Hudson Taylor

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James Hudson Taylor

Missionary to China
Born May 21, 1832
Barnsley, Yorkshire, England
Died June 3, 1905
Changsha, Hunan, China
Education Royal College of Surgeons
Parents James Taylor
Amelia Hudson

Hudson & Maria Taylor in 1865

James Hudson Taylor ??? (May 21, 1832June 3, 1905), was a British Protestant Christian missionary to China, and founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM) (now OMF International). Taylor spent 51 years in China. The society that he began was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country who began 125 schools[1] and directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 local helpers in all eighteen provinces[2].

Taylor was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and zeal for evangelism. He adopted wearing native Chinese clothing even though this was rare among missionaries of that time. Under his leadership, the CIM was singularly non-denominational in practice and accepted members from all Protestant groups, including individuals from the working class and single women as well as multinational recruits. Primarily because of the CIM's campaign against the Opium trade, Taylor has been referred to as one of the most significant Europeans to visit China in the 19th Century.[3] Historian Ruth Tucker summarizes the theme of his life:

“No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor [4]


Youth and early work

Hudson Taylor at age 21
Hudson Taylor at age 21
Hudson Taylor worked at Dr. Hardey's residence in Hull (top) and lived in the near poverty of Drainside
Hudson Taylor worked at Dr. Hardey's residence in Hull (top) and lived in the near poverty of Drainside

Taylor was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, the son of a "chemist" (pharmacist) and Methodist lay preacher James Taylor and his wife, Amelia (Hudson), but as a young man he moved away from the Christian beliefs of his parents. At seventeen, after reading an evangelistic tract pamphlet, he professed faith in Christ, and in December 1849, he committed himself to going to China as a missionary.

Taylor was able to borrow a copy of "China: Its State and Prospects" by Walter Henry Medhurst, which he quickly read. About this time, he began studying the languages of Mandarin, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.

In 1851, he moved to a poor neighborhood in Kingston upon Hull to be a medical assistant with Dr. William Hardey, and began preparing himself for a life of faith and service, devoting himself to the poor and exercising faith that God would provide for his needs. He practiced distributing gospel tracts and open-air preaching among the poor.

In 1852 he began studying medicine at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London, as preparation for working in China. The great interest awakened in England about China through the civil war, which was then erroneously supposed to be a mass movement toward Christianity, together with the glowing but exaggerated reports made by Karl Gützlaff concerning China's accessibility, led to the founding of the Chinese Evangelization Society, to the service of which Hudson Taylor offered himself as their first missionary.


First visit to China

Hudson Taylor traveled by boat around the canals and waterways of China, preaching and distributing Bibles
Hudson Taylor traveled by boat around the canals and waterways of China, preaching and distributing Bibles

Taylor left England on September 19, 1853 before completing his medical studies, arriving in Shanghai, China, on March 1, 1854. The nearly disastrous voyage aboard the clipper Dumfries through an Easterly passage near Pulau Buru lasted about five months. In China, he was immediately faced with civil war, throwing his first year there into turmoil.

Taylor made 18 preaching tours in the vicinity of Shanghai starting in 1855, and was often poorly received by the people, even though he brought with him medical supplies and skills. He made a decision to adopt the native Chinese clothes and Queue (pigtail) with shaven forehead, however, and was then able to gain an audience without creating a disturbance. Previous to this, Taylor realized that wherever he went he was being referred to as a "black devil" because of the overcoat that he wore. He distributed thousands of Chinese Gospel tracts and portions of Scripture in and around Shanghai. During his stay in Shanghai he also adopted and cared for a Chinese boy named Hanban.

Scottish evangelist, William C. Burns, of the English Presbyterian Mission began work in Shantou, and for a period Taylor joined him there. After leaving he later found that all of his medical supplies, being stored in Shanghai, had been destroyed by a fire. Then in October 1856, while traveling across China he was robbed of nearly everything he owned.

Relocated in Ningbo by 1857, Taylor received a letter from a supportive George Müller which led to Taylor and his co-worker John Jones deciding to resign from the problematic mission board which had sent them, and instead work independently in what came to be called the "Ningpo Mission". Four Chinese men joined them in their work: Ni Yongfa, Fang Nenggui, Wang Laijun, and Qiu Guogui.

In 1858, Taylor married Maria Jane Dyer, the orphaned daughter of the Rev. Samuel Dyer of the London Missionary Society, who had been a pioneer missionary to the Chinese in Penang, Malaysia[5]. Hudson met Maria in Ningbo where she lived and worked at a school for girls which was run by one of the first female missionaries to the Chinese, Mary Ann Aldersey.

As a married couple the Taylors took care of an adopted boy named Tianxi while living in Ningbo. They had a baby of their own that died late in 1858. Their first surviving child, Grace, was born in 1859. Shortly after she was born, the Taylors took over all of the operations at the hospital in Ningbo that had been run by Dr. William Parker. In a letter to his sister Amelia Hudson Taylor he wrote in February 14, 1860,

If I had a thousand pounds China should have it- if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?

Because of health problems, in 1860 Taylor decided to return to England for a furlough with his family. The Taylors sailed back to England aboard the tea clipper Jubliee along with their daughter, Grace and a young man,Wang Laijun, from the Bridge Street church in Ningbo, who would help with the Bible translation work that would continue in England.


Family and China Inland Mission

Hudson Taylor was almost killed in Shanghai during the civil war.
Hudson Taylor was almost killed in Shanghai during the civil war.

Taylor used his time in England to continue his work, in company with Frederick Foster Gough of the Church Missionary Society translating the New Testament into a Romanized Ningbo dialect for the British and Foreign Bible Society. He completed his diploma (and a course in midwifery) at the Royal London Hospital with the Royal College of Surgeons in 1862, and with Maria's help, wrote a book called "China's Spiritual Need and Claims" in 1865 which was instrumental in generating sympathy for China and volunteers for the mission field, who began to go out in 1862, the first being James Joseph Meadows. In the book Taylor wrote:

Oh, for eloquence to plead the cause of China, for a pencil dipped in fire to paint the condition of this people.

He traveled extensively around the British Isles speaking at churches and promoting the needs of China. At home in the East End of London he also ministered at Newgate Prison. During this time he became friends with Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle and became a life-long supporter of Taylor. Also, the Taylor's hosted the young Thomas John Barnardo at their house as a potential missionary candidate between 1865-1866.

Hudson Taylor alone at night is searched by a thief.
Hudson Taylor alone at night is searched by a thief.

Their second child, a son, was born in London, Herbert, in 1861. More children were born to the Taylors in 1862 Frederick, in 1864 Samuel, and in 1865 Jane- who died at birth.

On June 25, 1865, at Brighton, Taylor definitely dedicated himself to God for the founding of a new society to undertake the evangelization of the "unreached" inland provinces of China. He founded the China Inland Mission together with William Thomas Berger shortly thereafter. In less than one year, they had accepted 24 missionaries and raised over £2000 (about £130,000 in 2007 terms). In early 1866 Taylor published the first edition of the "Occasional Paper of the China Inland Mission" which later became "China's Millions".

The following summary by Taylor came to be held as the core values of the CIM in what would come to be a classic description of future faith missions:

Object. The China Inland Mission was formed under a deep sense of China s pressing need, and with an earnest desire, constrained by the love of CHRIST and the hope of His coming, to obey His command to preach the Gospel to every creature. Its aim is, by the help of GOD, to bring the Chinese to a saving knowledge of the love of GOD in CHRIST, by means of itinerant and localised work throughout the whole of the interior of China.

Character. The Mission is Evangelical, and embraces members of all the leading denominations of Christians.

Methods. Methods somewhat unusual and peculiar were adopted for working the newly-proposed organisation. It was determined :

1. That duly qualified candidates for missionary labour should be accepted without restriction as to denomination, provided there was soundness in the faith in all fundamental truths.

2. That all who went out as Missionaries should go in dependence upon God for temporal supplies, with the clear understanding that the Mission did not guarantee any income whatever ; and knowing that, as the Mission would not go into debt, it could only minister to those connected with it as the funds sent in from time to time might allow.

Support. The Mission is supported entirely by the free-will offerings of the Lord's people. The needs of the work are laid before God in prayer, no personal solicitations or collections being authorised. No more is expended than is thus received, going into debt being considered inconsistent with the principle of entire dependence upon God.[6]

On May 26, 1866, after over five years of working in England, Taylor and family set sail for China with their new missions team "the Lammermuir Party" aboard the tea clipper Lammermuir. A four-month voyage was considered speedy at the time. While in the South China Sea and also the Pacific Ocean the ship was nearly wrecked but survived 2 typhoons. They arrived safely in Shanghai on September 30, 1866.

The Lammermuir Party included 16 missionaries and the Taylors' 4 children.
The Lammermuir Party included 16 missionaries and the Taylors' 4 children.


Return to China

The arrival of the largest party of missionaries ever sent to China - as well as their intent to be dressed in native clothing - gave the foreign settlement in Shanghai much to talk about and some criticism began for the young China Inland Mission. The party donned Chinese clothing, notwithstanding - even the women missionaries - which was deemed semi-scandalous at the time. When other missionaries sought to preserve their British ways, Taylor was convinced that the Gospel would only take root in Chinese soil if missionaries were willing to affirm the culture of the people they were seeking to reach. He argued, from the example of the Apostle Paul, “Let us in everything not sinful become like the Chinese, that by all means we may save some.”

They traveled down the Grand Canal of China to make the first settlement in the war-torn city of Hangzhou. Another daughter was born to them in China (Maria Hudson Taylor). Taylor began practicing much sought-after medical work and preaching every day under an exhausting schedule. Hundreds came to hear and be treated.

Conflicts within the Lammermuir team limited their effectiveness, but when Taylor's daughter Grace died of meningitis in 1867, they united for a time and sorted out their discord after witnessing Taylor place the cares of his fellow missionaries above even the concern that he had for his ailing daughter.


Riot in Yangzhou

In 1868 the Taylors took a party of missionaries up to Yangzhou to start a new work. But problems continued in 1868, when their mission premises were attacked, looted and burned during the Yangzhou riot. Despite the violence and injuries, no one was killed. Unfortunately, the international outrage at the Chinese for the attack on these British nationals (and the subsequent arrival of the British Navy) caused also the China Inland Mission and Taylor to be criticised in the British press for almost starting a war. Taylor never requested military intervention, but some voices in the British Parliament called for "the withdrawal of all missionaries from China". However, the Taylors returned to Yangzhou later that year, to continue in the work and many converts to Christianity were made.

In 1869 Hudson was influenced by a book called "Christ Is All" by Stephen H. Tyng given to him by a fellow missionary. He referred to his new understanding of abiding in Christ for the rest of his life. He was quoted by fellow missionary Charles Henry Judd as saying: ”Oh, Mr. Judd, God has made me a new man!”


Loss of Maria

Chart showing Taylor's descendants (click to enlarge)
Chart showing Taylor's descendants (click to enlarge)


In 1868 Maria brought another child, Charles into the Taylor family, and in 1870, Taylor and his wife made the difficult decision to send their older three surviving children (Bertie, Freddie, and Maria - Samuel died earlier that year) home to England with Miss Emily Blatchley. In July, Noel was born, though he died of malnutrition and deprivation two weeks later due to Maria's inability to nurse him. Maria herself died several days later, with the official cause of death being cholera. Her death shook Taylor deeply, and in 1871, his own health began deteriorating further, leading to his return to England later that year to recuperate and take care of business items.


Continued work

Hudson Taylor married Jennie Faulding in 1871.
Hudson Taylor married Jennie Faulding in 1871.

Back in England, Taylor was married to Jane Elizabeth Faulding who had been a fellow missionary since 1866. Hudson and "Jennie" returned to China in late 1872 aboard the MM Tigre. They were in Nanjing when Jennie gave birth to stillborn twins - a boy and a girl in 1873. Two years later, the Taylors were forced to return once again to England because of the death of the mission secretary and their children's caretaker, Emily Blatchley.

During the winter of 1874 and 1875 Taylor was practically paralyzed from a fall he had taken on a river boat while in China. In this state of crippling physical hindrance, Taylor confidently published an appeal for 18 new workers to join the work. When he did recover his strength, Jennie remained with the children, (including a new son & daughter Ernest & Amy, as well as the orphaned daughter of fellow missionary George Duncan) and in 1876 Hudson Taylor returned to China and the 18 requested missionaries followed him. Meanwhile, in England, the work of General Secretary of the China Inland Mission was done by Benjamin Broomhall, who had married Hudson's sister, Amelia.

It was at this time that Hudson's evangelical work in England profoundly affected various members of the famous cricketing Studd family, resulting in three of the brothers converting and becoming deeply religious themselves; one of them, Charles Studd (the famous England Ashes cricketer) himself became a missionary to China along with fellow Cambridge University converts, known as the Cambridge Seven.

From 1876-1877 Taylor traveled throughout inland China, opening missions stations. This was made possible by the September 13, 1876 signing of the Chefoo Convention, a settlement between Britain and China that made it possible for missionary work to take place legally in inland China. In 1878, Jennie returned to China and began working to promote female missionary service there. By 1881 there were 100 missionaries in the CIM.

Hudson Taylor about 1885.
Hudson Taylor about 1885.

Taylor returned to England in 1883 to recruit more missionaries speak of China's needs, and returned to China, working now with a total of 225 missionaries and 59 churches. In 1887 their numbers increased by another 102 with The Hundred missionaries, and in 1888, Taylor brought 14 missionaries from the United States. In the USA he traveled and spoke at many places, including the Niagara Bible Conference where he befriended Cyrus Scofield and later Taylor filled the pulpit of Dwight Lyman Moody as a guest in Chicago. Moody and Scofield thereafter actively supported the work of the China Inland Mission of North America.

In 1897 Hudson & Maria's only surviving daughter, Maria- the wife of John Joseph Coulthard died in Wenzhou, leaving four little children and her missionary husband. She had been instrumental in leading many Chinese women to Christianity during her short life.


Boxer Crisis of 1900

News of the Boxer Rebellion and the resulting disruption of missionary work in 1900 distressed Taylor, even though it led to further interest in missions in the area and additional growth of his China Inland Mission. Though the CIM suffered more than any other mission in China (58 missionaries, 21 children were killed), Taylor refused to accept payment for loss of property or life, to show the ‘meekness and gentleness of Christ’. Though criticized by some, he was commended by the British Foreign Office, whose minister in Beijing donated £200 to the CIM, expressing his ‘admiration’ and sympathy. The Chinese were also touched by Taylor's attitude. [7]


Final years

Due to health issues, Taylor remained in Switzerland, semi-retired with his wife. In 1900, Dixon Edward Hoste was appointed the Acting General Director of the CIM, and in 1902, Taylor formally resigned. His wife, Jennie died of cancer in 1904 in Les Chevalleyres, Switzerland, and in 1905, Taylor returned to China for the eleventh and final time. There he visited Yangzhou and Zhenjiang and other cities, before dying suddenly while reading at home in Changsha. He was buried next to his first wife, Maria in Zhenjiang near the Yangtze River.

The small Protestant cemetery in Zhenjiang was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Red Guards in China as part of the Destruction of the Four Olds campaign. Today there are industrial buildings over the site. However, the marker for Hudson Taylor was stored away in a local museum for years. His great-grandson, Rev. James Hudson Taylor III (?????) found the marker and was able to help a local Chinese church re-erect it within their building in 1999.

His re-erected tombstone reads:

to the memory
the Rev.
J. Hudson Taylor,
the revered founder
the China Inland Mission.
Born May 21, 1832,
Died June 3, 1905
This monument is erected
by the missionaries of the China Inland Mission,
as a mark of their heartfelt esteem and love.



White Devil - a 2006 tribute to Taylor in the form of a manga book : The Legend of Hudson Taylor.
White Devil - a 2006 tribute to Taylor in the form of a manga book : The Legend of Hudson Taylor.

The beginning of "Faith missions" (the sending of missionaries with no promises of temporal support - but instead a reliance "through prayer to move Men by God") has had a wide impact among evangelical churches to this day. After his death, China Inland Mission gained the notable distinction of being the largest Protestant mission agency in the world. The biographies of Hudson Taylor inspired generations of Christians to follow his example of service and sacrifice. Notable examples are: missionary to India Amy Carmichael, Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Liddell, twentieth-century missionary and martyr Jim Elliot, founder of Bible Study Fellowship Audrey Wetherell Johnson, as well as international evangelists Billy Graham and Luis Palau.

Descendants of James Hudson Taylor continue his full-time ministry today in Chinese communities in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Rev. James Hudson Taylor III (?????) and his son, the Rev. James Hudson Taylor IV (?????), are now based in Hong Kong providing full-time Chinese ministries. The Rev. James Hudson Taylor IV married a Taiwanese woman, Ms. Kuo Yue-Min (???), the first Chinese member of the Taylor family.

"Hudson Taylor was, of the greatest missionaries of all time, and ... one of the four or five most influential foreigners who came to China in the nineteenth century for any purpose..." -Kenneth Scott Latourette
"More than any other human being, James Hudson Taylor, ….made the greatest contribution to the cause of world mission in the 19th century." -Ralph D. Winter
"He was ambitious without being proud ... He was biblical without being bigoted... He was catholic without being superficial ... He was charismatic without being selfish." -Arthur F. Glasser


Books Authored

Hudson Taylor in 1893
Hudson Taylor in 1893
  • New Testament in the Ningpo Dialect. Part 1 (1865)
  • China: Its Spriritual Need and Claims (1865)
  • China & the Chinese an address to the Young (1865)
  • Union and Communion (1893)
  • A Retrospect (1894)
  • After Thirty Years (1895)
  • Separation and Service (1898)
  • A Ribband of Blue (1899)

Many of his manuscripts and letters are now archived at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.



Taylor was raised in the Methodist tradition but in the course of his life he was a member of the Baptist Westbourne Grove Church pastored by William Garrett Lewis, and he also kept strong ties to the "Open Brethren" such as George Muller. In summary his theology and practice was non-sectarian.



Birth to Age 21 1832 to 1853

First Time in China 1854

Life in London 1860 to 1866

Return to China 1866 to 1871

Furlough and Remarriage 1871 to 1872

Third Time in China

Recovering in England 1874 to 1876

  • Sailed to England on furlough with Jennie, 30 August 1874. Arrived, 15 October 1874 in England
  • Winter. paralyzed 1874-1875 in London
  • An appeal for eighteen workers is published January 1875 in London
  • Ernest Hamilton Taylor born 7 January 1875 in 2 Pyrland Road, Islington
  • China's Millions Vol. 1, No. 1, published July 1875 in London
  • Amy H. Taylor born 7 April 1876 in Islington.

Fourth Time in China

Fifth Time in China

Sixth Time in China

Seventh Time in China

Eighth Time in China

Ninth Time in China

Tenth Time in China

Eleventh & Final Time in China




  1. ^ The Educational Directory for China (1905), p. 43
  2. ^ Christian Literature Society for China (1911), 281-282
  3. ^ Broomhall, Alfred James [1982]. Hudson Taylor & China's Open Century Volume One: Barbarians at the Gates. Hodder and Stoughton and Overseas Missionary Fellowship. 
  4. ^ TUCKER (1983), p. 73
  5. ^ Davies (1846)
  6. ^ Broomhall (1901), appendix
  7. ^ Broomhall, Marshall [1901]. Martyred Missionaries of the China Inland Mission with a record of the Perils and Sufferings of Some Who Escaped. London: Morgan and Scott. Retrieved on 2006-06-21. 


Further reading


External links

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