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Published Monthly by Funk & Wagnalls Company, 354-360 Fourth Avenue, New York.

(Adam W. Wagnalls, Pres.; Wilfred J. Funk, Vice-Pres.; Robert J. Cuddihy, Treas.; William Neisel, Sec'y.)


AUGUST, 1916

No. 2


An Interview with John R. Hykes, D.D., Secretary of the American Bible Society at Shanghai


DURING a visit to China shortly after the Boxer trouble the writer was told by a prominent Chinese official that this revolution would end the distribution of Bibles among the Chinese. In view of this remark we were imprest with the statement of Dr. John R. Hykes, who has been for forty-three years associated with the distribution of the Bible in China, to the effect that in 1915 there were distributed to the Chinese 2,244,746 copies of the Christian Scriptures, and of these only 5,000 copies were given away.

The history of the American Bible Society of China reads like a romance. It is true of this, as of most great movements, that, as Emerson said, "An institution is but the lengthened shadow of a man." In China, as far as the American Bible Society is concerned, that man is Dr. John R. Hykes, who from his position in Shanghai has been intimately in touch with virtually every phase of China's changes and extraordinary developments during the present generation, and is therefore eminently fitted to speak with authority concerning Chinese matters. Dr. Hykes is in America to attend the centennial of the American Bible Society, and he has been kind enough to give the following interview to the writer for the benefit of the readers of THE HOMILETIC REVIEW.

In reply to the question, "What in

your opinion are some of the distinctive and outstanding events in connection with your Bible work in China?" Dr. Hykes said, "In the first place there is the changed attitude which occurred after the Boxer year, when the supreme effort of China to throw out foreigners and to prevent the partition of the country ended in a disastrous failure, saddling China with a large indemnity and resulting in a more liberal policy toward the foreigner in general. This failure was clearly shown in a changed attitude toward the Bible. and Bible distribution." The agent of the Bible Society went on to say that there was perhaps no better way to feel the pulse of China than through the medium of his organization, since the colporteurs were scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country and in remote places where there are no other representatives of religious work. These Bible distributers are needed the first to be persecuted in times of revolution, and their intimate house to. house contact with the Chinese has enabled them to secure first hand knowledge of the real feeling and point of view of the people.

"A striking illustration of the changed attitude of the officials. toward the Bible was shown at the end of 1901," continued Dr. Hykes, "the year following the Boxer troubles, when Chou Fu, the provin

cial treasurer of Shantung, together with Li Hung Chang, undertook the retranslation of the Bible, or rather the placing of the thought of the existing version in a style which would appeal more particularly to the literati, in order thus to remove the prejudice against Christianity and to prevent anti-foreign and antiChristian demonstrations.

"We were told that this work was undertaken with the approval of the old empress dowager. These men engaged two of the best scholars in the Empire who laboriously copied out the text of the delegates' version, leaving space for the proposed text of their own rendering. At the end of the year 1901 Chou Fu asked a prominent missionary in Shantung to write to the agent of the American Bible Society at Shanghai with the request that he would arrange if possible for Bishop Schereschewsky to go to the provincial capitol and assist and advise the Chinese schol


This was a significant sign of the new order."

Dr. Hykes was then asked concerning the removal of the port duty on Bibles; he answered that this was done in 1902 by the Chinese government when Bibles were placed on the free list for importation from abroad. It is not generally known, perhaps, that this important step in behalf of the distribution of the Bible in China was accomplished largely through the intervention of Dr. Hykes himself, whose relation with both foreign and Chinese officials has been sufficiently intimate during many years to make his advice a vital factor in matters relating to things Chinese.

Another important event in the history of the Bible work of China was then related as follows:

"On the first of January, 1903, Rev. W. S. Strong, the sub-agent of the American Bible Society in North China, was given a place on the bal

cony of the Temple of Heaven just opposite the main entrance, for selling the Scriptures. He and his colporteurs conducted this work for ten days. This was the first time that any one had official permission to sell the Bible or to preach from this sacred place.

"About the same time a Chinese gentleman called on the agent of the American Bible Society at Shanghai and told him he wished to buy a copy of the Bible. The man's dress and manner indicated that he was not an ordinary Chinese and so the agent asked him why he wished to buy a copy of the Scriptures. He said that he was appointed to the Szechuen province and was going to take up his post. Unfortunately there had been great prejudice against Christianity which led to anti-Christian riots and he wanted to know at first hand what the Bible teaches."

It was stated that the opposition to the circulation of the Bible practically ceased after the Boxer year opened the doors of Peking to the world. Colporteurs were then invited to the homes of the better class which they never before had been able to enter, and were even allowed to see the occupants of the inner apartments and the Chinese women, many of whom bought copies of the gospels and of the New Testament. The change has been so complete that now at the fairs of North China Bible agents sell as many as 1,000 copies of the Bible daily for many days in succession. These copies represent generally a Chinese version of the Gospels, the Acts, or the entire New Testament.

The introduction of the Bible into the government schools marked an important period in this new régime of the Bible. Dr. Hykes thus relates briefly the story of that far-reaching event:

"In 1901 the agent received a let

ter from a Yale graduate, who for twenty-seven years had been the head of the English Department of the government school, asking for a donation of fifty copies of the English Bible for use in his school. This request was made at the earnest solicitation of the students themselves. Before filling the order the agent requested the professor to call at the Bible House and warned him that by introducing the Bible into the school the teacher would probably lose his position and that the mere suggestion of such a thing twelve. months previous would have been an unheard-of heresy.

"The Chinese graduate of Yale said that there was no danger, as he had the approval of the directors of the school. When asked how he obtained it, he said that he told them that in all institutions affording a liberal education comparative religion was taught, and that he suggested that this subject be added to the school curriculum, the Bible being introduced as a text-book on Christianity.

"After the revolution which resulted in the establishment of the republic an article granting religious liberty and according rights to missionaries to reside, to acquire property, and to prosecute their work in all parts of China, was inserted into the commercial treaty with the United States. While the Chinese Government previously had allowed missionaries this privilege where there was no local opposition, there had been no treaty stipulation heretofore granting missionaries residence outside the treaty ports. Under this new rule the students in many of the government schools in North China insisted on being taught the Bible, and in one normal school for girls in Peking the students demanded that the Bible be introduced as a text-book."

In further proof of the growing conviction that the Bible is a power to be reckoned with in China because of a belief on the part of the Chinese that its influence is essential to the permanency of the nation, and that its morality is needed by the people, Dr. Hykes cited the example of an official in Nanking who was not a Christian but had recently spent fifty dollars a month for several months in succession buying Bibles for presentation to his friends. He also gave the remarkable incident of Mr. Frank Yung Tao, the well-known Chinese philanthropist, a successful business man who had amassed a large fortune and is spending large amounts for the circulation of the Christian Scriptures. This man has devoted his life to the relief and betterment of the poor and to the spiritual and moral uplift of his countrymen. His charity is remarkable and is going out in the way of orphanages, workhouses, and various kinds of institutions. He is the commissioner of the Department of Native Industry and is the originator of the Permanent Exhibition of the same nature in Peking. He accepts no salary for his work, and among other things is educating 400 young men in the Young Men's Christian Association of North China. Dr. Hykes thus relates Mr. Frank Yung Tao's connection with Bible distribution:

"Near the end of 1914 he bought. from Mr. Strong, at the Peking Depot, 5,000 New Testaments for presentation to his friends. Some of them were expensively bound copies. in morocco, costing two and three dollars each. When he made the purchase he exprest the desire that every one of his countrymen should have a copy of the Scriptures. Early the next year he presented those New Testaments to 5,000 different persons, and in each copy there were two slips inserted with messages. But

for the war these would have been printed in gold on silk. In one of these he commends to the thoughtful consideration of the recipients a number of texts of Scripture, which he selected as having an important bearing upon the human heart and life; and he urged them to study, comprehend, and practise their teachings."

In October, 1915, Mr. Yung Tao told Dr. Hykes in Peking that he had only just made a beginning in Bible distribution; that he proposes to present copies to every official and to every pupil and teacher in the government schools throughout the Empire. He had decided that, at an early day, he would resign all of his official positions and devote his energies entirely to lecturing and the distribution of the Scriptures. In his opinion the Bible is the best book for promoting growth in moral excellence. Hence he has determined to use large sums of money in the purchase and wide distribution of the Scriptures. He has been studying the Bible daily with a missionary in Peking in order to equip himself for lecturing to the students in the government schools and colleges. A short time ago he placed an order for another 5,000 copies of the New Testament and intimated that he would require ten times that number.

It is pertinent to ask why Mr. Yung Tao has voluntarily taken up the work of Bible distribution so

enthusiastically, SO systematically and on such a large scale. He signed the presentation slip which was put in every copy, "Respectfully presented by Yung Tao, who is not a church member!" This fact at once stamps him as being unprejudiced and disinterested and secures him a more thoughtful and sympathetic hearing from conservative, nonChristian Chinese.

His real reasons for engaging in

this work were revealed in a recent conversation with Dr. Hykes. First, he sees in the Bible the only hope of China as a nation. He said, "Without the aid of Christian ethics it is impossible to reform society or to expel evil from men's hearts so as to produce a strong and virtuous nation." Referring to the disturbed state of his country he said, "Many people believe that God has SO miraculously preserved China for thousands of years because He has some great future for her. It may be, I do not know, but I believe my country has reached the supreme crisis in her history. The next few years will determine whether she is to have a great and useful future or is doomed to extinction. If she is to endure she must accept the teachings of the Bible. It is only by accepting the true God and fulfilling duty to him that a nation can endure." This is one reason why, as a patriot, he is interested in putting the Bible into the hands of students, teachers and officials.

The writer asked Dr. Hykes in what way these changes relative to the Bible seemed to be affecting Confucianism.

"The Chinese for many centuries," was the reply, "have recognized that Confucianism should be credited with all that is good and commendable both in the nation and in the individual character; but there is undoubtedly a waning faith in Confucianism as a leaven to affect the salvation of the country. There is a loosening of the hold of this native religion upon the official mind. The literary examinations are no longer the entré to official appointment, the Confucian essays have been eliminated and western knowledge has been substituted. The examination halls have been closed and some of the sites have been used for modern schools and colleges. At present the ability

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