|Scenes in Chusan, or, Missionary labours by the way / by the author of 'Learn to say no' [i.e. Augustus Ward Loomis].|
Corporate author: Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work. No. 482.
A Curious Find in the Ricci Library
Ricci Institute Research Associate Jan Vaeth recently unearthed a curious, uncataloged volume in the library stacks. Entitled Scenes in Chusan, or, Missionary labours by the way, it is an anonymous work published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia in 1857. It describes life among British officers and enlisted men on the island of Zhoushan 舟山 during the period between April 1, 1845 and August 7, 1846. Written in the first-person by a missionary living with the troops, it is a piously-told tale filled with religious platitudes describing a soldiers life in a remote posting, touching on such topical matters as marriage, death, funerals, drunkenness, and the vicissitudes of a Christian life. Despite their interesting and foreign locale, the text includes only indifferent observations of Chinese customs and local scenery.
Zhoushan, located just outside of Hangzhou Bay and once a pirate stronghold, was an important island entrepôt in the 1840’s. Lord Macartney had tried to acquire a portion of it from Qianlong (and failed). After Captain Charles Elliot seized the island during the First Opium War and agreed to accept the cession of Hong Kong (then a place of almost no value) as a substitute, he was cashiered from service. Events depicted in the book occur after the Treaty of Nanking as British forces evacuated the area in 1846.
The book is a very early example of what would eventually become a flood of personal narratives written by visitors to China in the latter half of the 19th century. As an example of missionary writing, what is most striking is not that this anonymous missioner has difficulty discussing his religious aims and motives with the Chinese (in fact he does not discuss religion with the Chinese at all), but rather describes his many problems dealing with the British soldiers themselves. --library note.