Did You Know: Chinese ‘Disguise’

After Hudson Taylor first arrived in China, he made numerous preaching trips to Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. For his eighth trip, Taylor had special plans. The night before, he had his head shaved and his hair dyed in Haiyan. Then on Friday, August 24th, Taylor had a month’s hair growth plaited into a fake (black silk) Chinese queue, donned Chinese clothes, shoes with upcurled toes and tinted spectacles secured by string.

Today’s Haiyan, Zhejiang

Dressed now like any Chinese man, Taylor wore Chinese clothes not only for that trip but constantly afterwards. This drew the ire of the foreign community in Shanghai. Taylor in his Chinese “disguise”was a “traitor” who damaged the dignity of the white man in the eyes of the locals. Yet Taylor did not change course. Years later when he founded the China Inland Mission (CIM), the mission committed to this same “identification with Chinese by wearing Chinese dress and queue, [and] worshipping in Chinese houses”.

As Taylor explained later, “…[T]he foreign dress and carriage of missionaries…indeed, the foreign air given to everything related to religion, have very largely hindered the rapid dissemination of the truth among the Chinese. But why [do we] need such a foreign aspect [for] …Christianity?…It is not their denationalisation but their Christianisation that we seek.”

Source: A. J. Broomhall, The Shaping of Modern China: Hudson Taylor’s Life and Legacy Volume One.

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