Chinese Church VoicesChristianity

Christianity Brings Western Medicine to Guangdong (Part 2)

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


The first part of the article on the Fuyinmen (Gospel Door) website focused on western missionary work in the medical field in Guangdong. The second part of the article focuses on education and a missionary's encounter with Hong Xiuquan, who would later lead the Taiping Rebellion.

The establishment of Lingnan University by the Church was supported by Zhongkai Liao

Lingnan University marked the beginning of modern-day higher education in Guangdong. This institution trained nearly 100 years of Guangdong's excellent scholars, and it was originally a Christian school. In 1952, when the departments were restructured, Lingnan University and National Sun Yat-sen University, along with the liberal arts and sciences departments of some other schools, were merged to form what is today's National Sun Yat-sen University.

According to pastor Hao Feng, the chairperson of Guangzhou's Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement, in 1888, the American Presbyterian Church and U.S. Fund Board established an American-style academy of classical learning, the Christian College in China, at Shajijinli Port (now 623 Rd.). This was the predecessor of Lingnan University.

In the beginning, the school had a narrow scope, and it was unable to offer a complete college curriculum. It only offered four years of college preparatory courses and college freshman and sophomore courses. It offered a Western curriculum including English, natural sciences, physics, chemistry, arithmetic, geography, and biology.

At the beginning of the Republic of China (1912-), Lingnan University began to offer a complete university curriculum. The Lingnan University received 300,000 yuan from Governor Zhongkai Liao in order to establish the school. These were received in spite of financial difficulties of the government. In 1918, when the name was formally changed to Lingnan University, its scope, faculty, facilities, and teaching were considered the best among institutes of higher learning in Guangdong.

The American Presbyterian Church's aim in establishing a school was very clear: through Western science and technology, medicine, and religious education, to raise up a group of educated Christian pastors, teachers, and doctors, aligning education with missions work.However, only some of Lingnan University's students were Christians. While the school spread new knowledge, it also spread progressive Western ideas, which heavily influenced the students. It made them want to participate in movements to oppose the invasion of foreign powers. One such event which was completely unexpected by the founders of the university was students going on strike in 1906, not attending classes, and opposing American anti-Chinese sentiment. Also, in 1925, the students staged a vigorous anti-Britain demonstration on Xiamen Island. This surprised everyone.

Actually, with regard to education the missionary schools established by the early missionaries in Malacca and Macao were a model for those that came afterwards.

In 1818, Morrison and his assistant Milne started the Ying Hua (Anglo-Chinese) College in Malacca. The students were mainly Chinese. This was the missionaries' first time opening a school. After Morrison passed away, in 1836, Americans and British in Guangzhou founded the Morrison Education Society, whose purpose was to encourage the establishment of schools in China, and to supply funding. In 1839, Yale University graduate Samuel Brown went to Macao and established the Morrison School.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, a large number of missionary schools sprang up in and around Guangzhou. The True Light Middle School, originally True Light Seminary, was one of China's earliest girls' schools. Anhe Tang, established in 1879, only accepted male students; in 1888 it became Pui Ying School, and finally became Pui Ying Middle School.

Incomplete statistics show that during the last 20 years of "old China" (prior to 1949), there were 180,000 graduates of institutes of higher learning nationwide; about 10% of these students graduated from Christian universities.

American missionaries would not let Hong Xiuquan be baptized

There is one interesting story to tell. In the late 1830s, Hong Xiuquan, who had failed examination after examination, happened to come across, and be inspired by, Fa Liang's "The Benevolent Words to Advise the World." At that time, American independent missionary Issachar Roberts boarded a steamship headed for China, paying for the passage out of his own pocket. He was not, however, welcomed by the Chinese government. For the next eight years, Roberts, and others like him did what they could in Macao and Hong Kong.

On July 3, 1844, to the great surprise of Roberts, who was in Hong Kong at the time, China and the United States signed the Treaty of Wang Sha. The Treaty of Wang Sha stipulated that foreigners could buy houses and land in the five treaty ports, as well as build churches to worship God. The missionaries, however, took this to mean that they could engage in evangelism in these ports.

Roberts took the initiative and hurried to Guangzhou and built a church in the city. He was very excited to receive a visit from Hong Xiuquan. After deep conversation, Roberts found that Hong only had a partial understanding of Christian doctrine, and thus refused to baptize him. Ming Liang joked, "Perhaps because of this, Chinese history had one less rule-abiding missionary and instead saw the rise of the destructive Taiping king.

"On January 11, 1851 Hong Xiuquan, who had almost become a pastor, declared himself a king, and established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, leading his followers to take cities and seize territory.

Through the newspaper, Roberts, in Guangzhou, joyfully realized that this "king" was the young man who he had counseled five years before. He hurriedly went to meet with Hong, but as he was talking with the soldiers, Roberts realized they didn't really understand many of the basic Christian concepts.

So, the religious discussion being conducted between Hong and Roberts by mail stopped abruptly, and the teacher-student friendship ended. However, "The Benevolent Words to Advise the World" doctrine had already become an important ideological weapon for the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.

Image source: by Xianyi Shen, via Flickr

ChinaSource Team

Written by members of the ChinaSource staff.  View Full Bio


Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.

Donate