- China's Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832–1905, and: Across China's Gobi: The Lives of Evangeline French, Mildred Cable, and Francesca French of the China Inland Mission, and: Upstream Odyssey: An American in China, 1895–1944, and: Missions to China's Heartland: The Letters of Hazel Todd of the China Inland Mission, 1920–1941, and: A Foreign Missionary on the Long March: The Memoirs of Arnolis Hayman of the China Inland Mission
James Hudson Taylor, a diminutive—and, dare I say, Hobbit-like dynamo of a man—was the father, the soul, and the driving force of the China Inland Mission (CIM), one of the grandest and most ambitious, innovative, and original of nineteenth-century missionary organizations—Protestant or Catholic. His long and fascinating life of Christian service, career and the history of the unique and often controversial missionary organization of which he conceived—in a moment of personal, spiritual God-driven revelation—is an epic story. It is one that is told well by Alvyn Austin, perhaps the major present-day historian of the CIM. Austin's magnum opus, China's Millions, provides the reader with a deep insider/outsider understanding of a fascinating, somehow odd, and often difficult man and the rather unwieldy, octopus-like body that was and remains the life's work of Austin and his extended family. The organization that Hudson Taylor (as he is usually referred to) invented and then repeatedly redefined remains alive in the twenty-first [End Page 459] century, though now with a different and more inclusive name, the Overseas Mission Fellowship.
I begin this review with a brief history of the Protestant missionary enterprise in nineteenth-century Qing China as a means of setting the context for understanding just where the CIM fits into the expanding missionary presence in a now opened China—a China that has been planted by mainstream churches and interdenominational organizations. Thus, I set the stage for the CIM's initially unwelcome entry into an increasingly anti-Western China. Austin's powerful, well-written, often enlightening, honest, and at times frustrating, and yet beautiful, monster of study shows us that it was as much a part of religious change in the West as it was a body that would attempt unsuccessfully to transform Chinese spiritual consciousness.
Taylor put in place and directed from afar a focused body of Western missionaries. These missionaries served in all parts of that empire in the difficult decades of dynastic decline that followed the Opium War. Austin's book follows Hudson Taylor to his death.
The heroic, if misguided and ultimately tragic, epic of the CIM in pre-Communist China does not end in 1902. Thus, one must examine other, more narrowly focused, books on the CIM, books that cover key individuals and groups within the CIM who labored in China from 1905 to the early 1940s. Only then did CIM missionaries and the missionaries of most Western denominations leave a Japanese-controlled China torn by war. They were never to return—at least within formal church-related missionary bodies—to China, which was ravaged by...