The Unfinished Task



“If I had a thousand pounds, China should have it. If I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?” ― James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

JIANGSU, China – We were greeted by these words of devotion inscribed on a wall of the hall of Hudson Taylor Memorial (HTM) at Xuande Church, Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province. The bell tower completed in June 2018 now holds a crypt with exhibitions on Hudson Taylor’s life – his emphasis on prayer, information on the history of Christianity in Zhenjiang and historical information on China Inland Mission (CIM, known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship today).

When Taylor first arrived in Shanghai in 1853, the Chinese population was estimated at 432 million. A large part of China (inland) was un-opened to foreigners and the gospel was unable to reach the Chinese people in all 18 provinces at that time.

Taylor could not bear that thought that  “A million a month in China are dying without God” – that drove him to action and to strive to save as many as possible.

Hudson Taylor & Zhenjiang

Zhenjiang City (also known as “Chin-Kiang” during Taylor’s time) was an important trading port. It is strategically located at the intersection between two great water routes – the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal.

Taylor said, “Never shall I forget, I was in the presence of God, entering into covenant with the Almighty.” It was the Lord who loved and died for him and said to him, “Then Go for Me to China.”

In 1868, the Taylor family and a few missionaries fled for their lives from an anti-missionary riot in Yangchow, a city 15 miles north of Chin-Kiang.

Upon their safe arrival, they set up a mission station in Chin-Kiang in Sep 1868. CIM was only 3 years old at that time. Pioneering work was difficult. Taylor was plagued with a sense of failure and an inner turmoil.

It was in Chin-Kiang in 1869 where Taylor experienced a spiritual renewal after he read a letter from a fellow missionary, John McCarthy. A statement caught his attention,

“But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.”

Taylor’s immediate thought was John 15:1-8, that the vine and the branch are one. Taylor said, “When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before.”

Realising the truth, Taylor took God’s promises seriously, abided in the Lord, found fullness, rest and joy.

This episode in Chin-Kiang became to Taylor an important spiritual lesson that would sustain him through his subsequent years of ministry. He was to face dangers, the loss of many lives, the lack of resources, and his own failing health.

Tombstone of Maria and their four children – Jane, Grace, Sam and Noel. All four children died before they reached the age of 10.

But now, he was a new man in Chin-Kiang. This experience was described in the chapter called “The Exchanged Life” in the book, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor.                

On 7 July 1870, Mrs Maria Taylor gave birth to a son, Noel Taylor. She contracted cholera and was too weak to provide nourishment for the new born baby. He died in Chin-Kiang on 20 July 1870. Maria passed away three days later on 23 July 1870 at 33 years old. She was buried in the cemetery for foreigners in Chin-kiang with four of their children.

Despite the tragic losses, Taylor did not stop work. The Good News continued to spread and in the 1878 edition of China’s Millions (a compilation of missionary reports edited by Hudson Taylor), it was reported that 30 people were baptised in Chin-Kiang (24 males, 6 females) in the year 1877 alone. Three “local assistants” were partners in the work, namely, Tsing Soh-liang (Pastor), Mr. Han (Evangelist), and Fung Weug-ing (Preacher).

When Taylor formed CIM in 1865, he came with his wife, 16 adults and 4 children. By the time he died in Changsha, Hunan Province in 1905, there were “825 missionaries living in all eighteen provinces of China, more than 300 stations of work, 500 local Chinese helpers, and 25,000 Christian converts”. 

Taylor died in Changsha, Hunan Province, in 1905. His body was brought back to Chin-Kiang and laid to rest next to Maria. The tombstones and remains of Hudson and Maria Taylor, and their four children (died 1865-1879), were miraculously preserved through the Cultural Revolution in China in the 60s and 70s and progressively discovered between 1986-2013.

Bible Societies & China Inland Mission (CIM)

Rev Yin Suhua sharing about the history of the discovery of the Taylors’ tombs and the legacy left behind by them.

The British and Foreign Bible Society had supported Rev Robert Morrison in his translation of the first full Chinese Bible, completed in 1823. Since that time, for the last 200 years, Bible Societies have not ceased to support the translation and revision of the Scriptures for the Chinese people.

Mr Hudson Taylor himself was a strong advocate that the locals should have the Word of God in their own vernacular languages.  He started translating the Bible into a romanised version of the Ningpo dialect. The New Testament was published by British and Foreign Bible Society in 1868. 

China’s Millions described the close partnership between Bible Societies and the CIM missionaries in the mission field, “We are indebted to the British and Foreign Bible Society for 40,000 Gospels in the Mandarin dialect, kindly furnished to us by our valued friend Mr. Wylie. The National Bible Society of Scotland has also supplied us with many portions of Scripture through Dr. Williamson, of Che-fu. Liberal aid has been kindly given by the American Bible Society and by the Religious Tract Societies in England and America”.

In 1877, CIM had “60 Missionaries (exclusive of 18 missionaries’ wives) and 104 Chinese Helpers, 12 Pastors, 40 Evangelists, 35 Preachers, Colporteurs, and Schoolmasters, 8 Chapel-keepers, and 9 Bible-women.” This large group of workers needed Scriptures for their ministry.

Sometimes, Bible Societies’ agents would also participate in preaching and colporteurs helped to visit those who had not heard the Good News. Mr G.F. Easton reporting from Sichuan spoke of  Mr Moulman of the British and Foreign Society and Mr G. Parker of CIM “preaching every day to large audiences”.


Rev Yin Suhua, Chairman & President of Zhenjiang Christian Council/TSPM, was intstrumental in relocating the tombs of Hudson and Maria Taylor to its present site in Xuande Church. She hopes that the Memorial will serve to inspire overseas and local pastors and preachers and lead them to re-dedicate their lives again to Christ. To live a life of devotion to God and serve Him faithfully. 
[海内外的牧者,传道人 重新奉献,重新经历。坚固自己奉献的心志]

Words engraved on the tombstone of Taylor says, “Even though he is dead, his faith still speaks to us.”

Now, there are 1.38 billion people in China with an estimated 46 million Christians (3%). The task is far from complete. It was not easy sharing the gospel during the days of Hudson Taylor. It is still not easy today. Bible Societies continue to support the growing Church in China in her Bible ministry, relying on our loving Saviour who promise to supply all our needs.

Hudson Taylor came to China with the gospel in God’s love. May we all learn from Taylor’s exemplary life and continue to press on until the task is complete!

Story: Yeo Tan Tan
Edit: Cynthia Oh
Photos: Yeo Tan Tan/ Cynthia Oh
2019 © United Bible Societies China Partnership

View Facebook album on the Hudson Taylor Memorial at Xuande Church in China



2) The Story of the China Inland Mission Vol.1, M Geraldine Guinness, Appendix pg. 465

3) Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Chapter: The Exchanged Life, Pg 105-106

4) Ralph R. Covell, “Taylor, James Hudson,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 657-658.