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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 CIM
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Date(s): c1850-1999
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
View subfonds/series records
Extent: 161 boxes, 394 volumes
Name of creator(s): China Inland Mission
China Inland Mission Overseas Missionary Fellowship
Overseas Missionary Fellowship


Administrative/Biographical history:

The China Inland Mission (CIM) was officially set up in 1865 under the direction of the Rev James Hudson Taylor and William Thomas Berger. Refusing to appeal for funds but relying on unsolicited contributions, the goal of the China Inland Mission was the interdenominational evangelization of China's inland provinces. Missionaries were to have no guaranteed salary and were expected to become closely involved in the Chinese way of life. The first missionary party, including Taylor, left for China on the Lammermuir in May 1866. They reached Shanghai in September, and the first Mission base was established at Hangchow, Chekiang. Between 1866 and 1888, work was concentrated on the coastal provinces. In 1868 the headquarters moved to Yangchow, which was better situated for beginning work in the interior.

From its foundation, William Berger acted as Home Director while Taylor, as General Director, was in charge of the Mission's work in the field. Berger's retirement in 1872 led to administrative changes with the formation of the London Council to deal with home affairs. The role of the London Council was to process applications and send new recruits to China, promote the work of the Mission at home and receive financial contributions. The China Department was headed by the General Director, who was advised by the General Council composed of senior missionaries including the Superintendents of provincial districts.

The campaign to find volunteers was led by Taylor. He organised the departure of the popular 'Cambridge Seven' in 1886 and that of 'the Hundred' in 1888. In 1889, he was asked to address the Shanghai Missionary Conference, during which he made an appeal for 1,000 volunteers to join Chinese missions over the next five years. New recruits undertook a definite course of study and examination to become a missionary. Six months initial training covered Chinese language, geography, government, etiquette, religion and the communication of the Gospel. Trainees were then posted to an inland station where they were supervised by a senior missionary. After two years, successful candidates became junior missionaries, and after five years took responsibility for a station. Experienced missionaries were appointed over a number of districts within a province.

The China Inland Mission underwent considerable growth and development in the years leading up to 1934, which saw the peak of its activity. In 1866, there were 24 workers at 4 mission stations. By its Jubilee year in 1915, there were 1,063 workers at 227 stations and by 1934, 1,368 workers at 364 stations throughout China. The CIM also reached parts of Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet and Upper Burma. In 1873 the headquarters of the Mission moved to Shanghai. In 1881 a school was established at Chefoo for the children of missionaries. From its inception, women played a crucial role in the CIM. From 1878, amidst much public criticism, Taylor permitted single women to work in the mission field. By 1882, the CIM listed 56 wives of missionaries and 95 single women engaged in the ministry. The success of the CIM also led to the establishment of Home Councils outside China. By 1950, there were Home Councils in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire, Australia (1890), New Zealand (1894), South Africa (1943), Canada and the United States (North American Council established 1888), and Switzerland (1950). Several smaller missionary societies from Scandinavia and Germany also became connected with the CIM as associate missions.

The CIM began its work just as China was becoming more open to foreigners, but missionaries still had to overcome considerable hostility. The CIM was particularly badly hit by the massacres of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. The losses suffered during the Boxer Rebellion affected Taylor's health and he resigned officially in favour of D E Hoste in 1903. He died in 1905.

In the years following 1934, war and revolution led to a decline in the number of CIM missionaries in China. During the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), missionaries remained at their station where they could, caring for refugees and organising welfare camps. Many were sent to the internment camps in Shanghai and Yangchow. In 1942 the headquarters were evacuated from Shanghai to escape the Japanese army, and temporarily re-located to Chungking. Staff moved back to Shanghai in 1945. At that time the civil war between the Nationalist and Communist forces intensified. Following the Communist victory in 1949 there was mounting suspicion against foreign missionaries, who were labelled as "imperialist spies". In 1950 the General Director decided that further work in China was impossible and ordered all CIM missionaries to leave. In 1951 a temporary headquarters was established at Hong Kong to oversee the withdrawal. The last CIM missionaries left China in 1953.

The Mission directors met in Australia (Kalorama) to discuss the future of the CIM. Teams were appointed to survey the extent of the need of Chinese nationals outside China, particularly in South East Asia and Japan. At a conference held in Bournemouth, England, in November 1951, it was decided that the Mission should continue its work and missionaries were sent to new fields in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan (and later to Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong). New headquarters were established in Singapore and the name was changed to the China Inland Mission Overseas Missionary Fellowship. At a meeting of the Mission' Overseas Council held in October 1964, the name became the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). This acknowledged the additional need for work amongst non-Chinese nationals in the new fields of work. The structure of the Mission was altered so that non-western Christians could become full members and set up home councils in their own countries. Home Councils were subsequently established in Japan (1965), Malaysia (1965), Singapore (1965), Hong Kong (1966), the Philippines (1966), Germany (1967) and the Netherlands (1967). The General Director remained the head of the Mission, with the Overseas Director responsible for missionary activities in Asia, and Home Directors responsible for OMF activities in their own countries. Work retained a strong emphasis on evangelism, with support for literature programmes, medical services, linguistic work, student work and outreach. The OMF continues its work today.

Further reading: A J Broomhall, Hudson Taylor and China's Open Century (7 volumes, London, 1981-1989); G Guinness, The Story of the China Inland Mission (London, 1893); L Lyall, A Passion for the Impossible (London, 1965).


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the China Inland Mission (later the Overseas Missionary Fellowship), including the minutes of the London Council, 1872-1951; minutes of the Mission's China Council, 1886-1947, 1951; various publications including Chinese Missionary Gleaner, 1853-1859, China's Millions, 1875-1964, and Chinese Recorder, 1867-1933 (Ref: CIM);
Overseas Missionary Fellowship papers (Ref: CIM/OMF) for the post-1950 period;
substantial papers of the mission's founder, James Hudson Taylor (Ref: CIM/JHT), including some records, c1850-1860, of the Chinese Evangelization Society;
material, 1880-1999, relating to the Chefoo Schools (Ref: CIM/CSP), founded by Hudson Taylor, including registers of pupils and papers of the Chefoo Schools Association;
private papers (Ref: CIM/PP), comprising varied information on the lives of individual missionaries;
a large photographic collection (Ref: CIM/PHOTO), including the official records of the China Inland Mission and Overseas Missionary Fellowship, among them a series of photographs collected from missionaries in the field concerning medical work and scenes of life in China, Taiwan, Thailand and Tibet.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The collection has been arranged into six main sections: China Inland Mission (CIM); Overseas Missionary Fellowship papers (CIM/OMF); James Hudson Taylor papers (CIM/JHT); personal and private papers (of individual missionaries) (CIM/PP); Chefoo Schools and Chefoo Schools Association (CIM/CSP); and China Inland Mission photographs (CIM/PHOTO). Each section is sub-divided, with material arranged in chronological order or, in the case of the personal and private papers, by the names of individual missionaries.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlists in two volumes, part 1 listing written materials and part 2 listing photographs. Descriptions of the two sub-collections, papers of James Hudson Taylor and Chefoo School papers, and personal papers of A J Broomhall, Eric and Edith Liberty, Percy Cunningham Mather, Frederick Howard Taylor, W H Warren, and Henrietta Withers are also available online.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The headquarters of the China Inland Mission was in Shanghai, where a large volume of records accumulated, comprising extensive series of diaries and monthly letters written by missionaries, and quarterly accounts and statistical returns produced by senior missionaries from over 200 mission stations. Also held in Shanghai were records of mission properties in China, and other administrative records. It is probable that some of this documentation was diposed of once its utility had passed; disposal of records may also have occurred when the CIM premises moved from Wusong Road to Sinza Road, also in Shanghai, in 1931. Those premises were evacuated by the CIM when the buildings were taken over by the Japanese during World War Two. The CIM returned in 1945 but, following the Communist victory of 1949, evacuated its premises in 1951, destroying records which might contain data of interest to the Communist government. Consequently, very limited archival material survived in China. To a lesser extent some records held in London were also destroyed, apparently in particular during the move from London in the 1970s.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated 1991-1994.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies also holds other collections relating to the China Inland Mission: papers of Benjamin and Emily Elizabeth Bagnall (Ref: MS 380593); letter from TGW (possibly T G Willet), 1895 (Ref: MS 380642); papers of Charles Fairclough (Ref: MS 380693); and Mann Papers (Ref: MS 380302).

Records of the United States branch of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (China Inland Mission) are held at the Billy Graham Center Archives, 500 College Avenue, 3rd Floor, Wheaton, IL 60187-5593, USA.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
15 May 2000, revised Mar 2002

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