Robert Morrison (1782-1834) was the first Protestant missionary to bring Christianity to the Chinese.
As a child, Morrison was a dedicated student. An entry in his diary reads: “I have adopted a number of studies – botany, and some other things. I do not know but it would be better to study the Bible.”
Morrison wanted to become a minister and a missionary to Africa, but his parents were dismayed at his goals. Knowing it would not be long until his frail mother died, Morrison promised not to leave her while she lived. When she died in 1802, Morrison took the first real steps in what he knew would be his life’s work.
He traveled by ship from his home in Newcastle, England, to London, where he went to college and was ordained a minister. After an interview with the London Missionary Society, it was decided he would go to China, not Africa. After studying theology, missions, and Chinese, 1807 he left for what is now Canton. He had to travel thousands of extra miles through the United States because the shipping company would not transport missionaries.
Morrison’s first years in China were very difficult. The imperial edicts against foreigners and their religions required him to spend much of his time hiding, rarely leaving his house. His health suffered from lack of fresh air and exercise. When he did go out, Chinese people followed him and called him names. To keep from being noticed Morrison dressed, ate, and acted like a Chinese person. Morrison was comforted by his wife Mary, but when their children were only seven and nine years old, Mary died of cholera.
In spite of all these hardships, Morrison was able to study the language and translate the entire Bible into Chinese, while at the same time compiling a six-volume Chinese dictionary. He also spread appreciation of the Chinese culture and civilization in the West. Robert Morrison is buried in Macao, where a chapel has been built in his memory.
In 1953 the name Morrison Academy was adopted in honor of Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary in China. His example of faith, discipline, and scholarship has been the school’s ideal.
This article was researched and written by Connie Yang (Class of 2003) while she was a sixth grader at the Bethany Campus located in Taipei. The sketch of Robert Morrison was drawn by Amy Dickey (Class of 2002) while she was a senior on the Taichung Campus.