CHEN Yanrong (Lanzhou University), The Encounters of Chinese Women with China Inland Mission’s English Female Missionaries: Reconstruction of the conversion journey of Chinese women based on the record from missionary, English/30 Pages, August 2011.


Historians are used to making evaluations or comments on object in their research; few examine the inner world of converts or non-Christian themselves. Of course, as is often mentioned previously, the absence of women’s voices in archival materials makes writing the women history a difficult task, especially when the research object is rural Chinese women who were almost illiterate or only semi-literate and left no personal records in early twentieth century. Despite the shortage of sources, this paper grew out of a historian’s adventure with a different way of exploring the hope and feelings of modern Chinese women, and their interaction with modern English female missionaries; limited material is available in mission reports about the illiterate Chinese women situation.
The three women missionaries who will be discussed in this paper are Alice Mildred Cable (盖群英,21 February 1878-30 April 1952) and the Misses French: Evangeline Frances French (冯贵珠,1869-8 July 1960,short for “Eva”) and Francesca Law French (冯贵石,12 December 1871-2 August 1960). The three remarkable female missionaries became a well-known “Trio” of the CIM (the China Inland Mission). The tie between them was not only a lifelong friendship, but also a shared zeal and belief for Christ and those Chinese women they met. After almost forty years in Shanxi(山西) and Northwest China later, the Trio wrote over twenty books to chronicle their work, travels and spiritual journeys in China. Those books presented readers with various stories of Chinese women’s personal experiences. This paper concentrates on the Shanxi part of the Trio’s work.

The objective of my research is to explore how the interaction of various kinds of Chinese women with these three foreign women missionaries can be assessed by observing the inner world of these Chinese Christian women from the cultural perspective of a 21st Century Chinese historian. First of all, in reports, correspondence and books, the documents concerning on the three was written from a missionary perspective. The materials we have are primarily from missionaries. As a Chinese woman who was born and lived in the Northwest China, I have chosen to concentrate on the Chinese side of the relationship between village women and missionaries. This involves to “sympathetic understanding” which Cable had been conscious and supported. Secondly, what I will use to analyze those women is the “Cross” model which was proposed by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. His theory claims that humans’ life, social as well as individual, is lived at a crossroads between four “fronts”:“backward toward the past, forward into the future, inward among ourselves, our feelings, wishes and dreams, and outward against what we must fight or exploit or come to terms with or ignore”. This method offers us directions to explore and understand the objects of this research. Thirdly, every Chinese lady had her own way on her life and belief journey, I divide their experiences into four stages of their contact with the Trio and Christianity according to their different levels of understanding. This study aims at reconstructing the history of Chinese women’s conversion journey. Last but not least, the tension that exists in Chinese traditional custom and Christianized modern message brought by missionaries as transmitters of Western ideal is hoped to be revealed from both the missionary side and the Chinese Christian women side.

Keyword: Chinese Christian women, female missionary, spiritual journey