Primary Sources: Missionary Perspectives on China

This page will collect some links to online sources related to missionaries and their perspectives on China. These sources may be especially useful to students studying modern Chinese history wanting to make use of primary sources in their essays but who are a) limited to the English language, b) may have limited access to databases available at universities with strong East Asia collections, and c) are in lockdown due to a global pandemic. If used with a careful critical approach to the sources, there is a wealth of material here to explore.

Let me start by saying there are already many great library guides to primary sources out there. Some of these I have linked to at the bottom of a growing list of primary sources I provide my own students each semester that you can find here. I also suggest you pay a visit to the Biblioteca Sinica 2.0 which in March, 2020, just posted its last entry after 5,000 entries linking sources on Sino-Western encounters over a period of 10 years. See, for example, just their entries tagged missionaries or its list of digital collections.

First, let us list some of the missionary periodicals available online. These often went well beyond reporting on the success or challenges of individual missions to offer writings on a whole host of aspects of Chinese society.

The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal (1867-1941)
Wikipedia | Print Index | More Links at Biblioteca Sinica

This is a rich source of missionary perspectives on China, with over seventy volumes, with later volumes often over 800 pages in length. Kathleen Lodwick has created a valuable two-volume printed index of the collection, The Chinese Recorder Index: a Guide to Christian Missions in Asia, 1867–1941 and there are proprietary databases, at least one of which seems to build off this print index. All the volumes 1-54 (up to 1922) of this important missionary journal are unambiguously out of copyright in the US and available on Internet Archive, with OCR text recognition here:

1860s: v1, v2
1870s: v3, v4, v5, v6, v7, v8, v9 , v10
1880s: v11, v12, v13, v14, v15, v16, v17, v18, v19, v20
1890s: v21, v22, v23, v24, v25, v26, v27, v28, v29, v30
1900s: v31, v32, v33, v34, v35, v36, v37, v38, v39, v40
1910s: v41, v42, v43, v44, v45, v46, v47, v48, v49, v50
1920s: v51, v52, v53

The Chinese Repository (1832-1851)
Wikipedia | Archived Note by Michael Poon | More Links at Biblioteca Sinica

This early missionary periodical in twenty volumes has issues about 60 pages in length. Compared to the Chinese Recorder there is a far higher percentage of articles that are academic articles, reflections on Chinese culture, agriculture and nature, as well as many travel narratives. There are also many articles on educational, medical, and commercial initiatives in China. There is also a convenient index volume by term but also by subject.

Full Year Volumes:
v1 (1832-1833), v2 (1833-1834), v3 (1834-1835), v4 (1835-1836), v5 (1836-1837), v6 (1837-1838), v7 (1838-1839), v8 (1839-1840), v9 (1840), v10 (1841), v11 (1842), v12 (1843), v13 (1844), v14 (1845), v15 (1846), v16 (1847), v17 (1848), v18 (1849), v19 (1850), v20 (1851), General Index of the 20 Volumes

Almost all (over 200) of the individual issues of the twenty volumes are also available on Internet Archive by individual issue download, and the few missing issues are fortunately to be found in the full year volumes for the journal available above. You can browse through them here: Chinese Repository Issues on Internet Archive. There are also more more download options nicely compiled by Biblioteca Sinica.

China’s Millions (1875-1964)

This is one of the missionary periodicals published by the important organization, the China Inland Mission founded by Hudson Taylor. A large number of volumes from the journal can be found online, with many of the earlier volumes available on the Internet Archive, as well as many later volumes available open access through Yale University’s digital library collections with convenient PDF download.

1870s: 1875-6, 1877, 1878, 1879
1880s: 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889
1890s: 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 18951896, 1897, 1898, 1899
1900s: 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909?
1910s: 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913?, 1914? 1915, 1916-7, 1918-9?
1920s: 1920, 1921, 1922-1925?, 1926, 1927-8, 1929
1930s: 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935

One relatively recent and particularly useful secondary work related to the China Inland Mission is: Alvyn Austin, China’s Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832–1905 (2006).

The China Review (1872-1901)
Online Collection at HKU | Wikipedia | Introductory Essay in Volume I | List of Contributors and ToC

The China Review, or Notes and Queries on the Far East, 1872-1901 was not a missionary publication, but featured many writings by missionaries based in China. HKU has created a very nice online archive of the journal where you can download individual articles on separate pages dedicated to specific volumes but no full issue or full volumes, so it is less convenient for browsing. Helen Wang has created a convenient list of contributors to the journal and combined the contents list of all the article titles together.

Full Year Volumes: v2 (1873-1874), v6 (1877-1878), v7 (1878-1879)
Individual Issues: 1874 v2.4, 1875 v4.3, 1876 v4.4, 1876 v4.6, 1876 v5.2, 1877 v5.4

The China Mission Year Book  (Shanghai: Christian Literature Society for China,  1910-1925, after 1925 as China Christian Year Book).

Articles, reports, reviews, statistics and charts. Internet Archive has links to a number of volumes, here , and SOAS has some issues in its digital collection, here.

1910, 1911, 1912, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919
1920?, 1921?, 1922?, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927?, 1928, 1929?
1930?, 1931, 1932-1933?, 1934-5

Report of the Foreign Missions China, Formosa, the Straits Settlements, and India – Presbyterian Church of England

These reports, usually 100-200 pages in length are reports of the English Presbyterians Mission (EPM), founded at Xiamen (Amoy) in 1850, and later at Shantou (Swatow), Guangdond, and in Taiwan in 1865. You can read an overview of their archival records and missions here. See also L. Cheng A Short History of the Presbyterian Church among the Mountain Tribes in Taiwan (1965) and J. Johnstoun China and Formosa: The Story of the Presbyterian Church of England (1897). Here is a list of issues on the Internet Archive.

1894, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921

Directory of Protestant Missionaries (1902-1917)

Eleven volumes of this directory are scanned by Cornell University and linked from the Yale University Missionary Periodicals Online collection: Directory of Protestant Missionaries in China. Some are on the Internet Archive as well: 1920, 1921.

The HathiTrust links will only allow full download of issues to partner institutions, and if you are outside the United States you won’t even be able to view the issues (VPN to the US seems to work fine).

West China Missionary News (1908-1940)

The Yale University Mission Periodicals Online contains issues from several decades of this Chengdu publication. Each issue is relatively short in length but conveniently downloadable as PDFs directly: West China Missionary News.

Note: I got an error message trying to reach the digitized issues via the above page. This deep link directly into their catalog worked for me. If that changes for some reason, try googling the title and bypassing the publications info page to enter the catalog directly. I have reported the problem to the library.

China Medical Missionary Journal (1887-1908)

Another one of the large collection of missionary publications in Yale’s digital collections: China Medical Missionary Journal. In this case the catalog link from there worked for me.

There are also a number of full volumes on Internet Archive:
v1-2 (1887-1888), v3-4 (1889-1890), v7 (1893), v9 (1895), v10 (1896), v11 (1897), v17-18 (1903-1904), v19-20 (1905-1906), v21-22 (1907-1908)

China Medical Journal 1908-1928

Another missionary medical journal in Yale’s digital collections: China Medical Journal. Again, I got an error to the catalog from this info page. This deep link into the catalog worked for me. I have reported the problem to the library.

Annales de la Propagation de la Foi
Online Archive at BnF Gallica

Bonus for those who read French. The BnF Gallica has over 200 issues of this important French language missionary periodical (Annales de la propagation de la foi : recueil périodique des lettres des évêques et des missionnaires des missions des deux mondes, et de tous les documents relatifs aux missions et à l’Association de la propagation de la foi) ranging from 1834 to 1933. The periodical covers the world but issues often cover China. Issues can be easily downloaded as full issue PDFs. It is also located on HathiTrust.

There are a host of other missionary periodicals, including those not specific to China, but often with sizeable China sections in their issues worth browsing if you know which missionary organization was active in the part of China you are interested in exploring. See the alphabetical list on the Mission Periodicals Online home page.

Medical Missionary Reports and Publications

The Medical Missionary Society in China (12pp, 1838)
The first report of the Medical Missionary Society’s hospital at Macao (1838) – Peter Parker
The first and second reports of the Medical missionary society in China (1841) – Peter Parker
Report of the Medical missionary society in China. For the year 1845 (1846)
Report of the Medical missionary society in China; including the thirteenth report of the Ophthalmic hospital in Canton (1845)
Report of the Medical missionary society in China; the fourteenth report of the Ophthalmic hospital, Canton. Embracing the period from 1st July 1845, to 31st December, 1847 (1848)
Minutes of the annual meeting of the Medical missionary society in China; and fifteenth report of its Ophthalmic hospital at Canton, for the years 1848 and 1849 (1850)
The second report of the London Missionary Society’s Chinese Hospital, at Peking, under the care of W. Lockhart, F.R.C.S., for the year 1863 (1864)
Minutes of two annual meetings of the Medical missionary society in China; including the sixteenth report of its Ophthalmic hospital at Canton, for the years 1850 and 1851

A Few Reference Works

Bonus for post-lockdown life. If your library has them, the following are a few volumes that include especially useful pointers to sources in this area, and give an indication of the massive amount of sources available in many languages:

  • Xiaoxin Wu ed., Christianity in China: A Scholars’ Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States (2nd edition, 2008)
  • R. G. Tiedemann ed., Handbook of Christianity in China Volume Two: 1800-present (2010)
  • R. G. Tiedemann Reference Guide to Missionary Societies in China: From the 16th to the 20th Centuries (2009)
  • Daniel H. Bays A New History of Christianity in China (2011)
  • Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (New York: Macmillan,  1929).  Comprehensive reference, using English language sources. Available free online at Hathi Trust.

Among the most comprehensive and well organized pages of links well worth exploring are Yale University Library Missions and World Christianity: Online content, and “The History of Western Medicine in China” (IUPUI Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis), which have digitized archive guides, primary sources, digitized sources, books, and visual materials.

Memoirs, Biographies, and Other Missionary Books Online

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of books and pamphlets out of copyright and online written by or about missionaries who served in China. There are many bibliographies that contain dozens of pages of entries of interest. If the book was published before 1923, there is a good chance you will be able to find a copy of it on the Internet Archive, and sometimes fully readable books on Google Books or HathiTrust. I’ll just start a list here from some titles at hand, and expand the list over time as works cross my path.

Alcott, WM. A. The Life of Robert Morrison, the First Protestant Missionary To China (1856)

American Presbyterian Mission Press Records of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries in China, Held at Shanghai, May 7-20, 1890 (1890)

American Presbyterian Mission Press Records of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries in China, Held at Shanghai, May 10-24, 1877 (1890)

Balme, Harold China and modern medicine: a study in medical missionary development

Broomhall, Marshall. Martyred missionaries of the China Inland Mission, with a record of the perils & sufferings of some who escaped (1901)

Broomhall, Marshall. The jubilee story of the China Inland Mission (1915)

Ch’eng, Marcus (Chen Chonggui) Echoes from China: The Story of My Life and Lectures (1921)

China Inland Mission. China and The Gospel: An Illustrated Report of the China Inland Mission (1906)

Conger, Sarah Pike Letters from China – see also Sarah Pike Conger: Seven Years in China

Episcopal Church in the United Sates An historical sketch of the China mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. from the first appointments in 1834 to include the year ending August 31st, 1884 (1888)

Glover, Richard Herbert Stanley Jenkins, M.D., F.R.C.S. : medical missionary, Shensi, China, with some notices of the work of the Baptist Missionary Society in that country

Gray, Arthur R. and Arthur M. Sherman The Story of the Church in China

Guinness, M. Geraldine The Story of the China Inland Mission (3rd ed. 1894) Vol 1, Vol 2

Henderson, James Memorials of James Henderson, M.D. — Medical Missionary to China

Lockhart, William The medical missionary in China: a narrative of twenty years’ experience

Parker, Peter Statements respecting hospitals in China

MacGillivray, D. A Century of Protestant Missions in China (1807-1907)

MacGillivray, D. China Centenary Missionary Conference Records: Report of the Great Conference (1907)

Taylor, F. Howard These forty years, a short history of the China inland mission (1903)

Marshall, W. M. Christian Missions Their Agents, And Their Results (6th ed. 1901)

Morrison, Robert A view of China, for philological purposes ; containing a sketch of Chinese chronology, geography, government, religion and customs. Designed for the use of persons who study the Chinese language (1817)

Price, Frank Wilson The Rural Church in China (1949)

Robson, William Griffith John of Hankow (1929)

Richard, Timothy Forty-five years in China: reminiscences by Timothy Richard, D.D. (1916)

Schofield, Robert Harold Memorials of R. Harold A. Schofield : first medical missionary to Shan-si, China

Stevens, George B. The Life, Letters, and Journals of Rev. and Hon. Peter Parker, M. D.: Missionary, Physician and Diplomatist (1896)

Taylor, J. Hudson Three Decades of the China Inland Mission (1895)

Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission : the growth of a work of God (1918)

Townsend, William John Robert Morrison: The Pioneer of Chinese Missions (1890)

Webster, Rev. James Times of Blessing in Manchuria (1909)

Williams, S. Wells Easy Lessons in Chinese (1842)

Williams, S. Wells The Middle Kingdom (1848) Vol 1, Vol 2 (Wikipedia)

Missionary Council The Call from the Far East (1926)

Collection of book and book selections here: Anglicanism in China

Photographs and other Images

There are a wealth of historical photographs related to China, scattered in collections around the world and many of these come from former missionaries based in China. One of the best and growing collections there is now:

Historical Photographs of China

Here are a few more (not all missionary related):

International Mission Photography Archive

Sidney D. Gamble Photographs Collection

Chinese Christian Posters

China Mission History: Digital Archive – “The historical photograph and print collection represented here consists of images held in the Sino-Missionary image archive, presently housed at Whitworth University’s Department of History.”

Chinese Paper Gods – assembled by the missionary Anne S. Goodrich (1895-2005)

The Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China

Harry Caldwell Film Collection

The Hedda Morrison Photographs of China

Muriel Webb Treman Photograph Album

William Charles White China Photos – Fuzhou

Archival Papers Online

Digitized Selections from the George and Marion Blydenburgh Papers, 1920-1934, 1998 – “Missionaries to China, 1920-1931; George T. Blydenburgh was the superintendent of a new hospital in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. Correspondence to family members describing daily life, family matters, and news of the hospital’s progress; photographs, newspaper clippings, and glass lantern slides documenting the Blydenburgh family’s experiences (bulk 1920-1931). Statements and descriptions of incidents related to military campaigns in Nanjing, Shanghai, and Nanchang. Writings and outlines about life in China (1921-1934). Annual reports from the Nanchang General Hospital (1924-1932). Publications from the Nanking [Nanjing] Language School (1921-1922). Scrolls of woodblock prints, calligraphy, and painting (circa 1920-1930).”

Wason Pamphlet Collection – Charles W. Wason (Wikipedia) was not a missionary, but his pamphlet collection, available at Cornell University has many missionary pamphlets and other primary sources of interest.

War and Occupation in China: The Letters of an American Missionary from Hangzhou, 1937-1938. Companion Digital Repository – “This Deep Blue web repository is designed as a digital companion for a collection of letters produced by Rev. Robert McMullen, an American Southern Presbyterian missionary (provost of Hangchow Christian College) during the Second Sino-Japanese War, available in Charles Bright and Joseph W. Ho, eds., War and Occupation in China: The Letters of an American Missionary from Hangzhou, 1937-1938 (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, Lehigh University Press, 2017).”

Databases and Bibliographies

Chinese Christian Texts Database – “The database is set up as a research database, both in regard to its content and search possibilities. The description of primary sources, divided into Chinese and European primary sources, is intended as to be extensive and to allow for multiple links. In addition to the usual bibliographical references such as title, author, impressum or reprints, these references include: a content description, the mentioning of call numbers in major library collections, references to translations or secondary sources, and various notes on the author or text history. The database is multi-lingual in the sense that there are references to documents and publications in a wide variety of ancient and modern Asian and European languages.”

Anthony E. Clark History of Christianity in China Archive Catalog – Western Language Books

Bibliography of Christianity in China

Contributions and suggestion to this Page: Konrad M. Lawson, Joseph W. Ho, Charles Hayford, Felix Boecking

We most welcome your corrections or suggestions for additions to the page. You can reach Konrad at or @kmlawson on Twitter.