IN May, 1894, in consequence of an urgent call to the relief of an aged wealthy man, who had met with an accident, R. J. Davidson and I. Mason travelled to Yang Tao Ch'i in the T'ung Ch'wan prefecture. This town is six days' journey from Chungking, and on their arrival it was found that the patient was dead and buried. Great curiosity and interest had been raised in the town, however, and a large number of people came to R. J. Davidson for medicine. A wish being expressed that a dispensary might be opened there, part of an inn was rented for that purpose. An introduction was gained to the district magistrate, who gratefully accepted treatment for paralysis, and from that time forward became a true friend of our missionaries.
The visit above referred to was a very brief one, but it had far-reaching effects in that it turned the thoughts of our mission once again to T'ung Ch'wan, and was the beginning of a work which has continued to increase.
Isaac Mason tells the story of subsequent growth as follows : " In the autumn of 1894 I returned alone to Yang Tao Ch'i, and spent several weeks there, living at an inn, dispensing medicines, and preaching daily. Many subsequent visits were paid from Chungking, and these extended to the cities of T'ai Ho Chen and Se Hung Hsien. At the former place we found a man who had learned something of the Gospel at a China Inland Mission station. He had gathered a few people, and with these I held many meetings in dirty little rooms at the inns where I stayed. The man referred to proved untrustworthy, and has since run a chequered career which has left him in prison, and all of the original band at T'ai Ho have disappeared. Yet the work in that city has been continued for nine years, and is to-day an important branch of the T'ung Ch'wan work. First we rented a small place outside the city, and it was from this point that my wife and I really entered upon the work in what is now called the Northern District, first by visits, and afterwards by residence at Se Hung. In 1896 we felt justified in attempting residence at T'ai Ho, a busy, walled city, with much river traffic, six days' journey from Chungking (about 187 miles) on a main road to Chentu. It has the disadvantage of having no responsible official in residence, and the people are somewhat turbulent at times.
Wrecked on the River
" In spite of continued efforts we could not find a house, so at last we went to Se Hung, fourteen miles distant, and there found accommodation. Now note God's goodness in guiding us in ways which were contrary to our wishes. Since we attempted to find a house at T'ai Ho Chen, the Roman Catholic premises have twice been torn down by rioters, and floods have twice invaded the city. Had we resided there, it is almost certain our house would have suffered the fate of the Romanist premises, even though we might have escaped damage by the floods. I am often reminded of Isaac Sharp's remark that ' Those who mark the hand of Providence, will never lack a Providence to mark.'
" After repairs to our rented premises at Se Hung, we went to live there early in 1897. For thirteen days our boat rode bravely up the river from Chungking but, on the fourteenth, when nearing our new home, we were wrecked in a rapid and, after an exciting experience, we spent the night on the cobbles with our damaged goods strewn around us. The morning brought but little comfort, as with it came rain, so we left our goods with our faithful servants, and pushed on to our destination, where we arrived hungry and tired, and in a ‘ grubby ' condition generally. We had not a single friend to meet us, and nothing but bare rooms and native fare until our goods turned up.
"Yet this dispiriting entry was the commencement of three happy and not altogether unsuccessful years at Se Hung. By the time we were ready to commence work, we were better known, and were even treated to a band of music (!) along with scrolls and crackers, and had about 200 guests, from the district magistrate down to our poor neighbours.
" The first year we pegged away, preaching and dispensing daily, and also conducting religious services, and, while thousands heard, at the end of the year we had not a single professed ' inquirer'. In our second year we added a school, and so completed the trio of the usual branches of our work, viz.: evangelistic, educational and medical. The school, besides bringing under our influence the jolly little lads, also helped us to win a way to the adults. In no country is the teacher and the scholar held in greater respect than in China. As an attempt to reach scholars of more mature years, we once spent a whole night at the doors of the county examination hall, distributing Gospels and tracts to the hundreds of students as they came away from their essays. During that year we were often threatened by the Yu Man Tsz rebels, who were pledged to kill or drive out of the country all foreigners, and when at last the magistrate told us he could not guarantee further protection, and begged us to withdraw for a time, we reluctantly did so. It transpired afterwards that our boat was followed for some distance by those who thought to do us mischief, but our Father's protecting arms were round about us, and we escaped in safety. At that time the rebels had a French priest in captivity, held at ransom. They afterwards rioted at T'ai Ho Chen, but did not visit Se Hung.
"It was during that year of trial that we enrolled several inquirers, some of whom are members to-day. The school had a good attendance and our meetings were fairly well attended also. A mothers' meeting, conducted by my wife, was quite a feature of the work. Fifty or sixty women would come together weekly, and sit for hours talking with my wife who had no Christian woman helper at that time ; then they would listen attentively while I gave an address, for which they invariably expressed their thanks. Then a cool-off in the shade of the garden, with sips of tea, or the musical box and picture books would fill up till dusk. It is not easy to measure the results of such work, but there can be no doubt that the seeds sown have borne, and will yet bear fruit.
A, W. Davidson Beaten.
“ It was about this time also that I first visited Chin Fu Wan, twenty miles distant from Se Hung, at the request of people residing there. In those days it was hard to gain an entrance in country towns. We were mostly regarded with a kind of superstitious awe, and the general opinion seemed to be that it was best to leave us severely alone. To meet therefore with a dozen men, ignorant of what the Gospel is, and to whom the name of Christ conveyed no meaning, but who evidently desired to learn was very encouraging ; and, when their pipes were reverently laid aside, and attempts were made to follow the hymn or prayer, or the simple yet searching questions of a Christian catechism, one felt it was good to be there, and well worth the day’s journey to meet with them. For two years we visited, and held meetings at an inn, and then we secured premises, and this out-station has steadily held its place, though not long ago most of the houses of our adherents were destroyed by ‘Boxers.’
" In our third year we began work at Kwan Yin Koa, and also opened a day school in the city of T'ung ChVan. It was a cause for rejoicing to have actually gained a footing in the city, after R. J. Davidson's experiences long before. An attempt was made to annoy us, and the magistrate acted rudely, for which he afterwards apologised, and became a friend who insisted on my accepting hospitality as his guest during a later visit. He also gave a donation of about £13 to the mission.
" In 1899, A. W. Davidson came to reside at Se Hung and, after a few months' study, he attempted a visit to neighbouring markets, at one of which, named Yu Lung Chen, he was attacked and severely beaten. He was selling books in a temple yard when the horse-play began, and on retiring to his inn a crowd followed. He then made haste out of the town, but was pursued, and not knowing the way, was overtaken; so excited was the mob that but for God's restraining hand he might have been killed there. In consequence of his injuries we took him to Chungking, and later on he returned home for rest.
" We were now appointed to live at T'ung Ch'wan, and took up residence there early in 1900, not without regrets at leaving the pretty little city of Se Hung, and the friends there. That station has since been in charge of a native helper.
"There was not much difficulty in entering upon work at T'ung Ch'wan. The officials visited us freely, and the people came around as we opened a dispensary and held meetings for worship in a very dilapidated chapel made out of unused small rooms. Our friends rallied from a distance to give us a good start-off, some of them travelling fifty miles each way, and bringing with them a silken banner, to express their good wishes. One old woman hobbled on her little feet over thirty miles in her anxiety to be present. Admirable determination and perseverance crop up at times in the Chinese character, especially in those converted.
“ Just as the work appeared to be taking root, the 'Boxer' outbreak occurred in the North, and an urgent message from Chungking advised us to leave at once. Things seemed so quiet locally that at first we decided to stay on, but a recall from our Consul following, we had reluctantly to hasten away. Notwithstanding the surface quietness, the terrible edict had already gone forth that all foreigners were to be exterminated. Hundreds of us in the interior were saved as by a miracle, by the action of a few brave Chinese ministers who dared to ignore the wicked command, and two of whom were reported to have deliberately altered the message into one of protection, and suffered death for their noble action.
“ It was in this hour of peril and trying separation that we realised how much we loved the people and were beloved by them. We parted amidst honest tears of sorrow, and with feelings too sacred for words, and we blessed God as we felt that the work of the past had been worthwhile, and He had undoubtedly been working in our midst.
'' It may be mentioned here that, though the province of Sz-Chwan was evacuated by missionaries, the ‘Boxer’ outbreak did not extend so far, and the natives left in charge were generally found faithful in keeping the work together until the missionaries were able to return. Including a visit to England, we were absent from T'ung Ch'wan about eighteen months.
“ For part of that time R. J. Davidson had given some over-sight by visits from Chungking, and at one period there seemed to be a considerable movement towards Christianity, but it was only a passing wave, and was too largely mixed up with selfish interest to produce much lasting result. One good result, however, was the opening of work in Yen T'ing Hsien, by a native, without any help or influence directly from a missionary.
“ When R.J. Davidson paid a visit to that city he found regular meetings for preaching and worship being conducted, and evidence of real conversion, at least in the owner of the house, K'ang Sao Fu, a man who is now one of our trusty helpers.
" In the spring of 1902, we were reinforced by the arrival of Mira L. Cumber and Dr. Lucy E. Harris, the latter being our first qualified medical missionary in China. They took up residence near our house, and the dispensary was transferred to their premises. A Girls' School was commenced, and work amongst women was extended. Both departments of work grew and prospered, especially the Girls' School. Better premises became needful, and a Ladies' Residence, a Women's Hospital and Girls' Boarding School have been erected.*
"Unfortunately we were much hindered during 1902 by the local ‘Boxer ' rising, which for several months was a grave danger to our lives. Five of our out-stations were attacked, and two of them completely destroyed; one of our adherents was killed, and many lost their homes and possessions. We were brought into the fellowship of their sufferings, as stragglers -men and women -found their way to us, footsore and weary, having been hounded about for days and weeks, turned out and reviled by their nearest relatives and friends on account of their faith.
" Our city became so surrounded that we could not have left it if we had wished, and at last a night attack was made, when we heard the unearthly yells of the ' Boxers ' threatening destruction to us, and we saw the cannon belching out fire as the attack was repulsed by the soldiers and citizens. For months these latter kept guard every night on the walls.
* The Girls' Boarding School was opened in February, and the Women's Hospital in July, 1905.
" Our work came almost to a standstill, as people feared to be identified with us ; but the refugees from the country stations kept us busy, and we had some inspiring meetings during those times of persecution. There was much bloodshed and wanton destruction all around, yet we were kept in safety, and were conscious of the protecting arm of our Heavenly Father around us. In the midst of it all, while loud were the threats of destruction, we kept steadily at work building larger premises, and when the rebellion was crushed, and the leaders were being executed or cast into prison, we exchanged our cramped little chapel for one four times as large, which we sometimes had quite full of people.* In the country too we made extensions after the persecution, and while we had regretfully to close up Kwan Yin Koa, and lost a few loosely-attached adherents, we took larger premises at no less than five of our out-stations.
" Before the outbreak a visit had been paid to P'ung Ch'i Hsien, and a work opened there, so that we had glimmerings of light in all the walled cities of our district. From P'ung Ch'i we extended to Hsiao T'ung Ch'ang and Yü Ch'i K'ou,-two market towns in the neighbourhood, where the work seems promising at present. Our great need is for faithful native helpers to take charge of the country work, and build up the Church with oversight from the missionary. Only in this way can we ever expect to reach and influence the masses around us.
"With the object of trying to meet this need, we have at times taken a few young men into residence, instructed them more fully, and given them practical training as helpers. This is a branch which is likely to be more developed amongst us.
"No account of the work in and around T'ung Ch' wan would be complete without a hearty word of appreciation respecting the native helpers who have shared the toil with us, and enabled us to undertake much more than we should ever have done without them. While not men of marked ability, some of them have shown a devotion and faithfulness which has been very gratifying. Foremost stands Mei Chi Hsiu, who has been with me from the beginning, first as language teacher, and then as general helper. He applied for membership during our first journey together, and has for years been a worthy member of the Society of Friends. When riots have driven us away, he has held the fort, and has won a respected name in the locality. Being the son of a magistrate, he gains ready acceptance with all classes, and is withal a humble man. His son Mei Ch'wan San came with us as a boy of twelve, and has developed into a useful young man who can give a very thoughtful address, and can be relied upon for honest and good work in visiting the out-stations. Four or five more who have been gleaned from this station are now helping in various branches, and their stories may be told at some future time. May the number of such greatly increase !
* See illustration on p. 195.
" Such is the general survey of the work during the last decade, until the time of the visit of the Deputation from the F.F.M.A., consisting of the Secretary, (Dr. William Wilson,) Albert J, Crosfield, and Marshall N. Fox, who visited China in 1903-4 with the object, in a time of unparalleled opportunity, of ex tending Friends' Mission there. now be classed under heads, as follows : -
"Evangelistic, -from entering upon virgin soil, we have seen spring up a small yet promisingMonthly Meeting of sixteen members and over 300 adherents in various stages of advancement. Religions meeting have been established in five cities and as many towns, and at most of these there is frequent preaching of the Gospel to passers-by. In 'Fung Ch'wan city, besides regular preaching at the street chapel, a bookstall has been opened for the sale of Scriptures and tracts and wholesome literature generally. A colporteur has regularly worked our district, and by various agencies at least 2,000 Testaments have been circulated, besides many thousands of Gospel portions and tracts.
" Regular classes for instruction are held for both men and women, and visits are paid to homes, especially in the suburbs of Tung Ch'wan, by Mira L. Cumber. A Society of Christian Endeavour has been established for some months. A few young men have been in training for evangelistic work, and Esther I. Mason and Mira L. Cumber have each had one or two women under special instruction as prospective helpers.
'' Statistics do not fully represent the extent of Christian influence. God, who has opened the doors before us, and who has supplied our every need, and again manifested His power through imperfect instrumentalities, is doubtless working still in ways and places that we know not of.
" Educational, -A beginning was made in 1898 at Se Hung with about forty boys ; many of them were bright little fellows who will possibly retain all through life pleasant impressions of those days, -especially the times out of school, when we had our games in the garden and got very near to one another. Perhaps deeper lessons will ‘stick’ better because of those romps ! At any rate the missionary is not feared as a child-eater by those lads.
School Work in T'ung Ck'wan.
" At Tung Ch'wan the Boys' School was the first branch of our work, as it was begun before we went to reside there, and one pleasant recollection of our entry into that city is of a string of merry lads coming to meet us with crackers, and then taking up procession with us through the streets. During the evacuation of 1900 the local teacher left from fear, and numbers dropped, but Mr. Mei kept the school open, and it is now in good premises and consists of nearly fifty scholars. Some of these are sons of country Christians whom we have taken as boarders. Besides more or less of the Chinese classics, our scholars always study the Scriptures, and memorise many portions. Worship is conducted every day, and Sunday attendance at meetings is expected. Text books on the lines of Western education are used, and geography and arithmetic, physiology and drilling have all been taught. A few of the older boys have learnt a little English from Esther L. Mason, and some of the girls from Mira L. Cumber.
" The Girls' School was commenced in 1902 by Mira L. Cumber. It had only about eight scholars the first year, but the following year there were thirty, and now nearly double that number, including boarders. There has recently been a movement among them in the direction of unbinding feet. They study much the same subjects as the boys, and many of them are bright and intelligent.
" The Se Hung Boys' School was discontinued for some time, but is now in full swing again with thirty scholars, and so also is the one at T'ai Ho Chen with about the same number.
" Thus about 170 .scholars are under Christian instruction and influence and, as they take home their books and no doubt talk of what they hear and see, there is surely a leavening influence carried into many families unknown to us.
" Medical. --The medical work gained our first entry into the district, and it has always been a valuable adjunct to the other branches. With our travelling medicine boxes and rough and ready means, large numbers of patients were attended to in the early days, and when we left Yang Tao Ch'i and settled at Se Hung, the Dispensary was part of our daily work.
" I would add my testimony to the many already given as to the value of such work judiciously carried on. Prejudices have been broken down and confidence won, while the relief of suffering has often called forth real gratitude. Surely such efforts are ever a ‘ preparation of the Gospel of peace.‘ ‘There is no speech nor language ' where the voice of kind actions is not understood and appreciated.
" At T'ung Ch'wan we opened a dispensary and, before the evacuation and our furlough, we had many patients daily â€” ^as many women as men coming without any apparent hesitation. One does not hear of Chinese women doctors, so female sufferers perforce go to men for treatment, and, this being the natural order, I have never found difficulty in general dispensary practice. But better things were in store, and in 1902 Dr. Lucy E. Harris took charge of the medical work, and I was glad to let my ' quackery ' give place to trained skill. Dr. Harris has seen a large number of patients, chiefly women, but including many men and boys. She has a small hospital for in-patients, with the prospect of a useful future.'*
The latest developments in Friends' Northern District are resultant on the visit of the F.F.M.A. Deputation, involving the opening of two new centres, as well as the erection of enlarged premises at T'ung Ch'wan. Dr. W. Henry and Laura A. Davidson have settled in this last-named city, and it is expected that the further development of the medical branch will prove a great help to the building up of the general work.
One of the new centres is Chentu, the capital of the province. Mission work has been carried on there for over twenty years by other societies, but it is such a large city that there is ample room for the F.F.M.A. to share in the labour. Robert J. and Mary J. Davidson have opened the work for Friends there and are to be joined by Dr. Henry T. and Elizabeth J. Hodgkin. Dr. Hodgkin is already well known through his work in connection with the S.V.M.U.
The other new centre, Sui-ling Hsien, is situated between T'ung Ch'wan and Chungking. The Methodist Episcopal Mission has been established there for a few years and has done good work, amid many difficulties. Isaac and Esther L. Mason now reside there, buildings have been erected, a street-chapel opened, and a day school with thirty boys and girls established. Edward B. and Margaret Vardon have taken up work at T'ung Ch'wan. The first work of the former was the building of the new Girls' School and Women's Hospital. This Hospital for Women has since been completed and, in July, 1905, was formally opened in the presence of the officials and gentry of the City. The School was finished and occupied in February, 1905. Ten years ago the T'ung Ch'wan area was barren, stony ground, with no missionary. Now, including Chentu, the Friends' Foreign Mission Association has twelve missionaries in this Northern District. For this we thank God ; but we cannot forget the large area and the population of the field committed to us, which calls for still more labourers, and for the continued prayer and support of the Church at home.