Journal entry

Scope and Content

Yunnanfu May 10 .

They reached here according to the programme at 5pm and were in a welcome meeting by 6.30 and home shortly after.

They have been living on French food for a week and are glad to be eating English again.

The French mail boat SS Canton is one of two that carry post from Hong Kong to Haiphong [Vietnam]. Her sister ship SS Tonkin is on the rocks near Fort Bayard, although it is hoped that if the weather stays good, they can fill the holes with cement, pump her clear of water and tow her to port. She went aground in the same fog which delayed H B R's arrival into Hong Kong on the SS Canada for half a day.

Haiphong is the same 'one horse show' that it was sixteen years ago when he called here on the way to Java, except of course that it has been modernised as far as it can be. It is the port for Hanoi, the capital of the French colony of Annam [Vietnam]. Hanoi itself is a well-planned populous city a la Shanghai. They arrived there on the night train after being delayed by the French custom examinations of [Edward Henry] Moody and [Albert Leslie] Pacey's baggage. They were however able to see enough to realise what an excellent lay-out it possesses. The annam dollar, the piastre, must be the most expensive one on the China coast, so that living in Annam [Vietnam] is twice as expensive as it is in Hankow. It is alright if you are travelling with silver but not if you only have sterling.

The Annamese are more Malay than Chinese although they used to use Chinese script. The French have deliberately wiped out the use of Chinese script and replaced it with Roman characters. The natives all chew some leaf which seems to discolour and destroy their teeth. All the people are dressed invariably in Chocolate or brown. 'They have a curious half hat half turban that also seems to be nearly universal'.

The French authorities are very strict about the credentials of visitors and it is obvious that they will not countenance the admission of poor aliens or revolutionaries.

They landed in Haiphong on Monday at 6am, spent the night in the Station Hotel at Hanoi and were in the train by 7 on Tuesday morning. They travelled that day until 6pm through rich and fertile country producing rice, maize, bananas and other crops. They came through terrific heat which was very difficult to bear until they finally reached Lao Kai on the border of Yunnan, having risen just two hundred feet from the coast. They had barely reached the hotel when the storm broke and they were cooled at last.

From Lao Kai the railway journey has been terrific. Yesterday the train climbed to a height of seven thousand feet before descending a little. They spent the night at a place called A-Mi- Chow between five and six thousand feet. Today the scenery has been wonderful and they have spent hours traversing mountain ravines, skirting precipices and passing from valley to valley. At the end of the day there was a wonderful climb to about six thousand five hundred feet overlooking an inland lake and finally breaking onto the fertile plain where Yunnanfu is situated. Today they have passed acre after acre of poppy field although there were also oats, rice and wheat in abundance.

There was a great reception at the station by friends from the [China Inland Mission] and YMCA as well as Alfred Evans and his wife and Miss Strudwick Smith who is waiting to go with them to Chao Tung.

Street widening and suburban schemes are apparent here as everywhere else. The first Methodist chapel had to be rebuilt because of the improvements and the result is one of the finest 'evangelistic plants Methodism has in China'. Evans is evidently good at this sort of thing - he has room to do it and has done it well. There seems to be accommodation for everything reasonable; street-preaching, evening classes, Sunday Schools, book-room, little chapels off the main church. Having seen Kiyang, Fatshan, Suichow and now Yunnan, H B R wonders if the Hankow circuit should not be told 'that every live church needs a set of buildings like that to be used by itself for aggressive work...I wonder if the other districts are not outdistancing Hupeh in this up-to-date type of evangelistic building'. It seems to be widely accepted that the old fashioned chapel and prayer room of forty years ago is not enough for the modern age. How the money spent on such ventures is going to be raised through self- support, he will leave to the theorists along with the problem of how small places like Wusueh and Kungtien, which are so restricted in size and buildings, can be made self-supporting. As today was Ascension Day the Church was having a reopening ceremony, so that they arrived just in time to be feted. They are staying over Sunday and then will be leaving by car on Monday. It is hoped to be in Tung Chuan on Thursday where they will rest for a couple of days before travelling to Chao Tung where they will arrive on Whit Monday.

The French establishment along the railway is very substantial. There is a Frenchman at every station and several construction centres and depots. During the summer rains sections of the line are often out of action for a week or so at a time. The construction of the railway was a tremendous feat of engineering and must require an enormous amount of vigilance. 'What does all this mean, socially, politically, strategically one wonders? Truly China in the North and China in the South are not as China in the centre, but then from Tangshan to Yunnan must be a good deal further apart than from Aberdeen to Rome in actual mileage...'.

As soon as Chinese began to be spoken after Lao Kai [border with Annam], it was [Cantonese?] and not Northern Mandarin which is interesting. H B R has also been told that a large proportion of the teachers in the Peking Language School are Manchus and "beautiful speakers". 'May it be that "Mandarin" so-called has been largely affected by the Manchus and that our Hupeh, Hunan, Szechuan, Yunnan, Kiangsi stuff may be the more wide-spread Chinese...As for the Cantonese language, is not that perhaps older still? And the Hakka? And the Japanese? As for the tribes [Edgar] Dewstoe thinks there is good proof, in their customs and habits of Malay origin, that perhaps they were the freebooters and pirates from the Pacific Islands who made their way into China and finally could only maintain themselves among these mountains'.

May 11 .

The coolies who should have started off today with their luggage and chairs, to be overtaken by H B R and the others on Monday, have failed to turn up. They will instead start tomorrow and that will delay matters until Tuesday which will shorten the stay at Tung Chuan by one day.

They have seen something of the city today. It is in the process of being entirely re-streeted and the work is very well done. The Yunnanese, with the Cantonese, were the early supporters of the [Nationalist] Revolution and they have their heroes' cemetery here, with one particularly remarkable tomb to one Tang, which is carved of beautiful local marble.

H B R and the others have met Dr Watson of the [Church Missionary Society], Mr Allan of the [China Inland Mission] and have seen the chapel of the Pentecostal Mission. H B R is a little disappointed that the [China Inland Mission] group, originally Methodist, is being rather aloof - 'Is it fundamentalism, personalities, or some other cause?'

The city is said to have a population of 200,000, although Yunnan on the whole is not a well-populated province. The Presbyterians through financial difficulties are withdrawing from this area and are being replaced by a German Mission affiliated to the [China Inland Mission]. German Missions are reasserting themselves in several parts of China despite the economic problems at home.

In their walk this afternoon, he noticed some lovely jade in some of the shops and they also saw rich hand embroideries being done on fine silk.

There are three thousand Cantonese here in their own quarter of the city - they are said to control the opium trade. The tax on opium is the main support of the government.

The Governor of the province is a tribesman as is his leading general. The latter's wife is an old acquaintance of Alfred Evans and occasionally comes to church. The Methodist church membership is not large. It was the outpost of the Chao Tung Mission, but since the coming of the railway, it is the 'necessary business centre of the mission'. In H B R's opinion, it needs two general and one lady missionary as well as a reasonable Chinese staff. Evans is having to do too many things and any absence on his part, dislocates the work.

The coolies again did not turn up this morning, which was almost a relief as an extra days rest comes in very useful.

Yunnanfu Sunday, May 13 .

They do not expect to start until Tuesday owing to delays with the coolies. H B R has taken the opportunity to go all over the city. He has succeeded in seeing all the missions except what [Robert Sefton] Harrison calls the "Seventh Day Apocolyptists" [Seventh Day Adventists?]. The Methodists have the biggest and best equipped chapels, the C.I.M. [China Inland Mission] 'have the best cause', which is under a Methodist called Allan. The C.I.M. in this section is supposed to be a Methodist. The Provincial Superintendent, who is on furlough, is a Mr Frazier and is married to Miss Dymond - both of course are Methodists. H B R cannot understand why there should not be a 'common cause'. The C.I.M. is doing a lot of work among the hill tribes and probably as the 'church idea comes, as it must, to the fore, we shall the more gravitate towards one another'. The C.I.M. on the whole, are stronger in this province than the Methodists, although they tend to be in the more remote areas.

The Anglicans have one single unit here, the work originally of one man who received money from home. It seems strange to find such an isolated venture. Dr Watson and two qualified Chinese doctors are in charge of a well equipped hospital of fifty beds. There are also two missionary nurses. The out-patient work is enormous - sixty thousand patients a year and it is this [revenue] which runs the hospital. There is a 25 ct. (mex) registration fee and then each visit costs 50 ct. Few people are unable to afford this and for that they get all the medicines they need without extra charge. The doctor feels that under this system the needy and less needy help each other. He has to find 80% of his running expenses and also manages to do work with very poor people. The laboratory is mainly run by an I.H.T. graduate - there is an up-to-date x-ray plant and on the whole things seem to be running smoothly.

There is also a school and small chapel to seat about one hundred to one hundred and fifty and is in connection with the Anglicans.

A hospital is now being built locally with two hundred beds and there is also a French hospital and about thirty qualified doctors practising in the town. H B R feels that here as elsewhere, the mission hospital will soon have to find an entirely new survival basis. The mission hospitals should not and must not compete with those earning a living. 'The purely philanthropic side of things is within measurable distance of the end'. What was begun in Hankow should be adapted elsewhere in the light of recent trends.

In this province are large numbers of Pentecostal Mission people. Evans says they are largely Methodist in origin too. 'So when they have shed, as they are doing, some of their eccentricities, who knows what will come next?'.

A new Y.M.C.A. building is being erected at a cost of 300,000 [Hong Kong?] dollars. It is the gift of two American brothers and is one of the finest that H B R has ever seen.

The land-owning class of the tribes are I'pien. Just now the provincial governor, the leading general and the mayor of the city are all from that particular tribe. Will the Miao ever rise to such things he wonders? There appear to be seven or eight different sorts of tribe - by their own tradition they originate in the East. Certainly they do not look Chinese and are probably at least partly Malay in origin.

The chapel this morning was nicely filled with about two hundred people. The front doors are left open until the first hymn is announced and members of the public are encouraged to attend. The service was immediately followed by the congregation splitting into Sunday School classes including one in English for students. 'This must make for closer contacts with the congregation but raises a problem for the preacher. The preacher and the teacher do not really mix well; their aim, method and psychology are so different. Each has his place; neither is complete without the other...'

Evans and his wife are very successful in developing all sorts of contact with different people. One of their methods is a weekly "At home" to which they invite anyone whom they think of. It is held in the garden with games and so on, and is very successful at bringing people together and into the church.

The opium problem here is much more acute than he has encountered elsewhere. In the French Hospital for example, the patients are allowed to smoke. In Dr Watson's, although those who are caught smoking opium are ejected, a fair number of the patients have to be given special medicines to keep them going while they are undergoing treatment for other conditions. Even the cook smokes! although patience is getting rather thin and if he does not take the cure soon, he will have to go. Among the coolies, opium smoking is virtually universal and there seems to be no doubt as to it's harmful effects.

Money here is very weird. Exchange rates and the several currencies in wide use are discussed. What would Stanley Sowton make of it all? Despite the problems however, it is a most beautiful place.


  • Stanley Sowton (b.1875) was born at Plympton in Devon and was educated at Newton Abbot Grammar School. He occupied several important lay positions in the Wesleyan Methodist Church including that of Assistant Secretary for Finance at the Missionary Society. Sowton was also a Sunday School Superintendent and Circuit Steward. Source: Who's Who in Methodism 1933.



  • Stanley Sowton (b.1875) was born at Plympton in Devon and was educated at Newton Abbot Grammar School. He occupied several important lay positions in the Wesleyan Methodist Church including that of Assistant Secretary for Finance at the Missionary Society. Sowton was also a Sunday School Superintendent and Circuit Steward. Source: Who's Who in Methodism 1933.