Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee: Lingtung/Swatow

Scope and Content

Correspondence, minutes, papers, printed materials and photographs

Administrative / Biographical History

The importance of Swatow [Shantou], a centre for "coolie" and opium traffic, as a mission station was urged upon William Burns and Hudson Taylor by a Christian naval man, Captain Bowers. Both men, wearing Chinese dress, arrived there in March 1856 and found the local population highly suspicious of foreigners. Taylor left after a few months but Burns remained until 1858 when his place in Swatow was taken by the Rev George Smith who remained at this station until 1891.By the treaty of 1860, ending the Second Opium War, Swatow was opened up to foreign trade and foreign residents were permitted. In 1863 medical missionary work began in the area with the arrival of Dr William Gauld who founded, first a dispensary, and then the Swatow Mission Hospital to serve the needs of people in Swatow and villages around. In 1864 Gauld reported that "one fourth of the patients are eye cases. Debility from insufficient food comes next - then wounds, abscesses, ulcers and skin diseases. There are over forty cases of leprosy, mostly hopeless." (Band, p. 41). Actual conversions in the area were very few but in 1864 a new chapel was Swatow and in the following year another at the prefectural city, Chao-chow-fu [Zhangzhou]. By 1867 there were ten chapels mainly run by Chinese Christians since the EP mission had only two ministerial missionaries.

A Swatow Presbytery was established in 1881 with thirteen Chinese elders and six missionaries. By 1883 there were thirty-three stations, one third of which were in the Hakka region. These later formed part of a separate EP mission-field. The first single woman missionary to be appointed by the PCE, Catherine Maria Ricketts, arrived at Swatow in 1878 and remained there until 1907. In 1878 a new hospital was opened. The site had been provided by a Chinese mandarin whom Gauld had cured of dysentery and both Chinese and foreign merchants contributed to building costs. The Swatow Mission Hospital, extended and modernised in the twentieth century, was at the centre of EP mission work in this region. A significant number of local Christians attributed the cause of their conversion to their hospital experience.

EP missionaries also carried out education work in the area. A girls' boarding school was begun in 1873 while a school for boys was opened in 1877. A number of the boys went on to study at the Swatow Theological College which had first opened in 1871. A secondary school for boys, known as the Anglo-Chinese College was opened at Swatow in the 1890s. The Swatow mission-field was comparatively little affected by the Boxer rising [Uprising] of 1900. New extensive hospital buildings, including a women's hospital were erected at Swatow in 1903. The chief benefactor of the new hospital was a Chinese Christian merchant, Hou Teng-thai who also financed the expansion of the Anglo-Chinese College.

In 1918 the Swatow mission-field suffered a severe earthquake and, in 1922, a typhoon. From 1925 to 1927 there was a widespread anti-British movement and strike, the chief centre in the EP mission-field region affected being Sua-bue though all missionaries in out-stations were recalled to Swatow. There, the Anglo-Chinese College was confiscated by the Chinese authorities. More normal conditions resumed in 1928. Increasingly, however, the responsibilities of the Swatow Mission Council devolved on the Lingtung Synod, combining the Swatow and Hakka Presbyteries, which had come into being at the formation of the Church of Christ in China in 1927. Japanese attacks on Swatow began in 1937 and, in 1939 both it and Chao-chow-fu fell to the Japanese although part of the district remained unoccupied. Soon after the attacks on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, all missionaries in the Japanese-occupied areas were interned. EP missionaries returned to the area late in 1945 where they joined in the work of reconstruction. However, in December 1949 the FMC advised EP missionaries to being the process of withdrawal with the last missionaries leaving Swatow early in 1952.

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