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News from the USCCA and the church in China

Real Lives of Real Missionaries: Timothy Richard (1845-1919)

On April 30, 2020, Prof. Andrew Kaiser shared his reflections on the life of Timothy Richard. Richard was a unique and inspired Baptist missionary who went to China from Wales in the late nineteenth century. Sometimes hailed as the Protestant Matteo Ricci, he came to China as a young man and immersed himself in its social life, its hopes and its struggles.

A video of Professor Kaiser's lecture and additional resources on the life of Timothy Richard are provided below.

About Timothy Richard

As a young man, Timothy Richard set out from his native rural Wales to bring the Gospel to a distant land. He joined the English Baptist Missionary Society and arrived in China in 1870.

Over the next 45 years, Richards fell in love with his new land and new people. While shared the Gospel that had changed his own life, he touched and inspired many others. One of his early responsibilities was to organize relief during the devastating North China Famine (1876–1878). He later directed the Christian Literature Society for China, which introduced some of China’s best and brightest scholars to perspectives that aided China’s development as it engaged with modernity. During the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, Richards got local missionary societies to agree to set aside exorbitant compensation claims and instead accept funding from local governments to establish the Imperial University of Shanxi, one of the first modern universities in China.

A young idealist who persevered into old age, Richard changed others and was changed in turn. Yet the core commitment of his life never wavered: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What can we learn today from this missionary and friend of China - “one of the greatest missionaries whom any branch of the Church, whether Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, or Protestant, has sent to China” (Kenneth Scott Latourette, noted scholar of Christianity in China at Yale University).

About Andrew Kaiser

Our speaker, Andrew Kaiser, is author of Encountering China: The Evolution of Timothy Richard's Missionary Thought (1870 – 1891) (Pickwick Publications, 2019). He received his Ph.D. from the

University of Edinburgh. his recent publications also include The Rushing on of the Purposes of God: Christian Missionaries in Shanxi since 1876 (Pickwick Publications, 2016).

Kaiser is a frequently requested international public speaker. He and his family have been living in Shanxi province since 1997, serving the community through professional work and public benefits.

the presentation

additional resources: Books on Timothy Richard

Encountering China: The Evolution of Timothy Richard’s Missionary Thought (1870–1891) (Pickwick Publications 2019) by Andrew T. Kaiser

The great historian of Christian missions, Kenneth Scott Latourette, writes that Timothy Richard (1845-1919) was widely regarded as "one of the greatest missionaries whom any branch of the Church, whether Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, or Protestant, has sent to China." In this volume, Andrew Kaiser provides a welcome exploration of the life and ministry of this remarkable Welsh Baptist missionary to China As the first critical examination of Richard's missionary identity, this groundbreaking historical study traces the narrative of Richard's early life in Wales and his formative first two decades of service in China. Richard's adaptations to the common evangelistic techniques of his day, his interest in learning from grassroots Chinese sectarian religions, his integration of evangelism and famine relief during the North China Famine (1876-79), his strategic decision to evangelize Chinese elites, and his complicated relationships with Hudson Taylor and other China missionaries are all explored through the writings and personal letters of Richard and his contemporaries. The resulting portrait represents a significant revision to existing interpretations of this influential China missionary, emphasizing his deep empathy for the people of China and his abiding evangelical identity. Readable and relevant, Encountering China provides a new generation with an introduction to this lost legend of China mission.

Timothy Richard’s Vision: Education and Reform in China, 1880–1910 (Pickwick Publications 2014) by Eunice Johnson

Pioneer missionary Timothy Richard served forty-five years in China, where he became a household name among educated Chinese. In 1880, he first articulated a vision for the modern Chinese university as the basis for overall progress in China. By the mid-1890s, many Chinese scholars and officials began to embrace his expanding vision and approach to reform. In the devastating aftermath of the 1900 Boxer Uprising, he worked with Protestant missionaries and Chinese authorities to have reparations dedicated to the founding of the Imperial University of Shansi (now Shanxi University). Overseen by Richard and the provincial governor as joint chancellors, it included both Chinese and Western Learning Departments. Eunice Johnson’s touching account reveals the fervor of Richard’s dedication to China and the Gospel, and it helps lay bare the contribution he made to many aspects of China’s modernization.

additional resources: Books by Timothy Richard

The New Testament of Higher Buddhism

(T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh 1910)

Timothy Richard was an ambassador between cultures. Not only did he bring his own Christian faith to China. He also helped make the links between Christian and Chinese wisdom available to people in the West. In this volume, Richard argues, in a sense, that the current encounter between Christianity and the East is not the first, but that in the century after Christ, the encounter between Christians and Buddhists had already taken place in Central Asia. The dialogue had begun long before Europeans showed up on the shores of China.

You can access this book of Richard’s reflections in PDF form here.


This event was part of a collaborative public lecture series, “Exploring Christianity and Culture in China: Today and Yesterday,” cohosted by ChinaSource, the US-China Catholic Association, and the China Academic Consortium.


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