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Papers of Karl Gützlaff (1803-1851) and the Chinese Union

Identifier: CSWC 9

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of photocopies of material describing the work of the Chinese Union and defending it against criticism, including: motto, constitution, rules and regulations of the Chinese Union; names of Chinese members and preachers and statistics relating to their activities (1849); list of books published by the Union; lists and numbers of baptised (1844-1849); lists of places to which preachers had been sent; finances of the Union (1845-49); notes by Gützlaff on China, Korea, Japan, Manchuria, Mongolia, Sougaria, Tibet and Cochin-China; valedictory remarks to Theo Hamberg (1849) referring to the philosophy behind and work of the Union and further explanations 'to avoid some misunderstanding'; essay Requirements for the Foreign Preachers of the Gospel who Wish to Combine Their Efforts with the Associations Now Forming for the Conversion of Eastern Asia; and a response to criticisms of the Union, particularly those by James Legge.


  • Creation: [ca. 1844-1849]

Language of Materials

English Chinese

Conditions Governing Access

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Conditions Governing Use

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Biographical / Historical

Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff, pioneer Protestant missionary in China, was born in Pomerania, Germany in 1803. He trained in a mission institute in Berlin and, having met Robert Morrison in London, began to learn Chinese with a view to working amongst the Chinese people. He spent some years as a missionary in Java and Thailand working with Chinese expatriates and he and his wife translated the bible into Siamese. During these years Gützlaff also acquired some medical skill and between 1831 and 1833 he made three trips along the Chinese coast acting as a medical practitioner and interpreter. He finally secured entry into mainland China as a free-lance missionary in 1833, by which time his wife had died. After some disputes with the authorities he took a job as a Chinese language secretary in the British diplomatic services but continued to do his missionary work. Gützlaff was convinced that the way to penetrate China was through Chinese converts, not foreign missionaries. He devoted himself to recruiting and training Chinese evangelists who would travel throughout the provinces preaching and distributing tracts. He supported the formation of a largely Chinese led evangelisation society, the Chinese Union, and appeared to achieve some success with reports of thousands of converts during the 1840s. Gützlaff ensured that accounts of his activities were published in the West where he received an enthusiastic reception during visits to raise funds. It was while he was in Europe in 1848 that missionaries in Hong Kong accused Gützlaff of exaggerating his success and his evangelists of falsifying figures and having a poor grasp of basic Christian doctrine. Gützlaff returned to China but the criticisms and his own ill health led to the collapse of the Union shortly before he died in 1851. Accused by many of being a fanatic and eccentric, not least because he insisted on wearing Chinese dress, Gützlaff has also been criticised in China for his role in the Nanking Treaty (1842). He was, however, a pioneer in many senses. He published several books and articles on Chinese history and culture and translated much of the New Testament into Chinese. Although the Union collapsed it was the forerunner of the Chinese Evangelisation Society which sent Hudson Taylor to China and Hudson Taylor himself called Gützlaff 'the grandfather of the China Inland Mission.'


1 file


The material is arranged as described in the Scope and Content section. The pages were numbered and listed by Ralph Covell in 1992.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were presented to the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World by Dr A. J. Broomhall.


None expected.

Related Materials

Herman Schlyter's Der China-Missionar Karl Gützlaff und Seine Heimatbasis (Lund : CWK Gleerup, 1976) has a comprehensive list of sources. The archives of the China Inland Mission at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and Special Collections at the University of Birmingham hold material relating to Gützlaff.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Anderson, Gerald (ed.). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1998. (2) The Illuminated Lantern web site, (3) Christianity Today web site.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
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