Canton, China: 1923. Envelope or Cover. Christian missions in China, despite their nearly non-existent success, faced periodic attacks almost since the first one was established in the mid-1800s and certainly since the Yangzhou Riot of 1867. The attacks reached a crescendo during the Boxer Rebellion when at least 189 Protestant missionaries and 500 native Chinese Protestant Christian were known to have been slaughtered in 1900 alone. However, after the Boxers were defeated, the “Golden Era” era of Chinese missions began almost immediately, and by 1920 over 8,000 missionaries were proselytizing throughout the country. However, an anti-tradition, anti-religion movement, known as New Thought, took hold amongst Chinese students and the intelligentsia toward the end of the first decade of the 20th century. Around 1920, this began to spread to the general population, and by 1922 a full-blown Anti-Christian Movement had developed among the non-Christian general Chinese population. It was during this period that the most horrific massacres of Christian missionaries occurred. Although no one was killed, the looting of the Shiu Hing Mission was among the first to occur.
Alveda Young, a brand-new young missionary was assigned to the Shiu Hing mission in 1920 where she joined two older associates and, in time, took over management of the mission school. By several quirks of fate, the two senior missionaries had to depart the mission, which left Alveda in charge when the station was attacked in February of 1923. Afterwards, she wrote a letter informing the American Consul in Canton of the incident and requesting assistance.
The Consul, R. P. Tenney, responded with a letter datelined “American Consular Service / Canton, May 21, 1923” which was sent to Ms. Young by registered mail in a Consular Service envelope franked with two Chinese 3-cent and one Chinese 5-cent stamps (Scott #s 205 and 207) which were canceled with circular Canton postmarks. An additional registration handstamp is on the front cover, and a Shiuhing receiving postmark is on the reverse. The envelope was sealed with two wax “U.S. Consulate Service / Canton, China” seals.
His letter reads in part:
“I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter . . . in regard to the looting of the Kwon To School. It is noted that the matter has been taken up locally with General Ngai Bong Ping . . . and it was arranged that a letter should be sent to you, addressed to General Ngai for presentation. . .. You will note that I am asking General Ngai to make full reparation and also administer punishment. . ..
“I have given a copy of the letter to the Commander of the South China Patrol, Commanding Officer of the HELENA, which is now at Canton. The Commander said that the PAMPANGA would proceed to Shiuhing. . .. She was at Shiuhing [and] it was understood that the Commanding Officer of the PAMPANGA endeavored to ascertain conditions [while there]. . ..”. Very good. Item #010156
Although badly shaken by the violence, Alveda remained at the mission until her father died unexpectedly in 1925, and she returned home to be with her family.
It is unrecorded whether the reparations were ever received by the mission or whether the attackers were ever punished.
The Anti-Christian Movement continued unabated until General Chang Kai-Shek converted to Methodism in 1927.
At the time fhis letter was written, General Nagai Bong Ping was an aide to Sun Yat-Sen, the first provisional president of the Republic of China and the first leader of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China). Later, he allied with Chang Wing-Ming, one of Sun Yat-Sen’s enemies. He served as the Police Commissioner for Canton.
No doubt, the Commander of the USS Pampanga, Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., had other personal issues on his mind. His wife, Wallis, had just rejoined him in China after a dalliance with an Argentine diplomat in Europe and upon arrival she became heavily involved with Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law. The Spencers returned to the United States in 1925 and divorced by 1927. Spencer quickly remarried, the second of five marriages. Wallis did as well; she married a shipping executive, Earnest Aldrich Simpson. In no time, Wallis Simpson found a new lover, Edward Prince of Wales, who abandoned two mistresses to cement his relationship with her. Edward became King Edward VIII when his father died in 1936, but after he watched the proclamation of his accession from a window in St. James Palace with the still-married Wallis visible at his side, the monarchy was thrown into turmoil. Edward abdicated the throne within the year.
(For more information, see “James Hudson Taylor” at the Wells of Grace website, Shan’s Triumph after Catastrophe: Church, State and Society in Post-Boxer China, Hodous’s “The Anti-Christian Movement in China” in the October 1930 issue of The Journal of Religion, the Yamamotos’ “The Anti-Christian Movement in China, 1922-1927” in February 1953 issue of The Far Eastern Quarterly, Griggs’s Margie Shumate: a Virginia Missionary's Experience in Asia, and various articles in the New York Times.)
A fascinating and scarce early testament to the Anti-Christian Movement that gripped China throughout the 1920s. At the time of listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade. The Rare Book Hub identifies nothing similar as having ever appeared at auction. OCLC identifies no similar items, however it is possible that some may be included in some of the missionary personal papers collections that are held by a number of institutions..