The Chefoo School was established by the China Inland Mission - under James Hudson Taylor - at Chefoo (Yantai), northern China, in 1880. Its aim was to provide an education for the children of missionaries and the business and diplomatic communities. The school began as an adjunct to a sanatorium for sick missionaries, but soon grew larger than the hospital itself. In 1881, Mr W L Elliston began to teach the first three pupils (Fred, Ross and Edwin Judd). Between 1881 and 1886, the number of pupils grew to over 100, resident in three departments - the Boys', Girls' and Preparatory School. In 1886 the Boys and Girls schools were separated. By 1894 the children of China Inland Mission workers alone numbered over 200 children. In 1895 a Preparatory School for children aged 5-10 was opened in premises owned by the Mission at Tong-Hsin, three miles away. In 1896 a new Boy's School was built at Chefoo, and enlargements made to the Girls' School, which was opened in 1898. By early 1900, the Preparatory school had moved closer to the main school once more. From 1909-1915, another Preparatory school operated in Kuling, Central China.
The name of the school was originally the 'Protestant Collegiate School'. By 1908, 'China Inland Mission School' was generally used. By 1947, 'Chefoo School' had been adopted, referring to the style of education rather than the place.
Chefoo School was a Christian boarding school, run in accordance with the China Inland Mission's regime. Members of staff were required to be full members of the Mission. The curriculum came to be based on the British system, heavily weighted in favour of classical courses designed to prepare students for entrance to British universities including Oxford and Cambridge. There was also an emphasis on religious education. The Principal took prayers daily, and there were two Sunday services. There were four terms in the school year beginning in February, April, August and October. The school was also strong in sports such as football and rowing. A school magazine entitled The Chefusian began in 1928, and continued until 1942. Earlier attempts at a school magazine included Lux Tenebris in 1887, and The Magnet in the 1920s.
Head Masters at Chefoo included W L Elliston (1881-1886), H L Norris (1886-1889), Frank McCarthy (1895-1930), Pat Bruce (1930-1945), and Stanley Houghton (1947-1950). Under Pat Bruce, there were various innovations at Chefoo including the introduction of co-education in 1934; the construction of a new teaching and preparatory bloc in the same year; the creation of the Chefoo Orchestra in 1930; the teaching of Chinese Studies; and the beginning of a Girl Guides company. In 1936, Chefoo School adopted the Chinese dolphin as its crest (designed by Theodore Hirst).
In 1937 Japan invaded China. Although the Japanese entered Chefoo in that year, British and American citizens were considered as 'neutrals'. The School routine thus continued as normal. This was to change in December 1941, with the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour. Bruce was soon taken into custody and the Japanese Army took control of the school property. In November 1942, staff and remaining students were interned at the Temple Hill Japanese Internment Camp. In summer 1943, they were moved to Weihsien Internment Camp, where they remained until the end of the War in 1945. During the War, parts of Chefoo School were temporarily opened at Kiating (1941-1944), Kalimpong, India (1944-1946) and Shanghai (1946-1947).
Following the War and the occupation of North China by Communist forces, the School never returned to Chefoo. It was temporarily located at the China Inland Mission Headquarters in Shanghai. In 1947, the Mission purchased the Kuling American School and students and staff gradually returned. By the first summer, there were 126 students. By May 1949, Communist forces had occupied Kuling. The School continued under their observation until 1951. In 1951 the China Inland Mission decided to withdraw completely from China. Between February and April 1951, staff and students of Chefoo School withdrew to Hong Kong where missionary parents awaited their children. Chefoo School in China ceased to exist.
Following its withdrawal, the School was relocated in South East Asia. Chefoo Schools were established in Malaysia (1952-), Japan (1951-1998), the Philippines (1956-1981), Taiwan (1954-1961) and Thailand (1952-1954). Chefoo School Malaysia still operates under the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.
The Chefoo Schools Association was founded in 1908 to operate as an association for all former scholars and past and present members of staff of the Chefoo Schools. The magazine entitled Chefoo (organ of the Chefoo Schools Association) was also produced for the first time in 1908, and still continues today. The Association now has North American, Australian and New Zealand branches. The President of the Association (in 1998) is James H Taylor III.
Further reading: G Martin, Chefoo School, 1881-1951 (Merlin Books Ltd, Devon, 1990).