This guide was last updated in 2009

Although the first Protestant missionary to reach China, Robert Morrison, arrived there in 1807, China remained largely closed to foreigners until the 1840s.

However, the Treaty of Nanking signed in 1842, at the close of the First Opium War, opened up five Treaty Ports of Amoy (Xiamen), Canton (Guangzhou), Foochow, Ningpo (Ningbo) and Shanghai. A further 11 ports were opened up to Western merchants and other residents, including missionaries, in 1860, at the end of the Second Opium War.

For the first time, travel in the interior was to be permitted with local authorities required to protect Westerners. The numbers of missionaries in China began to rise with most British missionary societies sending agents there. It was the founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM), James Hudson Taylor who probably more than anyone else brought home to Christians in the West the needs of a country where “a million a month… are dying without God” in his China’s Spiritual Need and Claims, published in 1865.

The CIM became the largest of all Christian missions operating in China, recruiting at every level of British society, forming branches in Continental Europe and North America and, in 1880, establishing a boarding school at Chefoo (Yantai) to provide an English education for the children of missionaries and other Westerners in China.

In 1900 the Boxer Rising occurred when there were horrific attacks on, and massacres of, Chinese Christians and Western missionaries in many provinces. Following the defeat of the rebels, Christian missionary efforts intensified and China became the premier field for missionary efforts, both Protestant and Catholic.

While American missionaries dominated in terms of numbers and financial resources, British missionaries were at work in all parts of China. Between 1949 and 1951 it all came to an end when the Communists came to power and all missionaries had to leave mainland China.

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