The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey/The Province of Kiangsu

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By Rev. John Darroch, Translation Department of the Shansi Imperial University.

The province of Kiangsu gets its name by combining the first syllable of its metropolis Kiangning (another name for Nanking) with that of Soochow, the capital, its richest city.

The area of the province is about 38,600 square miles, and the population is computed to be 14,000,000. The province consists chiefly of flat tracts of exceedingly fertile land. It is, indeed, nothing else than the detritus of China's two mighty waterways, the Yellow River and the Yangtse. Doubtless the sea-coast was once much further inland than it is at present, but the sediment deposited in its bed from year to year gradually filled up the shallow ocean, and what were once islands are now hills in the midst of a great plain of fertile rice or wheat fields.

The Yellow River has always been an erratic stream, and in 1853 it changed its course, and now finds its way to the sea through the province of Shantung. The mighty Yangtse flows from the west through the south of the province, entering the sea beyond Shanghai. The Hwai river rises in the province of Honan, traverses the north of Anhwei, and enters the Hungtse lake in the north of Kiangsu, whence it has its outlet into the Grand Canal. This in its turn links the numerous lakes in the province together and provides a waterway throughout its entire length from north to south. The country is also intersected by innumerable navigable canals, rivers, and creeks, and it may be taken for granted that no country in the world of equal extent is so well watered as this province of Kiangsu; it would also be difficult to find anywhere an equal extent of territory as rich, as fertile, and as densely populated.

The Grand Canal reflects far more credit on the monarchs who devised and executed it than does the much more famous Great Wall. Kublai Khan (1260) is generally credited with the construction of this most useful waterway, but, as a matter of fact, it existed, in parts, long before his day. The total length of the canal is 650 miles. It has always been of immense importance to the whole Empire and to this province in particular. In these days steam launches, towing a train of house-boats or junks, jostle each other on its southern reaches, and so a new and important trade is being developed.

Nanking, the official capital, is situated on the southern bank of the Yangtse, 200 miles west of Shanghai. It was the metropolis of China from a.d. 317 to 582, and again from A.D. 1368 to 1403. It is still the seat of the Viceroy of the Liang-kiang, who is the Governor-General of three provinces, and is consequently the rallying centre of a large concourse of officials, expectant and substantive. Nanking has always been famous in China for its scholars, wealth, and culture. The wall of the city is nearly 25 miles in circumference, and encloses a population of about half a million souls. The district exports quantities of raw silk and flowered satin.

"On the banks of the Grand Canal, 80 miles west of Shanghai, 12 miles east of the great lake, and 40 miles south of the Yangtse, stands Soochow, the silk metropolis of the Orient. Founded 500 b.c., it was laid out only 250 years after Romulus had traced the walls of the mistress of the ancient world, and from that date Soochow has been, and still is, a literary and commercial centre." This city is called the Venice of China, "Beautiful Soo," and has a population of about 700,000.

Chinkiang, at the juncture of the Grand Canal with the Yangtse, is a large and bustling commercial city. It was captured by the British in 1842 after an heroic resistance by the Tartar garrison. When all was lost Hai-ling, the general of the troops, immolated himself in his yamen, rather than submit to the "foreign barbarian."

Yangchow, 15 miles north of Chinkiang, and on the banks of the Grand Canal, is famous for its wealth and the beauty of its women. Marco Polo was governor of this city for three years (about A.D. 1280).

The city of Shanghai is better known to foreigners than any other place in China. It was taken by the British forces in 1842, and was one of the five ports thrown open to the trade of the world at the conclusion of the war of that date. Its position at the mouth of the Yangtse makes it the emporium for Central China. Where, when the port was opened, was a towpath for the trackers, who laboriously dragged their junks up the river, a handsome street, called the Bund, now fronts the Hwangpu river, and what was then a wide expanse of paddy fields is now a dense city of Chinese houses and wealthy shops. Beyond this, away into the country, five miles to the north and west of the Bund, stretch the residences of foreign merchants.

The total foreign population of the International Settlement of Shanghai is 11,497. Of this number 3713 are British, 2157 are Japanese, 1329 are Portuguese, 991 are American, 785 are German, and 393 are French. There is a French Settlement outside the International Settlement in which there are a few hundred more French subjects, the remaining population being divided amongst twenty other nationalities. The Chinese population is 452,716. If we consider the large Chinese population in the French Concession, in the native city, and in the villages just outside the bounds of the Settlement, it is probable that the Chinese population of Shanghai is not less than one million.

The first railway in China was laid down between Shanghai and Woosung (12 miles) in 1876. The Chinese were bitterly opposed to this enterprise from the first, and after a few months they succeeded in buying the whole
The Chinese empire- a general and missionary survey (1907) (14597566727).jpg

Photo by
A Chicagoan Photographer.

The Shanghai Bund and Tea-Gardens.

According to the last census (1900) there were 11,407 foreigners in Shanghai, of whom 3713 were British, 2159 Japanese, 1320 Portugese, 991 American, 785 German, and 586 Indians. The Chinese population in the foreign settlement, exclusive of the French section, was 452,716, which is nearly double what it was ten years previously. plant from the foreign firm which had the concession, and then immediately tore up the rails. The line was relaid and opened to traffic in 1898. The railway is being carried westward to Soochow, which section is now nearly completed. The other sections to Nanking and to Wuhu are in course of construction and will be rapidly pushed to completion. The Chinese are now as keen to get railways as they were formerly opposed to them. The poor as well as the rich subscribe eagerly for shares, and those who reckoned that the Chinese were too poor to build their own railways without foreign assistance are likely to get a surprise. Another important railway, one from Nanking to Tientsin, is projected, but the concessionaires have been so dilatory in commencing the work, that the Chinese are now clamouring for the retrocession of the permission to construct the line.

When these railways are finished Kiangsu will have two great trunk lines running east and west and north and south through the province; it is safe to prognosticate that there will be an immense development of trade in consequence of these increased facilities for transport.

From the printing presses of Shanghai books, magazines, and newspapers pour forth in an unresting stream. The older literature of China's dreamy sages is being pushed aside, and text-books on subjects of which the ancients never dreamed are being circulated literally by the hundred thousand. The works of Spencer, Huxley, and Montesquieu; Ivanhoe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Sherlock Holmes, and a host of other books equally modern have been translated and are being read with avidity by the younger generation of China's scholars.

In a word, Kiangsu is the wealthiest, the most cultured, and the most progressive of the eighteen provinces. Not only so, but this province sets the fashion for all China. What is done here to-day will be the rage in the most distant parts of this great Empire in a few months or at most a few years' time. This emphasises the importance of the province from an educational and evangelistic standpoint.

The Roman Catholics have had Missions in Kiangsu since the sixteenth century. About eleven years after Ignatius Loyola had founded the Society of Jesus, Xavier, the most zealous of the Jesuits, was reconnoitring the great closed land of Sinim. He never gained an entrance. Disappointment and intrigue broke his heart, and he died within sight of China's shore before the "rock" opened.

In 1579 Matteo Ricci arrived in China. Foiled in his first attempt to enter Nanking, he proceeded to Nanchang, a city of evil repute, but returned to Nanking and ultimately made his way to the capital. The impression this man made on her rulers is written legibly in the annals of China; no missionary of any denomination has since exerted a tithe of his influence.

A notable convert was gained for Christianity when Sü Kwang-chi, a Cabinet Minister of that date, became the friend and pupil of Ricci. When the officials at Nanking denounced the missionaries of the new religion as a "depraved sect," Sü memorialised the Emperor in their favour. His books, political and religious, are still on sale in the book-shops in Shanghai. A memorial arch to his memory was erected in this, his native city, and to this day his name is enshrined in a little temple called "The Hall of Sü Wen-ding" (the resolute and elegant Sü). Surely it has fallen to the lot of few men to be canonised by Christians and pagans alike.

Siccawei, literally (Sü-kia-wei) "the homestead of the Sü family," is now the site of the Roman Catholic establishment near Shanghai. It comprises an observatory, art schools, printing-press, etc., and is reckoned one of the most interesting places in the Far East.

Since those early days Catholic Missions have been prosecuted in the province with varied success. As Protestants, we can neither acquiesce in their tenets nor approve their methods of mission work, but the self-sacrifice and persistence of the missionaries are such as we can only admire.

Their success, though great, has not been adequate to their efforts nor commensurate with their opportunities. One of the Fathers said to me, "Our work in China resembles Penelope's web. What is woven in the day while man can work is ever unravelled in the dark night of persecution." Protestant Missions, though still inferior to the Romanists in the number of their converts, are now for the first time their equals in prestige and equipment. It remains to be seen whether (avoiding the bickerings which ruined the Romanist Mission in the time of its fairest opportunity) they will respond to the call of God, and accomplish the task of Christianising this province—the task in which the Romanists have conspicuously failed.

From 1850 to 1864 the terrible Taiping Rebellion desolated China. The rebels captured Nanking in 1853, and from that time they made that city their capital. It is estimated that 20,000,000 people perished in that awful war, and of this number possibly a third were inhabitants of Kiangsu.

The Taipings professed faith in Christianity, but their deeds were a repetition of the horrors wrought by Attila and Jenghis Khan. Several Protestant missionaries resided for longer or shorter periods in the camps at Nanking and Soochow. Amongst these were Roberts—from whom Hung Siu-ts'üen, the rebel leader, first heard the Gospel, which had such an unexpected influence on his life and through him on China—Griffith John, Muirhead, and Edkins. The hopes entertained by the missionaries that the rebel movement would become a great moral force were sadly disappointed, and, one by one, they withdrew from the Taiping armies.

I have heard ex-Taipings say that the foreigners made a great mistake when they sent General Gordon to crush the rebellion. By so doing, they say, the foreigners prolonged the reign of the conservative and bigoted Manchus and ensured the supremacy of idolatry for many years. Whereas, had the British Government supported the rebels and enabled them to found a new dynasty, China would have been immediately thrown open to the commerce of the world.

Doubtless if the rebel army had been permeated with the Gospel leaven of truth and righteousness, that host might have become a great reforming force. As it happened, there was not sufficient goodness in the mass to save it from corruption. We must rejoice that an end was put to the unspeakable atrocities of the Taipings, but we may be allowed to ponder regretfully "What might have been" had Hung Siu-ts'üen and his followers been imbued with even a modicum of Christian virtue.

The first Protestant missionary to visit the province of Kiangsu was Karl Friedrich Gutzlaff, who sailed along the coast of China in a sailing vessel in 1832 and visited Shanghai during the trip. He distributed Gospels to the people, who received the books courteously.

To the London Missionary Society belongs the honour of commencing settled work in Mid-China. Dr. Medhurst first visited Shanghai in 1835. In 1843, in company with Dr. Lockhart, he took up his residence there, renting premises outside the east gate of the native city. Here he erected the first printing-press and engaged in evangelistic work. It was here too that, on November 13, 1845, the first two converts were baptized. In 1843 Dr. Lockhart rented premises outside the south gate and established the first Mission hospital in Mid-China. Since 1843 the Mission work of this great Society has been continued without intermission in the city and surrounding country.

The Rev. T. M'Clatchie of the Church Missionary Society rented a house inside the native city of Shanghai in 1844. Bishop Boone of the American Episcopal Church arrived in 1845. Rev. M. T. Yates of the American Southern Baptist Mission, and Drs. Carpenter and Wardner of the Seventh Day Baptist Mission, arrived in 1847. The American Methodist Episcopal Mission (South) commenced work in Shanghai in 1848, and the American Presbyterian (North) in 1850. The China Inland Mission rented its first house in Shanghai in 1873, and other Missions have followed since, until there are now about twenty Societies working in the city, and the total number of missionaries engaged in evangelistic, medical, literary, and educational work is close on 200.

It is impossible even to glance at the manifold activities of the Societies working in Shanghai. The literary work of the Christian Literature Society, combined with the printing establishments of the American Presbyterian Mission and the American Methodist Episcopal Mission, has been to China what the initial impulse is to the great ship as she leaves the stocks to launch herself upon the waves. Such educational institutions as St. John's University (American Episcopal Mission) and the M'Tyiere Girls' Boarding-School (American Methodist Episcopal Mission) not only fulfil the purpose of their existence by turning out Christian men and women educated and equipped for their life-work, but they also serve as models on which the Chinese are shaping their own educational institutions. The well-managed hospitals, St. Luke's (American Episcopal Mission) and the London Mission Hospital, Shantung Road, have often elicited eulogies of approval from enlightened Chinese officials. The ordinary daily preaching in the street chapels is also having a twofold effect. It is not only turning men to righteousness, but is introducing the new and democratic method of direct appeal from the platform to a popular audience.

It is worth recalling for a moment the names of the great missionaries who have laboured in this field and are now gone to their rest: Medhurst, Milne, Muirhead, Wylie, Williamson, Edkins, Faber, Hudson Taylor, and others. These men laid the foundations of the Church in Mid-China; they were giants in faith and intellect, and they shall be had in lasting remembrance as long as the Church of Christ in China shall endure.

Dr. H. C. Du Bose in his book on "Beautiful Soo" says:—"For years the missionaries in Shanghai looked upon Soochow as a great evangelistic centre, and longed for the time when its gates should be opened. Before the city was taken by the Taiping rebels, young Griffith John, now a veteran, and others visited the place with a view to securing a foothold. Rev. William Muirhead came to this city in native dress, with a queue which was, unfortunately, too securely fastened. He was seized, dragged along the street, while a heavy blow on his head made him think his time was short.

"The first foreigner to live in this city was Charles Schmidt, who laboured under the auspices of the American Presbyterians (North). He came in 1868. He had been an officer in the 'Ever Victorious Army,' and his extended acquaintance among military mandarins secured him an unmolested sojourn. He was a man of wonderful tact in dealing with the people. He had a far-reaching acquaintance with Chinese affairs, was a fluent speaker, a gifted preacher, and wrote a most excellent tract. He afterwards withdrew from the Mission service.

"In 1867 Rev. J. W. Lambuth, D.D., obtained a room with a dirt floor near the Ink Pagoda, and on his regular visits to the city held religious services. He was assisted by a native minister, Rev. C. K. Marshall, who had resided some years in America.

"During the occupation of Nanking by the rebels. Dr. Muirhead visited that place, and passing near the wall heard shrieks and groans. Going upon the wall, he found a young lad, wounded and ill, who was about to give up his life in despair. He was taken to Shanghai and kindly cared for. In 1872, when Dr. Muirhead came to Soochow and tried to rent a place, a rice merchant proffered his assistance and secured for him a chapel on the principal street of the city. It was the aforesaid lad, who in this way showed his gratitude. Thus Messrs. Muirhead and Lambuth were the first regular preachers in this pagan city.

"There are now fifteen chapels in the city. There are four hospitals and twenty day-schools. The people entertain the kindliest feelings towards the American residents, who have lived so long among them and identified themselves with the city's interests."

Mr. Duncan of the China Inland Mission was the first Protestant missionary to work in Nanking. He reached the city in 1867, travelling viâ Soochow and Chinkiang. His first lodging was in the Drum-tower—a conspicuous landmark in Nanking—where he rented a room from the Buddhist priest in charge of the building. Communication with the coast was difficult in those days, and it came to pass that Mr. Duncan's funds were exhausted. His servant had contributed his scanty store, but in spite of the utmost frugality that too was almost gone. One morning as Mr. Duncan was leaving his lodging to go to his daily task of street preaching his servant asked anxiously, "What shall we do now, teacher? The money is all used up." "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed," was the cheery reply. When Mr. Duncan returned at night, weary from the long day's work, the servant was looking out for him, and seeing him afar off, he ran to tell him the good news. Mr. Rudland had come in from Shanghai that very day and their need was met. "Of course," was Mr. Duncan's reply; "God said 'verily thou shalt be fed,' and He is always to be trusted."

To-day Nanking is one of the great missionary centres of China. The Methodist Episcopal and the Foreign Christian Mission have both large hospitals and well-equipped colleges in the city. The other missions, working in the city and district, are too numerous to be mentioned seriatim, but it may be asserted that, with the exception of Shanghai and possibly Peking, there is no city in China which has such a large body of missionaries or such magnificent institutions. Mr. Duncan died at Torquay in 1872. He never saw the fruit of his labours. Like Paul in Athens, his soul was stirred as he saw a great cultured city wholly given to idolatry, and, without a home, without a friend, he wandered daily from temple to temple, from tea-shop to tea-shop, telling to all who would listen the story of a Saviour's love. Could he revisit the city now how delighted he would be to see the progress that has been made! and yet, in very truth, we are to-day only at the beginning of Christian work in Nanking.

The Rev. J. Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission rented a house in Yangchow in 1868. From the first there was considerable opposition to the missionaries. The gentry and literati, with the connivance of the officials, plotted to drive the foreigner out of their gates. It was difficult to get up a riot, for the lower classes in Yangchow are not turbulent, though they can be rude enough if they think it safe to indulge the propensity. The missionaries dressed in Chinese costume, and made every effort to conciliate the prejudices of their heathen neighbours; it was plain that they were the most inoffensive people imaginable. The gentry, sure of official approbation, persisted, and the riot came off, happily with no fatal results, though the lives of some of the ladies of the Mission were doubtless shortened by the strain and brutality of that fearful time. The whole affair was manœuvred, both before and after the riot, in such characteristic style, that if the name was altered the description of the outbreak and the settlement would apply to many of the subsequent regrettable disturbances in China.

However, work in Yangchow has been continued from that date to the present time. The China Inland Mission Home for lady workers is in this city, and hundreds of lady missionaries have received their first ineffaceable impressions of Chinese life and missionary work during their residence there.

Before 1868 the London Mission had commenced work in Chinkiang. They regarded this city as an out-station from Shanghai and had rented a chapel and stationed an evangelist there to carry on the work. After the Yangchow riot the China Inland Mission secured premises in the city. Chinkiang is now very adequately supplied with missionaries and the accessories necessary for Mission work. There is the China Inland Mission Hospital, the women's hospital and girls' school of the Methodist Episcopal Mission, also the large and well-organised men's college of the same Mission. Besides these conspicuous buildings there are, of course, the usual churches, chapels, and outstations of these and other Missions.

These are the principal centres of missionary work in the province, but from these centres the work has gradually spread to the neighbouring cities. Mention ought to be made of the city of Tsingkiangpu, at the confluence of the Grand Canal and the Hungtse Lake, and of Soochow, a large prefectural city near the borders of Shantung. Both of these are well-manned missionary stations.

The main lesson which this brief review emphasises is, not that a great work has been accomplished, but that, in the providence of God, we are on the threshold of a success which has hitherto been only dreamed of in Christian Missions in China.

Sixty years have elapsed since missionary work was commenced in Kiangsu, and since that date, as we have seen, almost every strategic point in the province has been seized on and is now to be the base of a farther advance. Missionaries in the early days were men of an heroic faith, but they necessarily lacked knowledge of China and experience of the Chinese. To-day the missionaries are no less zealous than of yore; they are also wise with the experience of half a century, and in their ranks are not a few who are reckoned cultured Chinese scholars even by the literati of China.

The Christian literature which has been issued from the printing presses set up in the province of Kiangsu has been of such dynamic force that it has rent asunder the bands of the old conservatism which bound China hand and foot. It also provides a spiritual food for those who are born (regenerated) into the Church.

Schools, colleges, and hospitals have been established, where leaders of the Church of God in China have been and still are being educated; but, above all, a Church has been called out of heathenism, and it is to this agency rather than to the foreign missionaries that we look for the future evangelisation of Kiangsu.

It is significant that a Chinese independent Church has been formed in Shanghai. It is composed of Chinese church members of all denominations, and aims at spreading the Gospel without recourse to the aid of foreign governments or consuls. The Tao-tai of Shanghai has issued a proclamation in favour of this body, and they have received considerable financial help from their compatriots in America. The officers of the Church are able and energetic men, and though the formation of this Church has been viewed with suspicion by some missionaries, who see in it a premature attempt to throw off the restraint of foreign control, there can be no doubt that it indicates the healthy vitality of the native Church. The promoters of the new Church are likely to make mistakes. They will be very unlike the directors of all other religious organisations if they do not! Nevertheless, the inception of the Chinese independent Church marks the beginning of a new era in the history of Missions in China, and is a significant forward step which will have far-reaching consequences.

We therefore say thankfully, "What hath God wrought!" and we look forward with hopefulness to the future, knowing that Jesus is with us "alway, even to the end of the world."