J. Hudson Taylor, Founder of the Interdenominational China Inland Mission

Kathy L. McFarland

James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) founded the interdenominational China Inland Mission in 1865.[1] He wrote China’s Spiritual Need and Claims (1865) to recruit workers; his other famous writings include A Retrospect (1894) and Union and Communion (1894).[2] When Taylor arrived in China in 1854, most Protestant missionaries focused their efforts in big cities along the coast of China. Taylor pushed past these places, and went into the vast interior of China, which became a crucial point that stirred Protestant missionaries to places that are less-developed, but hungry for the witness of Gospel.[3] But, he would never have been able to go to the interior if not for Presbyterian missionary William A.P. Martin inserting a clause in the Treaty of Tientsin (Tianjin) (1858) that gave permission for missionaries to go to the interior of China to propagate Christianity.[4]

It was a tough journey for missionaries to just reach China in the 1800’s. Taylor’s first trip to China took a half a year by ship. But, many Protestants focused their effort upon the 400 million unsaved Chinese, making China the largest Protestant mission field in the world between 1830 and 1949.[5] Once Taylor arrived, he began dressing and living like the people and speaking the Chinese language to those he was evangelizing; many severely criticized the assumption of likeness in the midst of heathens though this became one of the reasons for his successful ministry.[6]Eventually, it became popular for missionaries to follow Taylor’s example and live in the midst of those receiving the Gospel message.

The Chinese mission fields led by Taylor provided education for Chinese girls which was unheard of at the time.[7]He supported the idea of single women in the missionary field without the supervision of a male head; this support was also rare.[8] The participation of women in China missions soon spread throughout the mission field; by 1898, evangelical missions were being filled by women, and The Women’s Missionary Movement prospered.[9] His China Inland Mission also differed from most because he refused to solicit funds from donors and instead trusted God alone to supply its needs.[10] Though the China Inland Mission has been renamed to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship [International] in modern-day, the policy to trust God for sole support has not changed.[11]

Statistics of Protestant Missionaries success rates amongst the 400 million Chinese that includes Taylor’s efforts and all other missions conflict Taylor’s fame.In the years of 1865-1898, about 500 Protestant missionaries baptized about 100,000 Chinese of about 400 million population.[12]But, those initial baptized grew in numbers; by 1911, there were 207,747 baptized Protestants; by 1996, there were over 36 million baptized Protestants.[13]This made the total amount of Protestants & Catholic baptized Christians to be about 4.3 percent, or 1 in 23.[14] Though some scholars argue that the actual baptisms did not make significant difference in showing successful missionary conversions in Taylor’s time, the accumulated total seems to represent his effort well.

As a side note, Hudson Taylor suffered a deep and crippling depression that led him close to taking his own life during his ministry times.He battled despair or was lifted to higher and higher euphoric faith expressions.[15]The mania in his mind never cancelled out his determination he had since his youth to become a missionary and go to China.His calling and his faith were strong and sure, and he changed the Christian missionary world through his practice of adapting local dress and language to participate in spreading the Gospel to inland China. And, even with statistics that seem light in actual baptisms, when the final numbers are looked upon, it is apparent that Taylor’s missionary work started a flame that began lighting the path of thousands of Chinese that promises to spread Christ as Savior to others today, that first began with him.


Chao, Samuel. “Hudson Taylor & Missions to China.” Christian History, no. 52. http://www.christianhistorymagazine.org/wp-content/wS8wVsy62N/chm52-IX_tC.pdf.

Cross, F.L. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christian Missions in China; Tony Lambert, Omf (International); Statistics of the People’s Republic of China, 1929.

Rusten, Sharon. The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and Throughout History. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005.


[1] F.L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1591.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Samuel Chao, “Hudson Taylor & Missions to China,” Christian History, no. 52. http://www.christianhistorymagazine.org/wp-content/wS8wVsy62N/chm52-IX_tC.pdf.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Sharon Rusten, The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and Throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005), 369.

[7] Chao.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China; Tony Lambert, Omf (International); Statistics of the People’s Republic of China (1929).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Chao.