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CSCA: A Note on The Chinese Repository, Twenty volumes, Canton, 1832-1851

Michael Poon, September, 2004

See also References to SE Asia in the Chinese Repository (full text)

This monthly magazine was commenced by Elijah Coleman Bridgman in May 1832.  He served as its editor until he left for Shanghai in 1847.  James Granger Bridgman then succeeded him as editor, till September, 1848; when Samuel Wells Williams took charge of the work. From first to last however, Bridgman was an extensive and constant contributor.

The Chinese Repository was a brainchild of Morrison and E. C. Bridgman.  The Repository served a necessary function by forcing the missionaries to keep up with what was happening in China and then to attempt to organize this scattered data into a coherent, literate form. The information was then published and provided both the local foreign community and the home body with a wealth of insights into the nature of conditions in China.

Between 1805 and 1842, Malacca, Penang, Singapore, Batavia, Java, Rangoon, and Amboyna were staging posts for the early nineteenth century Protestant mission to China.  The Repository thus contained detailed information of foreign missionary activities in South East Asia.  Please consult the entries in the Index. See especially Sections 19-24 in the List of Articles (pp. xxxix-xlvii).

Trinity Theological College Library holds, in four rolls, a microfilm copy of the Chinese Repository (Volumes 1-20). The List of Articles and General Index to the twenty volumes are located at the beginning of the first roll. It is reprinted in the printed edition of this Guide for convenience to readers. Indices to Volume 3 to 20 also included lists of foreign residents and of consular representatives in China. The printed Guide is placed in the Microfilm Room in the Library.

Volume One, May 1832 – April 1833
Volume Two, May 1833 – April 1834
Volume Three, May 1834 – April 1835
Volume Four, May 1835 – April 1836
Volume Five, May 1836 – April 1837
Volume Six, May 1837 – April 1838
Volume Seven, May 1838 – April 1939
Volume Eight, May 1839 – April 1840
Volume Nine, May 1840 – December 1940
Volume Ten to Twenty, January – December of the Years 1841-1851

Major Figures: (Extracts from Gerald Anderson, Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998]).

Bridgman, Elijah Coleman (1801-1861), first American missionary to China. Bridgman was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, and graduated from Amherst College (1826) and Andover Theological Seminary (1829). In response to the urging of Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society and of pious American merchants who offered free passage, Bridgman was ordained and was appointed for service in China by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1829. He arrived in Canton in 1830, where he was welcomed by Morrison. He studied Chinese and soon began the literary labors to which he devoted much of his life.

In 1834 he became the first joint secretary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; he was a founder of the Morrison Education Society and its president for many years, and active in organizing the Medical Missionary Society in China (1838). Later he edited the journal of the North China branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. In 1832 Bridgman started a mission press and began publication of the Chinese Repository, which he edited until

1847. From 1839 to 1841 he worked at Macao, preparing a Chinese chrestomathy to aid in language learning. During negotiations to secure American access to China, Bridgman assisted as translator and adviser from 1842 to 1844. Shortly after baptizing his first convert he moved to Shanghai in 1847, where he was primarily occupied in working on Bible translation, his version appearing shortly after his death.

Williams, Samuel Wells (1812-1884), American missionary in China, scholar, and diplomat. Williams, born in Utica, New York, went to China with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in 1833 as a printer for the Canton mission press. There he worked closely with Elijah Coleman Bridgman on The Chinese

Repository and produced several monographs on the Chinese language. From 1845 to 1848 he was in the United States, where he married Sarah Walworth and gave the lectures that developed into The Middle Kingdom (2 vols., 1848). This remained for decades the standard English-language work on China.

Williams had learned some Japanese in the late 1830s in an attempt to return some shipwrecked Japanese sailors to Japan, and in 1853 and 1854 he accompanied the Perry expedition to Japan as interpreter. His Journal of the Perry Expedition to Japan, 1853-1854, was published much later (1910). In 1856 he became secretary-interpreter of the U.S. legation to China. In 1858, having resigned from the ABCFM in 1857, he accompanied the legation to Tientsin (Tianjin), where he helped to fashion the Treaty of Tientsin. From 1860 to 1862 he was in the United States but returned in 1862 to the U.S. legation in Peking, where he remained until 1876, several times acting as head of legation. During this time he also wrote his most important language reference work, A Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language (1874).

In 1877 Williams retired to New Haven, Connecticut, where he was appointed professor of Chinese language and literature at Yale University. With the help of his son, Frederick Wells Williams, he substantially revised The Middle Kingdom (2 vols., 1883), modifying many disparaging judgments of his early missionary days. He also spoke against restrictions on Chinese immigration.

Further Reading (available in the College Library)

Rubinstein, Murray A. The Origins of the Anglo-American Missionary Enterprise in China, 1807-1840. London: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

Wylie, Alexander. Memorials of Protestant Missionaries to the Chinese: giving a List of their Publications, and Obituary Notices of the Deceased. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Press, 1867.