J. (John) Macgowan.

Christ or Confucius, which? or, The story of the Amoy mission online

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Online LibraryJ. (John) MacgowanChrist or Confucius, which? or, The story of the Amoy mission → online text (page 1 of 13)
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The Story of the

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JOHN SNOW & CO., 2, Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, E.C.


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Butler & Tanner,

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frome, and london.



When I commenced writing the story of the Amoy
Mission, I determined to confine myself simply to
giving an account of the introduction of the Gospel
into Amoy and the regions around, and the gradual
formation and growth of the Churches there. I have
consequently rigorously resisted all temptation to
describe the laws and customs of the people, except-
ing when they were necessary to illustrate and explain
my subject. In order to make the book more graphic
and lifelike, I have preferred, whenever I could, to
describe scenes in which I myself have mingled, and
to tell the stories of men with whom I have been
personally associated. This has been to me a most
delightful task, as it has brought back to my recol-
lection memories of the past, that are amongst the
most pleasant in my life.

I should like to have referred to the other two
Missionary Societies in Amoy — the American Mis-
sion and the English Presbyterian — and to the work
that is being carried on by them, but want of space
has prevented me. Even as it is, I have had to



leave out all description of Hospital work, and of the
growth of Self-support amongst the Amoy Churches,
simply because I knew there were imperative reasons
why my work should not be extended beyond the
present number of pages.

If this book should, in any small degree, help to
inspire the hearts of its readers with a more profound
sympathy for missionary work, and should lead the
Christian Churches to recognise more fully the duty
and joy of sending the Gospel to their heathen
brethren in China, then, indeed, would my heart's
desire be satisfied, and I should be more than repaid
for the time and labour I have expended upon it.

London, August \^th y 1889.



I. The Great Preparation n

II. Amoy and its People 25

III. First Successes 48

IV. Chiang-Chiu 76

V. Koan-Khau 101

VI. The County of Hui-an, or Gracious Peace 127

VII. Ditto {continued) 152

VIII. Pho-lam 175

IX. Confucianism, and the Results of Mis-
sionary Work in Amoy . . . .201



View of the City of Amoy .... Frontispiece

District of Amoy (Map) 10

Pagoda, Golden Island, Hong-Kong . . .15

A Street in Canton .21

People of Amoy . 29

Amoy Women 35

An Opium Smoker . .53

A Chinese Junk 83

A Chinese Lady at her Toilette . . . .117

Sedan Bearers 145

County of Hui-an, or Gracious Peace (Map) . 153

A Barber .159

A Pagoda 177

A Temple . 202




The dawn of the nineteenth century witnessed the
first systematic efforts of any of the Protestant
Churches of England to give the Gospel to the
Chinese. In 1805 the directors of the London
Missionary Society decided to send three or four
missionaries to Penang, a possession of the English,
as a preliminary step to their ultimate settlement in
China. This plan was agreed upon, because a great
many of the inhabitants were Chinese, and also
because it was deemed hopeless to expect that any
missionary would then be allowed to take up his
residence in China itself. The difficulties, indeed,
connected with a mission to that country were con-
sidered so insuperable, that the directors never con-
templated the possibility of their men being permitted
to teach and to preach. The only specific objects
they dared to set before themselves were, that the
missionaries should learn the Chinese language and
translate the Bible into it. What should be done


after these things should be accomplished it was im-
possible to anticipate.

On January 31s:, 1807, the Rev. R. Morrison set
out for China by way of America. The original
intention of commencing the Mission in Penang was
abandoned, through the difficulty of obtaining men.
It was considered that as Mr. Morrison was going
alone, he might possibly be allowed to remain in
Canton until he had mastered the language. Full
permission, however, was given him in his letter of
instructions to remove to Penang, or to any other
place that he saw fit, in case he found it impossible to
remain in that city.

He arrived in Canton on September 7th, where he
very soon found himself exposed to considerable an-
noyance and even danger. In 1808, in consequence of
disputes between the English and the Chinese, he was
compelled to remove more than once to Macao, which
was then held by the Portuguese, so that his studies
were necessarily very much interrupted. At length,
seeing the risk of remaining in China to be very
great, he decided to leave for Penang and study the
language there. The time for his departure was actu-
ally fixed, when, on the 20th of February, he was
appointed Chinese interpreter to the East India
Company. This gave him an official position that
secured the right of residence in China, and at the
same time prevented the breaking up of the Mission
in that country. The acceptance of such a post was
a dangerous one, and with a different man might
have meant the shipwreck of the work. With him,
however, there was no risk. He had consented to
become an official in order that he might the more


effectually carry out the one aim which was the pur-
pose of his life. He could now study without inter-
ruption, and, moreover, his official duties gave him
such wide opportunities of getting a deeper insight
into the language, that he was being continually
qualified for the great work of translating the Scrip-
tures into Chinese.

Although public preaching was not allowed, he
availed himself of every opportunity for making
known the Gospel to those who came within his
immediate influence. The Chinese in those early
days were not easily moved to become Christians.
The utter contempt with which they were accustomed
to look down upon the foreigner made them scout the
idea that he had anything better to teach them than
what they had received from their great sages. China
was the land of light and culture and refinement,
and had nothing to learn from the outer barbarian.
The idea of one of these coming to teach the Chinese
was just as ludicrous as though a Zulu were to come
to London, and, establishing himself in some promi-
nent position, were to invite the scholar and the
scientist to sit at his feet and be instructed by him.
Now the conceit and haughty insolence which were
marked features in the Chinese character were to be
found in a more intensified form amongst the Can-
tonese, than perhaps in any other part of China. It
was therefore particularly unfortunate that the first
contact of the missionary with the Chinese empire
should have been at Canton. This city was one of
the most prominent in the country. There were
others that could excel it in the beauty of their
natural surroundings, and in the historic memories


that clustered around them, but it stood pre-eminent
as one of the strong cities of the empire. The lofty-
walls that surrounded it, and the massive gates,
through which the teeming crowds passed in and
out, had an imposing air of strength that seemed to
bid defiance to all the world, and to laugh to scorn
any attempt that might be made to capture them.
It was one of the wealthiest places in the kingdom.
Like other Chinese cities, it had its narrow lanes,
where the poorer people lived, and long lines of
streets where the smaller shops were opened ; but it
was conspicuous for the number of its large and exten-
sive business houses, where trade on a large scale was
carried on. Here could be found, as hardly anywhere
else in the empire, firms where the finest silks and
satins, and elegant embroidery of every design, could
be procured. Not only articles of native manufacture
could be bought, but also those from far-off distant
cities, which had been carried over lofty mountains
and down great rivers to this famous mart. Here,
too, were to be found the most beautiful vases from
well-known potteries, painted with the most exquisite
colours, the secret of which was known only to their
designers, and which has since been lost to the world.
Tea warehouses, filled with the fragrant leaf that
came from the centre of China, to be shipped away
to England, explained in some measure the presence
of the English ships that lay anchored in the river.
The city was alive and bustling, and had the air of a
pressure of business upon it. Men from the region
around, and from the far interior provinces, could be
seen in its streets. Tea merchants from Hankow,
silk merchants from Soochow, makers of the famous



pottery from the Kiangsi province, merchants from
distant cities coming to buy and sell, mandarins of all
degrees with their retinues, and speaking the different
dialects of their far-off homes, so that they were
strangers in language amongst the very people they
had come to rule, all spoke of the hold that this
mighty city had upon remote places in the empire.


The people of Canton were perhaps the most vigor-
ous in the kingdom. Though bred and born within the
tropics, and scorched by the great Eastern sun for the
greater part of the year, the only effect seems to have
been to develop in them an extraordinary amount of
mental and physical ability. In their build, they
could not compete with those of some of the northern


provinces, but in push and enterprise and business
capacity they stood first amongst the men of the
eighteen provinces. They were men of daring, too.
Their trading junks were accustomed to make con-
siderable voyages along seas where gales are frequent
in winter and typhoons in summer. The China Sea,
and the Formosa Channel, swarmed with pirate junks
manned by Cantonese, and none so terrible and ruth-
less as they. No force could compete with them, and
it has required the naval power of England to rid the
seas of these monsters.

The consequence of all this was, that the people of
Canton were a proud and haughty race. They felt
themselves more than a match for any of their own
countrymen, and much more therefore for the bar-
barian English. Even at the present day, after succes-
sive defeats, and the capture and occupation of their
city by English troops, the Cantonese still behave with
a rudeness and arrogance such as are experienced in
no other place where Europeans have been accus-
tomed to reside for any length of time. One can
easily understand, therefore, how dreary and depress-
ing the early years of the first missionary's life must
have been. Active work, such as is openly carried on
to-day, would not have been tolerated, either by the
Chinese authorities or by the directors of the East
India Company. In patient waiting and strong faith
in God, and in the Divine power of the Gospel, he had
come to preach ; in these alone could he find a com-
fort for his soul ; and by the grace of God he never
faltered in his purpose or dreamt of giving up the
enterprise as hopeless.

The year 1813 proved to be a memorable one in


the history of the Mission. After six years of solitary
labour by Morrison, the Rev. W. Milne arrived in China
to become his colleague, and for the few years he was
permitted to live did splendid service, the fruits of
which remain to the present day. But the great event
of the year was the completion of the translation of
the New Testament into Chinese. Men who were
ignorant of that language had argued that it was
impossible to put the wondrous thoughts, and subtle
shades of meaning, and the tender and pathetic
language of the Bible into those cumbrous Chinese
characters. As though God had given a revelation
that could never be communicated to fully a fourth
of the human race ! Men forgot that the Bible is an
Oriental book, full of figures and similes, and teeming
with illustrations from Nature that can be understood
best under an Eastern sky. In coming to China it
was nearer its home than it was where dreary winters
and leaden skies prevail. The Chinese language is
one of the most beautiful in the world in which to
enshrine the sacred Scriptures, and there is a flexi-
bility and grace about it, that render it capable of
expressing all the tenderness, and pathos, and poetry,
and sublime thought of that most wondrous book.

Morrison himself was deeply impressed with the
work he had done. What a comfort and a joy he
must have felt as the last sheets were printed, and
the Word of God, the revelation of Jesus Christ, was
now ready to be distributed amongst the Chinese.
He had not been allowed to preach. He had
been watched and suspected. Edicts forbidding the
Chinese to receive the religion of the foreigners had
been issued. " A special express was sent from



Peking for search to be made for persons professing
the Christian religion, and old people and country
gentlemen were called upon by the Government to
give information against such." Anything that was
done by him had to be effected as quietly as possible,
for any public manifestation would have been at-
tended with danger to himself, and to those who
listened to him. Little did those in power dream
that he had already completed a work that one day
would revolutionize China, and change her customs,
and break up the long sleep of ages, and give men
thoughts such as no sage had ever taught them.
The Word of God was now ready to do a work that
no mandarin or royal edict could stop. God's
message, selfishly held back by the Christian Church
for so many ages, had at last reached China, and
men's hearts, there recognising the Divine voice,
would ere long respond in loving and loyal service
to Him.

The next great event in Morrison's life was the
baptism of the first Chinese convert on July 16th,
1 8 14. " At a spring of water," he says, "issuing from
the foot of a lofty hill by the seaside, away from
human observation, I baptized Tsae-a-ko in the
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." What
a day of rejoicing this must have been ! For nearly
seven years he had hoped, and longed, and prayed
for this very thing. Men had said : You cannot con-
vert the Chinese; and when he saw the arrogance and
scorn with which the Chinese scouted the idea of
being instructed by a barbarian, he must have had
his moments of perplexity and depression. But after
years of weary waiting, the Gospel has proved its old


power. And now he receives the firstfruit of that
mighty harvest that other labourers will reap in the

It would be interesting to learn what was the
attractive power in Christianity that led this China-
man to give up his idolatry, and his ancestral worship,
and to run the risk of death at the hands of his
rulers. Fortunately we have his own written con-
fession, and we are not surprised to find that the one
feature of the Gospel that touched his heart was the
same that had so mightily taken possession of the
mind of Paul, and had become the ruling force in his
life, and that was, Christ and Him crucified. He
says that " Jesus has made an atonement for us is a
message that is full of joy. Language and thought
are both inadequate to exhaust the gracious and
admirable goodness of this purpose of Jesus. I now
believe in Jesus, and rely on His merits to obtain the
remission of sin. I have sins and defects, and with-
out faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins I should
be eternally miserable." How wonderfully this man
speaks of sin, who never knew what the word meant
till he heard the Gospel ! Christianity had given
him a definite conception and sense of the evil that
was in his life, and had shown him the way to get
rid of it. Confucius had never done this, and no
voice from the great temples in the city had ever
suggested it. The cross with its Divine story had
revealed to him his misery and his salvation, and so
his confession centres round Christ who had delivered

The men and women that have been converted
since have all followed in his footsteps. As I listen


to his confession it has a strangely familiar sound to
me. I know its language ; I can hear the very tones
and accents in which it was uttered, for I have
baptized hundreds of Christians, and they have all
seemed instinctively to adopt this same grand con-
fession of faith.

And so the years went by amid struggles and
difficulties. Everything had to be done with the
utmost secrecy and caution, lest the Chinese Govern-
ment should take action against him. He knew that
his own countrymen would not stand by him and
uphold him in such a case, for the East India Com-
pany, having heard that he had translated the New
Testament and various tracts into Chinese, sent out
an order that his connection with them should be
severed, for "they were apprehensive that serious
mischief might possibly arise to the British trade in
China from these translations."

In the meantime as there was no scope for mission-
ary work in China, missions were commenced in
Batavia, Malacca, Penang, and Singapore, amongst
the Chinese residing there. One very valuable result
of this was that men were being trained in a know-
ledge of Chinese and of Chinese life that would
specially qualify them to be workers in China the
very moment that country was opened. And
splendid men were some of these, and well adapted
for the great work that was to be done by and by ;
one of the mightiest empires in the world was to be
won for Christ. Men of feeble hands, or still feebler
hearts, would fail in the enterprise, and so God
selected, in this crisis, men of great powers of mind,
and of still profounder faith. Such names as Morri-



son, Milne, Medhurst, Legge, Stronach and Lockhart,
will be imperishably connected with the first preach-
ing of the Gospel in China.

In 1834 Morrison died; Milne had finished his
work twelve years before. Soon after his death the
mandarins began to enforce more rigidly their regu-
lations against the intercourse of Chinese with
foreigners, and also against their belief in Christianity.
The little band of Christians were punished by fines
and imprisonment, and were released only by the
payment of a large sum of money, which Mr. J.
Morrison, who had succeeded his father as Chinese
Secretary, very generously paid. The Chinese pastor
Leang-a-fa, found it expedient under these circum-
stances to leave China and fly to Malacca. It began
to look as though this missionary enterprise were to
be a failure. The founder of the work was dead.
For twenty-seven years he had given his soul to it,
but he was gone now, and those who had been
gathered by him, were left to the tender mercies of
the heathen. The strong and merciless hand of the
law had been laid upon the Christians, and they
were scattered as sheep without a shepherd. China,
with its ancient civilization and its great sages and
teachers, and with its stronger than adamantine walls
that were reared so high, as if to keep out the very
sounds that might come in from the outside world,
will never be evangelized. These strong men, with
the mighty forces behind their backs, will never give
up the traditions and teachings of their fathers.
Christianity will have to retire before such invincible
forces. Will it ? The time is very near when these
walls shall be rent, and Christianity shall stand face


to face with the nation. The appliances are all ready.
The Bible has been translated, and men of indomit-
able faith are waiting, all ready trained for the con-
flict. No gathering of great armaments has been
seen, no clash and sound of weapons being forged
in the workshops of the world have been heard, and
no assembling of troops witnessed, and yet there
have been forces prepared that shall not fail in
their conquest of China.

In August 29th, 1842, by treaty with the Chinese
emperor, Hong-Kong was ceded to the English,
and Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo, and Shanghai
became open ports, where men of every nation might
freely reside. Our missionaries, who had been eagerly
looking for this, at once hastened to enter China,
and Hong-Kong and Shanghai were occupied as
mission centres, whilst two years afterwards the
wondrous work, whose story will be told in the
following pages, was commenced at Amoy.

The weary years of waiting are ended. The dawn
has come at last. The shadows are beginning to
tremble before the coming day, and soon along the
coast, and far away into the interior, across its plains
and among its mountains and valleys, shall the light
flash, till the darkness shall have vanished, and
Christ come to claim the kingdom for His own.

^ - -





The island of Amoy is on the southern coast of
China, about three hundred miles to the north-east
of Hong-Kong. It is about thirty miles in circum-
ference, and is beautifully situated in the midst of a
very extensive bay. Seaward, it is protected by
a chain of islands, the largest and most important of
which is about the size of Amoy, and is called Quemoy,
or " The Golden Gate." This acts as a natural break-
water, and prevents the heavy seas that are raised by
storms and typhoons from rolling into the bay and
injuring the shipping that lies anchored there.

On the south the bay is bounded by a low range of
mountains, from the midst of which rises abruptly
Lam-tai-bu, the " Great Southern Warrior." This is
the most beautiful sight in the whole of the landscape,
for there is a never-ending charm in its varying moods,
as seen in storm or sunshine. In fine weather its sum-
mit is bathed in great floods of light, and it stands
out clearly against the sky as it looks down upon
the blue waters of the bay, which dance and sparkle
beneath the rays of the great eastern sun. When
bad weather is coming on, dense masses of cloud,
tumultuous and agitated, as if clinging to it for pro-
tection, gather round its head and far down its sides,
and then the waters of the bay, dark with the shadows


cast upon them, seem to be in sympathy with them,
as though they feared the coming gale.

To the west and north the scenery is very grand
and rugged. It seems to consist entirely of hills and
mountains, for the plains and valleys that lie at their
feet, and that contain cities and villages and great
market towns, are hidden from our view till we come
upon them. The hills have grouped themselves into
all kinds of imaginable shapes. Over the lower
grounds can be seen the peaks that tower above the
rest ; whilst one range of mountains rises above
another, till the distant background seems to be
resting against the sky.

The city of Amoy is a walled town of the third
degree in rank. As compared with the great cities
of the empire, such as Canton, Suchow, or Hang-
chow, it is a very small and insignificant place. It is
a dull, semi-respectable town, and all the business
and life and energy that the Chinese are capable of
are concentrated in the immense suburbs that have
absorbed nearly all the wealth and trade of the port.
These are very finely and picturesquely situated.
They stretch along the shore of the beautiful bay,
which is lighted up daily with almost perpetual sun-

The harbour is diversified by junks and sailing
vessels, and all kinds of steamers on their way north
or south ; whilst one ship that flies the white flag of
England shows that one of our men-of-war has come
from our far-off home to guard and protect us if
needs be.

The scene before us is a busy one. The steamers,
with great noise and clatter, and with a rapidity that


the Chinese coolies do not relish, are discharging their

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Online LibraryJ. (John) MacgowanChrist or Confucius, which? or, The story of the Amoy mission → online text (page 1 of 13)