bishop Williams' successor at Shanghai. Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, who had lived in Peking for several years laying the foundations of a deep knowledge of the Chinese language, was elected Bishop of Shanghai in 1875, after Bishop Williams' withdrawal to Japan. He declined the bishopric at first, but yielded his wish when elected a second time in 1876. He was one of many remarkable men who came to China in those early years of mission work. By birth a Jew, by training a student, by nature an accomplished linguist, it was only natural that the bent of his mind should be towards translation work. He had done much while in Peking, but it seemed possible that the claim of his episcopal work would put a stop to his literary activity. His brief episcopate saw the founding of one of the best-known missionary institutions in China, namely, S. John's College at Jessfield, close to Shanghai, and the kindred institution of S. Mary's Hall, for women and girls. [117/118] But hardly had these institutions been opened, ere their founder was laid aside by sunstroke, resulting in paralysis. To many men such an affliction would have been the signal for retirement from the mission-field. The Bishop, however, was a man of a different stamp. lie relinquished the episcopal burden which had been laid upon him against his will, only to take up again the work of translation which he had been forced to lay aside for a few years. With indomitable courage and energy, paralysed as he was, so that he could only use a typewriter with one finger, for sixteen years he persevered with his work, completing a translation of the entire Bible under circumstances which fairly entitle his labours to be called heroic.

The second Bishop Boone, who succeeded him in 1884, had been born in China, though educated in America. In 1869 he had returned to China as a missionary, and ten years later had been appointed by Bishop Schereschewsky as the first head of the theological department at S. John's. Within a week of his own consecration (which was remarkable as the first consecration of an Anglican Bishop held in China) he was able to admit five of his old students to the Diaconate. For seven years he presided over the American [118/119] Church's China Mission, and under his wise rule it developed slowly and steadily. Work was begun at Wuhu on the lower Yangtse, and also at Shasi and Ichang, ports on the river above Hankow. The staff of the Mission was strengthened throughout; amongst others who came out during Bishop Boone's brief episcopate being Mr. Graves, now Bishop of Shanghai, Mr. Partridge, now Bishop of Kyoto in Japan, and Mr. Ingle, who was afterwards the first Bishop of Hankow.

In 1891 Bishop Boone died, and Bishop Graves succeeded him two years later. Writing ten years after, the Bishop looked back on the year 1893 as a day of small beginnings. "Ours was a small Mission. We felt as if the Church had sent us out here and then forgotten about us."

We cannot record in detail the progress of the work since then; but another quotation from the Bishop's own account of the Mission will give some idea of the development seen in ten years. In 1903 he says: "We have now two Bishops, and two missionary districts, and the work in either of these two districts is stronger than the whole Mission was then. We were working in three of the provinces of China then: we are working in [119/120] five provinces now. Our foreign missionaries resided only in three cities then: they are resident in eight now. Our Mission staff consisted then of seven foreign clergy, and seven lay workers: it has now grown to two Bishops, twenty-one foreign clergy, and twenty-five lay workers. We had but few baptized Christians in addition to the 818 communicants then; we have now 3,600 baptized Christians and 1,309 communicants. Our boarding scholars were 203 then: they are 556 now, and they would be more if we had the room."

Such a record of advance is in itself worthy of note. But the lines on which the advance was made are no less worthy of careful consideration.

In 1902 the work which had hitherto been carried on under a single Bishop was divided, and the Rev. James Addison Ingle was consecrated at Hankow as its first Bishop. For the second time in the history of the Anglican Church in China, a Bishop was consecrated in China itself. In both cases, the Bishop was an American. We in England are much given to talking about the necessity of cherishing the "native" spirit in native Churches": about [120/121] the doubtful expediency of introducing foreign customs: about the need of convincing converts from heathenism that Christianity ought to change their hearts only, and not their nationality. And yet, in a point of the utmost importance such as the consecration of a Bishop, there seems to be some mysterious but insuperable obstacle to his being consecrated in the mission-field, if it happens to be outside our Colonial Empire.

Bishop Ingle's episcopate was but brief. The hopes raised by his appointment were well set forth by his successor in his primary charge: "He was the leader and friend of us all. Why he should have been taken away, just as his ripe judgment, his wide sympathy, his sober enthusiasm, were beginning to tell in manifold ways at home as well as in China, is a question far too deep for us to answer." For it was but two years after his consecration that Bishop Ingle died at Hankow, to the grief of his own flock and of all who had known him in China. He was succeeded by Bishop Roots, who was consecrated in 1905.

The first feature of the American Church Mission, which cannot fail to impress every student of Missions, is the attention given to education. [121/122] Education seems to be, if not the prerogative of American Missions, at least their speciality; and the Church Mission is no exception to the rule. We have already noted the foundation of the two colleges round which this branch of the work centres. The Boone College at Wuchang has of recent years been so greatly developed that it is now quite independent of S. John's College at Jessfield; and its students bid fair to rival those of S. John's in proficiency as well as in numbers. In both colleges, as in the boarding and day schools belonging to the Mission, heathen students are admitted side by side with the Christian students, thus, as it has been said, "bringing under Christian teaching and influence those who are not Christians." That is one side of the question, certainly, and the side which presents itself most strongly to all American Missions. But there is another, the seriousness of which needs to be borne in mind. The success, however, of the American college has to a great extent justified the bold policy adopted; and the colleges owe much of their prestige and not a little of their financial prosperity to their heathen students.

Another mark of American courage is the [122/123] endeavour to make the curriculum in all their schools as closely conformable to modern educational ideas as possible. That this involves a comparative slight upon the Chinese Classics is certain; and it may be doubted whether the latter will not have to secure greater alteration in the future than they have done hitherto. There has been some temptation to think that the reign of the celebrated Classics is already over; but signs are not wanting that they will come to take their place even among such modern subjects as mathematics, science, English, and the like, as firmly as English literature has taken its place with ourselves. There has been a reaction from the old traditional view which confined all education to the Classics: but patriotism and a knowledge of their native language alike demand that the students of to-day should not altogether ignore the literary treasures of their own land.

Both S. John's College at Jessfield and the Boone College at Hankow have now established themselves securely in the forefront of educational progress. At the former, of which the Rev. F. L. Hawks Pott has been for many years the head, there are some two hundred students, a third of [123/124] whom are Christians. The Boone College was little more than a Mission boarding school until, in 1899, its present Principal, the Rev. James Jackson, took charge. He is only one of several men whom the American Mission has first borrowed and then appropriated, with conspicuous success. The Science Professor at S. John's, and the Treasurer of both dioceses are Englishmen; and two clergy of Scandinavian birth are working under Bishop Graves in the Anhui province. Mr. Jackson was not only an Englishman, but originally a Wesleyan missionary. His peculiar capacity for educational work had been long noticed; and when Mr. Partridge left Wuchang for Japan, the post of Principal of the Boone School was offered to him. For himself, one of the consequences of coming into closer contact with the Church was that he became a convinced Churchman; for the school in his charge, the results have been no less marked. Within three years of his arrival, a college course was begun; and in 1906, when seven students graduated, three remained on to enter the Divinity School under the Rev. L. B. Ridgeley, and four joined the college staff.

We have dwelt at some length on these two [124/125] colleges, because they represent a side of the Church's work which has been too much neglected in China. The English Church Missions have hitherto been too much hampered by lack of funds to do anything in this direction, except in the very recently started S. Stephen's College in Hong Kong. In Peking especially there was a real opening for such work; but as we shall see when we come to record the work in North China, the Mission there has been far too starved in men and means to make such work possible. The importance of the work lies in the fact that the denominations, especially various American Missions, have not been so backward. The result is that they possess to-day schools and colleges where not only a large number of students are educated for lay professions, but where also their own evangelists and pastors can receive a good training on broad lines. If the clergy of the Anglican communion are to be an educated class, the time has surely come when this problem of educational work must be seriously faced. It means, of course, money and men. But the fruits of such work are likely to be permanent; and the opportunity for doing it is one that will pass away speedily if it is not grasped without delay.

[126] Naturally, a Mission which has attached so much importance to educational work amongst boys and men has not been backward in developing schools for girls. S. Mary's Hall at Shanghai, and S. Hilda's School at Wuchang are both doing excellent work; while at Shanghai there is also an Orphanage for girls and a Training School for Bible-women. To illustrate the results of the latter, we may quote the following translation of a passage in an address given by a Bible-woman to the women under preparation in the Training School. Mrs. Sung had been dwelling on some of the difficulties which she knew by experience, and she proceeded to explain how she had learnt to meet them. "One way is to establish little day schools, and then to visit the parents and relatives of your pupils. Invite them to visit you in return, and ask them to bring their neighbours and friends. When they come, be polite to them and make them feel that they are welcome. Call on your own neighbours and visit them frequently." The stress laid by this Chinese Bible-woman on "hospitality" reminds one of the New Testament; and it is a lesson which needs to be perpetually borne in mind in China. Almost all the women employed in this work are widows, [126/127] and thus again we are reminded of the primitive Church with its Order of Widows given to good works.

Before we leave the subject of education, a word must be said about the theological classes connected both with S. John's College and with the Boone College at Wuchang. In Bishop Graves' retrospect of the first ten years of his episcopate, from which we have already quoted, this feature of the work was not noticed. But the native clergy of the American Mission have been from its earliest days one of its strongest points. Mention was made in a former chapter of one or two of the most distinguished Chinese priests; but of late years their numbers have grown considerably, and, as we have already remarked, their standard in the matter of education is a comparatively high one. In point of numbers they compare not unfavourably with Fuhkien and Mid-China, which number between them thirty-six priests, while the American Church boasts twenty-six; but the latter are intellectually better equipped for their work, and in this respect set an example which the English dioceses would do well to follow.

To record in any detail the medical work would [127/128] require more space than remains to us. It must suffice to mention that probably no Mission in China is better provided in this respect. Some seven or eight doctors are in full work, with several admirable hospitals which are the envy of less fortunate medical missionaries. But the medical work has never been allowed to be divorced from the evangelistic work; and not a little of the spread of the Gospel in the Yangtse Valley has been due to the preaching in dispensaries, and the even more valuable work done among the patients in the hospitals.

As we bring to a close this brief record of the work of the American branch of our communion in China, one or two points stand out in such marked prominence that we may well call attention to them.

The policy of the Mission from the first has been to establish what Archbishop Benson described as "red hot" centres at important places. Such were Shanghai and Hankow, six hundred miles apart, but connected by the River Yangtse. From these the work has spread; but the foreign missionary has always been planted at places of importance. In the Shanghai district to-day--apart from S. John's, Jessfield, with its large [128/129] community, and Shanghai, which accounts for seven, or eight more--missionaries are now at work in such cities as Wusih and Soochow; in the Hankow district, apart from Hankow and Wuchang, there are stations at Hanchuan, Hsinti, Ichang, and Shasi, as well as at Kiukiang and Nganking and Wuhu, on the Yangtse below Hankow.

Such centralization seems to have tended to greater strength, and has made communication not only between the missionaries, but also between the native Christians, easier and more effective in building up the Church. It is evident, of course, that the work which has been accomplished has owed much to the liberal support received from America, which has been on a scale that no English diocese dare expect to receive. But this fact, while it explains much in the way of "plant" which excites our admiration, if not our envy, has been due not a little to the definiteness of the appeals presented, and the courage of those responsible for making such appeals. One of the lessons to be learned from the American Church Missiop is surely to be found here. Is it not possible that if our English Missions could learn [129/130] to plan with the same bold foresight, they would find a readier response in material help, as well as in offers of service, than they have met with hitherto?

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