Project Canterbury

Forward in Western China

By Deaconess Emily Lily Stewart
C.M.S. Missionary in Szechwan

Foreword by the Archbishop of Sydney

London: Church Missionary Society, 1934.

Chapter III. New Prospects

IN 1911 the Revolution swept through the land, and then followed the setting up of the Republican Government. Though it was attended by a great deal of anarchy and political unrest, there is no doubt that the Republic brought many kinds of progress in its train. China began to take her share in the changing of the East. The old clan spirit which had made her a nation of scattered units instead of a great united force, gave way gradually to a larger outlook. The influence of the scholars, always out of all proportion to their numbers, did not abate with the coming of western learning, and everywhere there was manifest an eagerness to learn from foreign countries. This eagerness sprang from the idea that the rapid development of Japan was due to her success in copying and assimilating western culture.

One of the most hopeful changes was the emancipation of women. Government schools for girls were opened in almost every city, and young women with teaching capacity were in great demand. Speaking generally, the men strongly approved of the new attitude to their women folk. The Chinese have reason to be proud of their women. Throughout this transition period, with its attendant lawlessness and confusion, the women have kept their virtue. What may they not accomplish in the future now that doors of opportunity are opening to them in every direction?

These changed conditions, of course, offered greater facilities for missionary work. Christianity, though neither welcomed nor officially recognized, had come to be tolerated. While foreign guests were still looked upon as intruders, they had at any rate ceased to be suspected of capturing babies in order to take out their eyes for medicinal purposes! The rank and file of the people were for the most part friendly, and many hearts had been won by the healing skill which missionaries had brought to countless sufferers. The good work being done by mission hospitals was also helping to smooth the path of the itinerant evangelist, whether foreign or Chinese. Szechwan, though slow to feel the effects of these influences, began to respond to them.

Side by side with this development, however, a new menace gradually made itself felt. Sun Yat-sen's teaching on the Three Principles of the People--Nationalism, Democracy, and Livelihood--was "adapted" in graded books for school use, but adapted in such a way as to make the most of any anti-foreign element. Most of the statements in these books contained sufficient truth to make them dangerous. China's contact with other nations has not been an unmixed blessing to herself. The commercial "slicing of China" is more of a fact than many suppose. Up and down the great Yangtze River, which runs right across this great land from west to east, numerous foreign steamers come and go at will, bringing their produce from other countries to China's inland markets. Foreign gunboats are stationed at every port. The continual importation of foreign goods, while it fills the pockets of a few merchants, tends to keep down the already too low standard of living. The Chinese, who view these things from the opposite end, can hardly be expected to see them in the same favourable light as the westerner.

Under the new educational curriculum, children from lower primary age were taught to repeat day after day and to memorize little homilies about China's wrongs, presenting of course only one side of the question, and enlarging on the duty of every loyal citizen to help to cast off foreign oppression--political, economic, and military. Thus the deep hatred of the foreigner, instead of passing out with other old prejudices and superstitions, merely assumed a more intelligent and definite form. It was taking root in the subconscious minds of the children, there to slumber for years, but to break out with startling vigour in later life. Furthermore, Communist propaganda from Russia, sown broadcast in every province, was making its way into the minds of the people.

Meanwhile the work of the Church went on. In 1925 the diocese was plunged in sorrow by the death of its beloved Bishop Cassels. Towards the end of his life, taking a brief survey of what had been accomplished, the bishop was able to record that twenty-five central stations and 120 out-stations were established in the diocese. Over 10,000 converts had been baptized, of whom 6700 had been confirmed; 2000 catechumens were then preparing for baptism, and twelve Chinese workers were in holy orders. There were also ninety-eight licensed preachers, not including Bible women and colporteurs. Other signs of growth included schools for boys and girls, hospitals, a students' hostel in Chengtu; and a cathedral and men's training college in Paoning. In 1926, shortly after Bishop Cassels' death, Dr. H. W. K. Mowll, who for some time had been assistant bishop, was appointed Bishop in Western China. He guided the diocese until 1934, when he left to become Archbishop of Sydney. He has been succeeded by the Rt. Rev. John Holden, for eleven years Bishop in Kwangsi-Hunan.

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