Travels and Experiences in China, by J. P. Donovan

Scope and Content

Autobiographical account of the life and career of J. P. Donovan in China, including his service as a missionary with the China Inland Mission, and service in the Chinese Imperial [Maritime] Customs and Postal Services.

Administrative / Biographical History

J. P. Donovan was born in Ratcliffe on 7 January 1852. He set sail for China in 1873 as a missionary in connection with the China Inland Mission. He joined the Chinese Imperial Customs as 3rd Class Tidewaiter on 1 Mar 1875, and resigned on 30 Apr 1876 on account of ill-health. He rejoined on 1 Jul 1876, and was transferred to Wenchow in Apr 1877, one of the first four Treaty ports to be opened under the Chefoo Convention between Great Britain and China. In 1879 he was transferred to Ningpo. In Nov 1880 he proceeded to Peking, where he transferred to the Indoor staff of the Customs and was appointed Postal Clerk. He was placed in charge of the Customs Postal Department at the Inspectorate General of the Customs, where he remained until Apr 1883, when he was sent to Shanghai to be in charge of the Postal Department there. On 20 Mar 1896 an Imperial Decree was issued inaugurating the Imperial Post Office, to be organised and managed by the Inspector-General of Customs, Sir Robert Hart. Donovan was the first member of the Customs Service to be transferred to the Postal Service, and he continued the management of the Shanghai Post Office under the Commissioner of Customs. In Feb 1900, he was appointed Deputy Postmaster and Inspecting Deputy. In 1901, he was appointed Acting Postal Secretary, during which time he rendered service to the Field Force Post Office of the Expeditionary Force for the relief of the Legations. On returning from a period of leave in 1903, he was appointed District Postmaster at Hankow. He was transferred to Foochow in Dec 1906. In Mar 1909 he was appointed Acting Postal Commissioner at Tsinan. In 1912 he was transferred to Nanking, which was at that time under Martial Law. In 1913 he was transferred to Shanghai as Postal Commissioner. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he was reappointed to Hankow. He resigned his post owing to ill-health in 1915. After his retirement, Donovan worked as a guide to Chinese interpreters to the Chinese Labour Corps in France. He was invited to act as Hon. Secretary to the China Famine Fund in 1920. In 1917 he was invited by the Home Secretary of the London Missionary Society to go on Deputation work for them. He spoke and lectured for the Society throughout the UK.

Conditions Governing Access


Custodial History

Copy donated to the Council for World Mission in July 1951 by Nye & Donne, Solicitors & Commissioners for Oaths (Mrs H. A. D. Donovan deceased).

Related Material

Papers relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs, including papers of Sir Robert Hart, Edward Charles Macintosh Bowra and Sir Frederick Maze are also held at SOAS Library.