Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee: South Fujian/Amoy

Scope and Content

Correspondence, minutes, papers, printed materials and photographs

Administrative / Biographical History

The first EP missionary to be appointed, William Burns in 1847, began his work in Hong Kong closely associated with missionaries of the London Missionary Society and working in the medium of Cantonese. He persuaded Dr James Young to join him in his missionary efforts believing that medical work would be an effective way of establishing the mission. In 1850 they moved to Amoy [Xiamen] in South Fukien which was thought to be less hostile to a foreign presence even though this meant learning a new dialect. Two other missions, the American (Dutch) Reformed Mission and the London Missionary Society were already at work in the area but the three societies were to work closely together throughout the next hundred years, not least in the provision of theological training.

In 1855 Carstairs Douglas arrived in Amoy and commenced a study of the Amoy vernacular which proved to be of considerable benefit to the Mission. He published his large Chinese-English Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy in 1873, four years before his death from cholera in 1877. It remains a standard work. He also began a mission at Chuan-chow [Quanzhou], acquiring a permanent church building there in 1877. A medical mission at Chuan-Chow began in 1881. Other mission stations were opened, at Chang-pu in 1889 and Yung-chun in 1893. The first synod of the Presbyterian Church in China met at Amoy in 1894. The EP Mission and churches were largely unaffected by the Boxer Rising of 1900. A new initiative begun at that time was to take over the management and running of the Anglo-Chinese College at Amoy where secondary education was offered through the medium of English. Another school for boys, Westminster College, was opened in 1904. These and other educational institutions were greatly affected by the anti-British agitation in the 1920s. Some were closed for a time and all had to appoint boards of directors and appoint Chinese head-teachers.

In May 1938 the Japanese who had been at war with China since 1937 took control of Amoy Island though the mission headquarters on the international settlement of Ku-long-su was unaffected though cut off from other mission stations and home to a sudden influx of many thousands of refugees. The rest of the mission-field was free but subject to aerial bombardment. The situation changed dramatically following the attacks of December 1941 when many missionaries were interned.

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