Morrison, Robert

Morrison, Robert
( 17 82-1834 )
   first Protestant missionary in China
   Of Scottish descent, Morrison was born on January 5, 1782, and grew up at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker but spent his leisure time reading religious texts. In 1803, he began a year at the Independent Academy at Hoxton, which prepared him to apply for support as a missionary by the London Missionary SOCIETY, which represented Congregationalists. After studying Chinese, he received his appointment to Canton.
   The East india Company opposed the presence of Christian missionaries in territories it controlled and refused to transport Morrison to his station. Morrison sailed for the United States in 1807, where James Madison, then secretary of state, presented him with an introduction to the American consul in Canton. Christian merchants at oliphant & Co. transported him the rest of the way to China. Once in Canton, he worked as a translator for the East india Company; the job afforded him legal residence status and the time to complete a Chinese grammar and a translation of the New Testament, both published in 1814. Nevertheless, he had to operate discreetly, in light of a law against publishing books in Chinese. He lived a low-key existence and adopted local dress.
   In 1820, Morrison helped found the Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca (where Milne then moved), both to continue the linguistic work and to train native evangelists who could work throughout the mainland without the legal restraints imposed on Europeans.
   In 1821, Morrison completed his Chinese Dictionary, the six volumes of which were published by the East India Company. On a visit to England, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1824. He returned to China in 1826, where he continued his work at translating and publishing Christian literature in Chinese. He died at Canton on August 1, 1834.
   Though Morrison made few converts directly after he baptized Tsai A-Ko (or Chai Agao), in 1814, his Bible, dictionaries, and other writings proved invaluable to the future army of missionaries who would arrive from a spectrum of Protestant groups, His gravesite in the Protestant cemetery in Macau remains a pilgrimage site.
   Further reading:
   ■ Maurice Broomhall, Robert Morrison, a Master-Builder (London: Livingstone Press, 1924)
   ■ Robert Morrison, A Dictionary of the Chinese Language, 6 vols. (London: Black, Parbury & Allen, 1815-23); , A Parting Memorial: consisting of miscellaneous discourses, written and preached in China; at Singapore; on board ship at sea, in the Indian Ocean; at the Cape of Good Hope; and in England; with remarks on missions, &c. &c. (London: W. Simpkin & R. Marshall, 1826)
   ■ Murray A. Rubenstein, The Origins of the Anglo-American Missionary Enterprise in China, 1807-1840 (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996), ATLA monograph series no. 33.

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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