Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905

Article excerpt

Asian China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905. By Alvyn Austin. [Studies in the History of Christian Missions.] (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2007. Pp. xxxii, 506. $45.00 paperback.)

Had Hudson Taylor decided to sell soap to the Chinese instead of his narrow evangelical Protestantism he would have been a millionaire. "Success sells" was one of his mottoes, and he refused to allow his agents in Britain, mostly his relatives and in-laws from the Guinness brewing family, and in America to publish anything negative about his work. Austin has done an admirable job of piecing together the story of both Taylor and his China Inland Mission (CIM), and a biography of Pastor Hsi Liao-chih (later Shengmo-Overcomer of Demons), who was, and still is, touted as the leader of an indigenous church, but who was also running a very profitable morphine business at his opium refuges.Austin sees opium as a major theme running alongside the CIM in China and thinks that the level of violence committed by the Boxers in Shansi can be attributed to both the prevalence of opium and the practice of Christian converts not paying 40 percent of their taxes, which was deemed to be what was spent on Chinese operas that Christians shunned.

Taylor's CIM was a faith mission run on the belief that God would provide whatever was needed and funds must never be solicited. He attracted largely working-class people, and was always fearful that recruits joined the mission only to achieve a higher social standing. Few of his missionaries were ordained, and many were self-supporting. Writing with frequent references to Pilgrim's Progress, Austin traces the life of Taylor, son of a Yorkshire chemist, with little formal schooling, both theologically and institutionally, as he established and autocratically ran the largest mission organization to work in China. Originally, Taylor had close ties to the Plymouth Brethren, but he changed his church affiliation several times as did many of those who worked with him. …

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