Journal entry

Scope and Content

Shih Men Kan, "Stone Gateway", May 29 .

'Here we are after 70 li of a Jerusalem to Jericho road, at the headquarters of the Miao work'. The party consists of [Kenneth William] May, [Joseph Ernest] Sandbach, Dr Woods and Miss Button on horses, [William Harrison] and Mrs Hudspeth and H B R in chairs. The occasion is the annual Christian festival which has replaced the heathen fifth moon festival among the Miao. As they travelled H B R was shown the valley where Hudspeth and [Frederick Walter James] Cottrell 'ran the gauntlet of brigands in 1928 with teachers hanging on their horses' tails. Happily none was hit by the bullets through which they rode. They were going to Chao Tung to meet [William Alexander] Grist [in 1928]; they themselves escaped but lost all their luggage'. Grist was unable to get here and H B R thinks that no foreigner has established permanent residence here since. A little further on he was shown the place where Cottrell on another occasion was held captive by bandits for five hours. A little further on still, H B R was shown a cave, still walled, which dominates the road and which was held by brigands for a long time. Even now the road can be dangerous and precautions have to be taken. The bandits tend to be Chinese Mohammedens.

They travelled today in good spirits enjoying the fine weather. They were met half-way by a company of Miao armed with bows and arrows to be their escort. They journeyed through country which was on occasion wild and beautiful until about five li from their destination they were met by 'banners and bugles of innumerable schools and their bearers waiting to greet us. From there we had to progress through about 1300 people, 800 of whom were boys and girls and teachers from some 20 schools...salutations and bowings all the way'. Hudspeth is the only member of their party who can speak Miao and he greeted all the way, while the rest of the party repeatedly bowed. Then the children ran forward and reformed inside and outside the mission compound 'and we saluted until the house steps were reached and we could withdraw inside.'

The property here is extensive. Besides the house (where H B R and his party are staying) there is a bungalow and a chapel, three sets of school buildings and a tiny hospital etc. At some distance is a small leper hospital and an orphanage in another direction. The complex is beautifully situated in a deep valley to which the "Stone Gateway" is the entrance. 'Hudspeth says that you can move down this valley among the Miao villages for 365 days [and] sleep in a Christian home every night which is perhaps a picturesque way of saying that over a six days trek straight down, say 500-600 li about, all the Miao villages are, in name, entirely Christians; for like most other mass movements they have come in not so much one by one, as village by village'.

May 30 .

Last night they attended various "welcome meetings". The largest was in the chapel which was so crowded that all you could see were heads. They may have been as many as five or six hundred people there with others outside the window. They had about ten speeches and as many "singings" from groups of girls - all rather like one of George Allan's [Wesley] Guild Rallies. With two exceptions, the speeches were in Mandarin which language is being taught in all the schools. The singing was however in Maio. The "Great White Father" [H B R] made his speech in English which Hudspeth translated into Miao. H B R was tempted to speak in Mandarin 'but obeyed orders and thus, perhaps, made things easier for the translator'. There were three overflow meetings. There were hymns sung in each of them and the visitors finally got back to the house after two and one half hours of it. It was evidently a great annual occasion and H B R has many questions to ask about it's nature.

Two days ago Hudspeth was urged to start work among the 'wild' (unsubdued) Babu.

From the days of [Samuel] Pollard [died 1915] right up to Grist's visit [1928] missionaries have lived here. For the last ten years however the brigandage problem has been such that, as in Hupeh, there has been a strong case for withdrawing the mission staff to a place of safety. The preferred practice of the C.I.M. [Central China Mission] like that of Pollard's years ago, is to live among the people, but this requires staff and suitable investigation.

Since Grist's visit the mission staff have lived in Chao Tung and visited the tribes from that city. 'For a forward movement, or even for safety of the work, the staff appears inadequate'. If anything were to happen to Hudspeth for example, someone else would have to start learning the Miao language and pick up the other threads of work. Mandarin is the medium through which May works with the Nosu but again he has no understudy. The Nosu are a great people who extend more or less over the country between Chao Tung and the Shan tribes of Burma. The Nosu are important and influential but are a decadent race fast merging into Chinese civilisation. It is unclear how far the Miao are capable of rising, although individuals among them have exceeded all expectation.

H B R is reading all he can about these Yunnan mountains and plains. Tunking, Burma, Tibet and China all meet here. There are no fewer than fifty different peoples each with their own language. For hundreds of years the Chinese have steadily infiltrated and their civilisation is now dominant. Should the Chinese be Christianised first? or will the conversion of the tribes hasten that of China? Can either be neglected?.

May 30, evening .

After breakfast everyone went to the sports ground. This is a plateau about 7500 feet up in the hills. A grand stand and running track has been built, together with a football field and basket ball field. The gathering consisted of three to four thousand children and their representative teams from twenty or thirty schools. There were flags and bugles galore as well as hundreds of Miao women in their highly decorated cloaks. In attendance were many Nosu men and women in their distinctive dress and an occasional T'u Mung with his bodyguard. The Master of Ceremonies was the Miao Dr Wu and he was very visible with his zinc megaphone. On the grand stand was the educational inspector of the Ilian county acting as judge. There were also representatives from the Wei Ling and Chao Tung counties etc. The wonder was not the sports meeting - they are well-used to them in Hupeh, but that such an event should be held in the hills.

Today was only the initial heats and tomorrow will be the great feast. H B R and his companions stayed until 2pm and then left.

This afternoon he went with Miss Button and Dr Woods to the leper settlement where they found eight men and one girl. There is apparently another girl but she had disappeared at their approach because of shyness. They sang "Rock of Ages" to the visitors and another hymn which H B R could not catch. He prayed with them and then walked round the site. H B R is sure that with skilled help, a lot could be done for the lepers. They work in the field on dry days and learn to read and sing on wet ones. The patients do not seem unhappy and a second block of rooms is being built to house another ten patients. The lepers are almost all Chinese as there is very little evidence of the disease among the Miao. They are under the care of Dr Wu who also runs a little hospital here of ten beds. Wu is not trained to do leper work and it would be much better if there was someone based here who was suitably skilled. The authorities do not seem inclined to do anything about it and the Chao Tung officials aware of what the Methodists are doing, have asked them to undertake this work for the area. It is, H B R thinks, the only leper work done by the Methodists in China. There was formerly another project at Wuchow in the Canton District but he thinks that the 'troubles' [1927] put that out of operation.

This morning one of the T'u Mung called and they had an interesting conversation with him. He speaks perfect 'Hankow' as do many people around here and belongs to one of the four main families. There are twenty-four lesser families. It is very reminiscent of a feudal system.

These men are the landowners among the tribes and have great power over life and liberty. The Miao estimate that about half of their time is at the disposal of their overlord for various forms of service which is of course without pay. One of the local T'u Mung last winter gave orders that each hamlet was to bring him two fox skins or face the penalty of losing their lands. Power of life and death has been taken away since the Revolution and it looks as if a revolution was necessary. Their powers are however said to be in decline and in any case they are becoming more and more integrated into Chinese life. Perhaps this Miao and tribal movement has in common with the African and Indian Mass movements, that Christianity means social and 'indeed human uplift'.

May 31 .

This has been a great day. They moved to the fete ground at 9am and have been there ever since. There wasn't much going on at first, so H B R went on to a little hill and waited for things to start. Soon banners and music began to appear and a procession of all the schools marched and counter-marched around the sports ground in white uniforms. As the parade formed in front of the grand stand H B R joined the other dignitaries. There were about six speeches of about five minutes each - H B R's was the shortest. This was preceded by the National Song and prayer led by Hudspeth - all in Chinese for it was for the children and almost all of them would have been able to understand. Behind the children were family and friends. Hudspeth calculates that there are eight thousand children divided among his tribes and that because of poverty only one in ten get a regular education. In addition there are schools for illiterates that care for two thousand more. Of the eight hundred children on parade, all but twenty were from the tribes.

After the parade cleared the sports commenced. At one end was football and at the other were drill displays. Football was followed by pole jump, long jump, hurdles, races and all the time the drill displays were taking place. The audience numbered between three and four thousand people, the men in white robes and the women in white robes embroidered with red and blue. From H B R's vantage point on top of the hill, it was a glorious and impressive sight.

Things are still going on as he writes this. There was to be a pony race and cross-bow shooting but at 5pm H B R left to have a look at [Samuel] Pollard's grave, the pioneer of all this work. It stands on top of a hill 'looking into far-away mountains and into heaven - a not unworthy monument to a great pioneer but his real monument is in what I have been seeing these days'.

This sports day was the 24th annual gathering. It replaces an old heathen and 'low-moralled' celebration. Now it is a Christian festival to which the Chinese officials come and congratulate the Methodists on what has been achieved. 'They have been suspicious that we were stealing the hearts of their children to change their loyalty from China to Great Britain, which in the presence of Burma, is very near. Hudspeth is watched as Pollard was before him...'

What H B R witnessed today was very well done, especially some of the drill and exercises. Reference is made to the girls' work. Given staff and a little more money, the Methodists could be touching 40,000 instead of 10,000 of this tribe and there are other tribes out there. With little trouble they could have a mass movement to rival that of Africa or India. The wider world of Methodism must find out about this as to neglect such an opportunity would be tragic.

Chao Tung, June 1 .

They met the officials in a common meal last night and then H B R had two hours of a "welcome meeting" of the Nosu, attended by about one hundred people. There was the usual half a dozen speeches, hymns, welcome songs and H B R's reply. He understands practically everything that is said to him but they appear to have difficulty understanding him. These Nosu people are a proud independent race compared with the Miao and as he has stated repeatedly in this journal, they are acquiring a great deal of influence and power. H B R was sorry that he was unable to get to their headquarters at Ssu Fang Chin ("Square Well"). This meeting was a substitute for such a visit.

They woke today with rainy weather similar to Kuling. They breakfasted with Dr Wu and [John?] Li (brother of the Miao student at Wuchang). They begged for a return of the missionaries to Stone Gateway and especially for a lady worker to take up work among the large number of girls. H B R's party left in torrential rain and after crossing swollen streams arrived home at about 4.30pm.

It has been a really fantastic trip and there is a great deal to think about and pray about. H B R has spoken to seven different tribes in the last few days and yet he has only experienced the fringes of a great and interesting work.

Saturday June 2 .

Today is a day of rest except for talk and a feast at the Boys' School this afternoon. Monday morning will see H B R and his companions depart for the Yangtse and home. It occurs to him to set down a few general impressions.

In this District are just three Chinese circuits, namely Yunnan, Tungchuan and Chao Tung. They are separated from one another by huge distances and, except for Chao Tung, are undermanned for the work that could and should be attempted. Each is situated on a prosperous plain, fairly well-populated, where the people are either of Chinese blood or tradition. The whole of this work is hindered by the almost universal opium habit. H B R had never imagined such a state of affairs - practically the whole of the Chinese population are involved, either by farming, trading or governing.

The tribal work began thirty years ago among the Miao. The whole of the tribe moved towards the church and it was only possible to cope with part of the movement. The name of [Samuel] Pollard is still a force and the work of consolidation and education has continued under Hudspeth. He (Hudspeth) is convinced that with greater resources of staff and money, he could have achieved greater things and that this is still possible.

'The road between Chao Tung and Stone Gateway has an evil reputation. It runs through wild country. Within the last few weeks one of our [Church] members has been murdered for a tin of oil. It is not a road normally attacked by large brigand bands. It is too near the city for that though 2 or 3 years ago there was much political unrest and the brigands had assumed such proportions as to be able to besiege the city of Chao Tung. The thing to be feared rather is lesser groups, that move quickly, out to pick up any prey that may fall into their hands'. H B R has little doubt that Stone Gateway needs to be reoccupied by missionaries as soon as possible. Additional staff will however be required. A suitable staff would be two married missionaries and at least one well-qualified lady worker with a commitment to organising work among the hundreds of Miao girls 'who are waiting for leadership' - such work could be centred around the girls' school already existing at Stone Gateway but should also involve some travelling in the country around. Meanwhile large numbers of buildings are in danger of falling into disrepair which is almost inevitable when missionaries are not living on-site. Dr Wu has described the Chao Tung-Stone Gateway road as a "robber road" and used it as an argument for missionaries returning to live at Stone Gateway rather than be constantly on the road. H B R would also add that there should be a fair-sized staff because of their isolation from colleagues in other centres.

Two days from Chao Tung in another direction is Ssu Fang Chin ("Square Well"), the headquarters of work among the Nosu. This is a bigger, more dominant and more important (although Hudspeth would dispute that) tribe than the Miao. [Clement Noble] Mylne lived there and started the work although no-one has resided there since. The work is conducted in Chinese but work in the Nosu dialect would undoubtedly catch among the women who tend to not to speak Chinese. There has been no mass movement among the Nosu unlike the Miao, but like the Miao the work has largely grown around the school for which there is considerable demand.

Near Yunnan is a third tribe, the Gopu, and they are also being influenced.

The present staff is;.

Miao Five thousand church members and one missionary, Hudspeth, who is also Chairman of the District.

Nosu Five hundred members and one missionary, May.

Gopu The single missionary here is [Alfred] Evans, who has many other duties.

For the tribes women there is no-one.

Taking all this into account has brought H B R to the conclusion that of the seven Methodist Districts in China, it is Yunnan which is in greatest need of more staff.

A more adequate staff would be;.

Yunnan An additional male and female missionary.

Chao Tung Two additional male and two female missionaries.

Tungchuan As for Yunnan.

Two men have just arrived, so there should be a net increase of two male and four female missionaries.

As for the medical work, it is essential that there should be an extra doctor allocated and possibly an extra nurse.

With regard to education, the Boys' Middle School at Chao Tung is being enlarged which is justified. With a full Middle School [at Stone Gateway] and a Junior Middle at Ssu Fang Chin and Ssu Men Kan, the main educational needs will be met. At present the two latter places go up to Higher Primary and the former to Junior Middle.

H B R has a notion that girls' education here and elsewhere calls for and would respond to a great deal of development. That is characteristic of present trends in China.

The general state of unrest since 1925 and the increase in brigandage is apparently giving way to peace and order. Practically all the mission staff have either been in the hands of robbers or have had very narrow escapes. Under such circumstances there seems to be a case for the use of armed escorts although the C.I.M. [China Inland Mission] seem to do without them. This phase will however pass.

With regard to local dress, a felt cap and cape seem to be in general use. The Miao are largely clothed in linen garments and the turban is worn a great deal. This mixture of turban, felt cap and the non-Chinese type of face lends the region an almost Mohammedan air. Davies, the author on Yunnan, thinks that the entire Chinese race is of very mixed origin and that the current state of Yunnan affairs is merely the process seen in action.

As for the Church, the people here are very keen on Methodism but the geographical separation and the variety of work has made the job of unifying everything rather difficult. The staff ought to be sufficient to allow the District Chairman to travel between Synods and be a living symbol of unity between the various places and interests. Communication will improve but not as fast as in other places and the Chairman may therefore have to travel more.

No district is as advanced as Hupeh 'along the road of binding Chinese and foreign ministers into one brotherhood...The same influences mitigate against that here as against the fullest unification of the District in general. Their hearts and minds are right; they are aware of the problems and are working at them as sincerely as anywhere. I am not myself clear how far it is wise and practicable to unify, in all respects, in one organisation Nosu, Miao and Chinese. Certainly there are economic differences that would have to be considered in a self-supporting church'.

The Miao work consists of about four hundred villages across an area roughly four days by six. There are ten thousand names on the books and the Christian community as a whole numbers about fifteen thousand. It is organised under fifty-five preachers and teachers. There are about one thousand children in regular schools and another two thousand in schools for illiterates. Besides Stone Gateway there are four or five main centres where, on special occasions, congregations of up to five hundred assemble. The regular congregation at Stone Gateway is between two hundred and fifty and three hundred.

Hudspeth is sure that with staff and real resources, these numbers might be multiplied by a factor of four 'if he were spared'. His removal for a special job elsewhere is rumoured, but that will not matter so much if he can stay long enough to train a successor or successors. At the moment, he is the only missionary fluent in Miao or who understands them intimately. He has been associated with them for most of his life.

There are openings for work among the Nosu. Again, it is staff leadership and resources which are lacking.

Notes

  • Clement Noble Mylne (1885-1970) was educated at Shebbear College and was the last candidate to be accepted for the Bible Christian ministry before that Church was merged into the United Methodist Church in 1907. Immediately after ordination, he joined the mission to West China and worked primarily with the Nosu or I-chia tribe. Between 1912 and 1917 he built up a network of schools, bible study groups and churches across an area half the size of Wales. Forced to return to England by ill health in 1917, Milne worked in home circuits before returning to China in 1921. Ill health again forced his withdrawal from missionary work in 1927. He served the remainder of his ministry in home circuits. Throughout World War 2, he lived in the Channel Islands and was an outspoken defender of human rights during the German occupation. Source: Oliver Beckerlegge, United Methodist Ministers and their Circuits 1797-1932 (1968), William Leary, Ministers and their Circuits 1969-1989 and Methodist Recorder 1970, February 5th, p.6.

Note

Notes

  • Clement Noble Mylne (1885-1970) was educated at Shebbear College and was the last candidate to be accepted for the Bible Christian ministry before that Church was merged into the United Methodist Church in 1907. Immediately after ordination, he joined the mission to West China and worked primarily with the Nosu or I-chia tribe. Between 1912 and 1917 he built up a network of schools, bible study groups and churches across an area half the size of Wales. Forced to return to England by ill health in 1917, Milne worked in home circuits before returning to China in 1921. Ill health again forced his withdrawal from missionary work in 1927. He served the remainder of his ministry in home circuits. Throughout World War 2, he lived in the Channel Islands and was an outspoken defender of human rights during the German occupation. Source: Oliver Beckerlegge, United Methodist Ministers and their Circuits 1797-1932 (1968), William Leary, Ministers and their Circuits 1969-1989 and Methodist Recorder 1970, February 5th, p.6.