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02 - European men on mission in the North of China (1860-1900)

Op 11 oktober 2012 organiseerde de universiteit van Shantou (China, provincie Guangdong) een seminar met als thema 'Christianity & Gender in Chaozhou, Southeast China'. De organisatie had me gevraagd een 'paper' te presenteren over mannelijke aspecten van de missie in het noorden van China. Onderstaand de tekst.

The Chinese were not fond of the representatives of the West. China, the Middle Kingdom, was for them the center of the earth and the only country that mattered. As far as the Chinese authorities were concerned, westerners should be prevented to enter their empire, especially the inner parts. In the nineteenth century, however, the Europeans were able to overcome all barriers. They had some trump-cards: deliverance of British opium, to which the Chinese became addicted; and the Europeans had the best weapons at their disposal.

During the so-called Second Opium War, from 1856 to 1860, British and French expeditionary forces were able to realize quite a lot. In December 1857 they conquered Guangzhou (Canton). The troops advanced northward and in May 1858, they captured the strategic Dagu forts on the Chinese coast in front of Tianjin and behind it, the capital Beijing.

   In June the Qing dynasty capitulated. The ruling Manchus seemed willing to sign the Treaty of Tianjin and meet many of the European demands. The arrangements were not formalized at that time. British and French negotiators were arrested and thirteen of their helpers were assassinated in August 1860.

01 Dagu Fort

Fort Dagu, after the conquest

Lord Elgin, head of the British expeditionary army, decided to teach the Chinese a lesson. He ordered his troops to march on to the very capital of the Qing empire. British soldiers laid the summer palace of the emperor in ashes. The Xianfeng emperor fled to his hunting palace in Jehol, where he died shortly afterwards. The imperial throne was not occupied. The Europeans could have started a new foreign Chinese dynasty, like the Mongols and the Manchus had done before. Instead of doing this they decided to preserve the Manchu dynasty. But more than ever before they were able to impose their demands. Prince Gong, the emperor’s younger brother, negotiated on behalf of the Qing dynasty, or what was left of it.

The British formalized their agreements with the Chinese government. Now it was the French’s turn. On October 25, 1860, baron Jean-Baptist Gros, envoy of French emperor Napoleon III, proceeded from French headquarters outside the city to the ministery of Rites where the documents of the French-Chinese treaty were going to be signed. Two thousand French soldiers, musicians in front, accompanied their chief, who was carried by eight coolies in a palanquin. The Treaty, in a vermillion-colored box, was carried by four non-commissioned officers.

   Baron Gros apologized to prince Gong. He was not dressed properly. His official clothing had gone lost because of a shipwreck near the coast of the island of Ceylon. Prince Gong replied promptly: “I do not wear my best costume either. The fire [of the Summer Palace] has destroyed it”.


In the treaties of 1860, as a result of military violence, the Chinese were forced to admit that henceforth there would be eternal friendship between the emperor of France and the emperor of China and between the French and the Chinese themselves.

   Because of that, the French acquired the right to settle down anywhere in the Chinese empire and to travel wherever they liked to go. When the French had the intention to visit the interior, the Chinese government would provide them with a proper passport in French and Chinese. The French were also entitled to rent and to construct buildings, such as churches, hospitals, orphanages, schools and churchyards. The Chinese state had to protect the French and French possessions. From now on the French in China would be ruled by French law and be tried only by the French empire.

Article number thirteen of the friendship treaty, legally valid in 1860 because of military intervention, dealt with the propagation of the catholic belief: “The christian religion aims to stimulate the people to live a virtuous life. Therefore all christian communities could count on the free practice of their belief and protection, also of their possessions. French missionaries would be given special protection so that they could peacefully travel to the interior of the Chinese country, provided with proper passports. All Chinese would be given the right to embrace christianity and live according to christian rules. All measures formerly promulgated against christianity should be withdrawn immediately”.

Belgian and Dutch priests in China

Legally, European (French) missionaries from 1860 onwards were free to enter the whole of China. Legally, yes. But a treaty was not enough. The catholic mission needed sturdy men to put theory into practice. China, with a population of hundreds of millions of heathens (no christians), was a land that had to be won over for the blessings of the catholic religion with a strong hand. Soldiers of God now had to do the job.

A new mission congregation, established fifteen years later in the Dutch village of Steyl, put it like this: “When a ruling prince dispatches an expeditionary army against an overseas enemy, this army must have many soldiers at its disposal when the enemy territory is vast. Well then, the Church also has to conquer hostile territory. The more soldiers the Church has at its disposal, the better the results will be. The more missionaries can be sent to the heathen countries [China] in order to propagate christianity, the more precious souls will be won for heaven.

   Therefore, for the foreign missions it is essential to have a huge army of christian soldiers. There is good news. During the last few years so-called mission houses were established in several European countries. In those houses Soldiers of the Cross are educated and and instructed. This kind of soldiers forms an elite force for the propagation of the christian faith. In this way the encouragement of the Saviour is more and more put into practice. It is also the ambition of the Church: ‘Go and teach all the peoples, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’”.

At the mission seminaries the young priests learned that they had to behave as true soldiers. The reward would be enormous. “In this way the word of Christ will be fulfilled. In this way the beneficial of christianity will be spread all over the world. However, the divine word has not yet been fulfilled. Many areas of the world are still immersed in the darkness of barbarian paganism. China, almost as big as the whole of Europe and with even more people, numbers hardly a million catholics. So there’s a lot of work to be done in this vast mission area. How great will be the harvest of souls still to gather for heaven!”



In the nineteenth century there were several organisations dealing with the mission in China. France played a major role. The Propagation de la Foi (1822, Lyon/Paris) took care of financing the missions in the world. The Sainte-Enfance (Holy Childhood, Heilige Kindsheid, 1843, Paris) was especially interested in young Chinese. Orphanages were raised for abandoned children. If necessary they were bought, baptized and given a catholic education. The Propaganda Fide in Rome organised an efficient partition of all mission areas in China.

   After the treaties of 1860 the Church summoned priests and young boys studying at a seminary to come forward and participate in the propagation of the true faith in that dark land with hundreds of million heathens more or less ready to be converted. Such an opportunity, after the successful French invasion in China, might never come again. Now was the time to do the job.

   A small group of Belgian priests under the leadership of army chaplain Theophile Verbist responded to the call of pope Pius IX. Backed by the cardinal in the Belgian city of Mechelen the mission of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was formally established in 1862, 150 years ago. They had their mission house in Scheut, not far from the Belgian capital Brussels. Soon, the fathers were called Scheutists.

   In 1865 the Propaganda Fide decided to allocate the whole of northern China, the area north of the Chinese Wall, to Scheut. In this huge area, the Belgian mission succeeded the Lazarists. This French missionary congregation got new Chinese headquarters in Beijing because of the 1860 treaties.

   Also because of the treaties, the Scheutists operated under the French flag. Three Belgian and one Dutch priest reached the China coast in the autumn of 1865 and traveled on to their headquarters at Xiwanzi, not far away from Beijing just north of the Chinese Wall. The first four Scheut missionaries were leader Theophile Verbist, Alois Van Segvelt, Frans Vranckx and the 25-year old Dutch priest Ferdinand Hamer.

Beards to impress

The first fathers of Scheut, before boarding the ship that was going to bring them to the Far East, discovered that their luggage had not arrived in the harbour of Marseille. They were forced to buy some clothing rightaway. One of them, Alois Van Segvelt, sent a short note to Scheut. In it he declared: “As sturdy soldiers of Christ we are leaving to go to the unbelievers. The cross is our only weapon. This is the real missionary”.

   But the Scheutists were aware that they had another weapon at hand, their beard. Also in Marseille, Van Segvelt let his father know: “My beard is already two centimeters long. With my figure, tanned by the sun, I look like a giant”. Shortly after his arrival in Xiwanzi, the new missionary confirmed how important a long beard was. “To look beautiful in China it is necessary to have a large front, a short nose, small eyes, a large square face, big ears and a long beard. It is important to have it grow on”.

In reports to their headquarters in Belgium, newly-arrived missionaries never refrained from remarks about the importance of wearing a beard. A European priest had to impress the Chinese in order to win them for the true faith. And a good manly beard did the job for them in Chinese society.

 03a Hamer & Co

Roofthooft, Verwilghen, Anicq, Raemakers, Verstraeten, Hamer, Zech, Verellen

Dutch father Emile Indemans explained the way it worked. “In Europe people try to look as young as possible. A young woman would be irritated if you estimate her a few years older than she actually is. Here in China it’s considered an honour to be called an old man. When a Chinese wants to please you, he adds twenty years or so to your real age. This is understandable. People here attach great value, authority and respect to old age. But even without flattering us we Europeans are being considered older than we are. The reason for this is the growth of our beards. With the Chinese the beard starts to grow very late in life and develops slowly. Many a Chinese is happy with a beard which means nothing to us”.

   The Belgian Scheutist Cyril Van Belle added another opinion. Everything in China is up to customs which almost never change. This also applies to wearing a beard. A young man or a man only recently married is not allowed to wear a beard or even a moustache. There is no temptation at all to break these rules. There is no beard or moustache.

   The men who have children, or whose parents have passed away, are allowed to wear a moustache. Those whose grandchildren are growing up are allowed to wear some hair on their chin, whatever that means. As to whiskers, only very old people are allowed to have them. But they are so rare and so venerated that they put whiskers on their idols.
   The ways of the foreigners are not ruled by Chinese customs. But we have adapted more or less the Chinese way of life. Therefore we do not show whiskers or too much hair. But still, what we do show is quite impressive. A missionary, only thirty years old, gets the same kind of respectful treatment as very old Chinese.
   This works out very well for us. Therefore I say to our young colleagues, still in Belgium: ‘Take good care of your beards, my friends. It can be very useful in China. Growing a beard might help to win a soul for heaven”.
   Even in our days former missionaries look back with nostalgia to the years when they all wore a beard. Some of them even have continued to grow one. Newspaper man Erik Raspoet once interviewed old missionaries for his book Reizigers in God. He recognized some of them because they had not changed their looks since the old days. Scheutist Paul Lissens for example. “Bristly eyebrows and a beard. The seventy year old missionary is a real character. ‘This beard I owe to Scheut’, he says. ‘In my time the students didn’t have any choice. In the first three weeks they were not allowed to shave at all. The novice-master came to give us a thorough inspection. ‘Don’t shave your beard, don’t shave your beard’, we heard. One by one, he inspected us all. That man was a real expert. The beard, it was the prestige of the missionary. The beard was not something to laugh about!”


04 Hamer beeld 3

Monument Ferdinand Hamer, Nijmegen

September 28, 1902, was a very special day for the catholics in the Dutch town of Nijmegen. On that day there were many festivities because of the unveiling of a monument for Ferdinand Hamer, the famous local missionary. This priest was assassinated by the Chinese two years before during the Boxer Rebellion. Bishop Hamer had become a martyr. For this reason he was honoured with a statue. The money for this statue was generously donated in a very short time. Even the protestant queen Wilhelmina, her husband Hendrik and her mother Emma contributed financially from their own means.

  September 28 was a day of many speeches. Ludovicus Hebrans was one of the priests who addressed the crowd. The Jesuit described what had happened in China two years before. He was talking about a ‘handful of helpless unarmed men facing an innumerable amount of cruel people, which hated every foreigner’.

  Hebrans had never been in China. So he didn’t have a good insight in the life of the Dutch missionaries in that country. If he had been in the Far East he would have known that missionaries and evangelists certainly were not without arms. The mission magazines did not mention it. For many generations, the Dutch population was not aware of nor informed about some interesting aspects of the missionary life in China.

Let’s start at the beginning. Many European missionaries arrived in China on the deck of a British gunboat. They had to be protected more or less against a people who were far from enthusiastic when they saw a new batch of European barbarians coming in.

  On May 13, 1855, the Dutch priest Antoon Smorenburg sent a letter to his parents when he was on the threshhold of traveling to Shanghai. “The English consul visited us. He said a gunboat was due to arrive and would continue its expedition to Shanghai. We were welcome on board. That very evening we brought our luggage to the ship. Our company consisted of Mgr. Mouly, my bishop, father Tagliabue, a Chinese priest being sent to Beijing, and your son: so there were a bishop and three priests on board of an English gunboat. We were also accompanied by four [catholic] couriers from our [missionary] province of Beijing.

  Dear parents, you understand that because of the protection of such a British ship, we were not afraid at all any more. We even hoped, we really wished, to have an encounter with a junk of Chinese pirates. However, this time the buccaneers didn’t show up. What a pity. As soon as these Chinese discover a European steamship, they immediately sail to the open sea”.

After arriving in the mission area allotted to them by the Propaganda Fide the Scheutists soon realized that they had to have weapons at their disposal. One of them, Alois Van Segevelt, sent a report to Belgium a few days after he had settled in Xiwanzi, the mission village in the mountains north of the Chinese wall. In his letter he explained: “In the interior of China one never travels without weapons”.

By reading their letters one can see that the missionaries had enough weapons with them when they started to explore their mission area. And they certainly knew how to use them. Ferdinand Hamer, for example, recorded in his travelogue: “Before departing this morning, I fired a shot. We didn’t have any problems today”. Did the 25-year old missionary have lessons in how to use his gun before leaving for China?

   Theophile Verbist, head of the Scheut mission in China, felt obliged to present a mandarin with a gift. But certainly not a gun. “My colleague Van Segvelt needs a revolver. He is going to make a long and dangerous journey. He might need to use the weapon”.

   Van Segvelt did indeed have a prosperous trip. When he reached his destination safely, he wrote a letter to his family in Belgium. He certainly had used his weapon when he was threatened en route by Chinese bandits. “With a firm voice I said, let us be brave, let us be soldiers. We will install our tents here and sleep under the stars. We were at a place full of bands of brigands. In order to scare them a little I fired my rifle six times”.       

The Dutch Scheutist Theodoor Rutjes soon realized in China that he could not travel about unarmed. On June 24, 1868, in a letter to his family in the village of Duiven he explained exactly what he needed. “If anybody is willing to send me a present, a very small carbine with two strong barrels would be great. The barrels not longer than one and a half foot”.

   The priest seemed to have a good knowledge of weapons. In his letter home, Rutjes explained why this kind of military expertise was necessary. “Bandits nowadays are very active in the area. I cannot remember exactly whether I reported this in another letter. Father Remi Verlinden had some encounters again. While on his way to my mission post he was waylaid by three fellows on horses. Fourteen hours from here in the mountains. It was a very small road there. Almost too small for two carts to pass each other. The bandits surrounded him. But Verlinden produced his revolver. The ‘heroes’ fled immediately. From that moment on he was careful enough not only to have a revolver with him but also the carbine that I had here in my room. I use this weapon against the wolves who in these days haunt the area regularly.

   Remi was not alone this time. He had the money of the mission in his cart, and also some luggage that had to be transferred. On the third morning after his departure from here Verlinden had slowly dozed off in the cart. Suddenly his servant cried out: ‘Sjenfou [priest], the robbers, the robbers!’. The sjenfou took the gun and jumped out of the cart. Six brigands on horses and two on foot surrounded the missionary at the same time. They used iron balls, fixed to a long rope. They both threw the balls and tried to beat the priest with them”.

   The weapons of the robbers certainly were more primitive than those of the missionary’s. But the gun of the father was not very good or modern either. After shooting once Verlinden had to reload it. But the priest had several revolvers at his disposal, as well. “The sjenfou was afraid that he was gonna be murdered. He prayed to Mary, the mother of God and asked forgiveness for all of his sins committed after the last time he confessed. The headman shouted: ‘The old man can not use his gun anymore. Beat him, beat him, beat him!’

   Verlinden started to fire with one of his revolvers. The whole group of robbers fled hastily. ‘The European devil (like they say) is able to shoot with his hands! He doesn’t need a rifle!’”

   According to Rutjes father Verlinden was some sort of a hero. But still, the brigands had succeeded to rob all the mission money. One of the guys had taken it from the cart. So the ambush was indeed successful.

   The missionaries in China regularly received many gifts from the home front in Europe. Compared to the Chinese in the countryside they lived a luxurous life. The local people were sometimes starving, even dying due to lack of food. With all this money the missionaries were an interesting target in the mountains and plains of northern China.


Whenever I read the letters of the Scheutists, I always wonder how they became so proficient in handling their firearms. One thing is sure, they practised regularly. One of the favorite passtimes of those who were supposed to propagate the true faith was to go out hunting. “The hunt is not fatigueing at all here”, reported father Willem Meyer (from Zeddam in the eastern countryside of the Netherlands) on March 31, 1867. “From the gate of the mission post I shot a few wild geese. In a few hours’ time I have several hares on my back”.

   Many priests, living in the Chinese countryside, really loved to go out hunting and shooting. The Flemish Scheutist Jules Anicq, for example, explained in March 1897: “When we are discussing the hunt for hares or partridges my colleague Engel Verstraeten cannot be withheld. His jaw gets very red. His eyes shine and flash rays of light. At such a moment it looks like he is going to kill anything within his reach. Here or there we find a hare. Then it’s impossible to stop him from hunting and shooting. Afterwards he returns in triumph. Then he shouts: I’ve killed them – two geese and a snipe!”

   The priests also used their guns when they felt threatened by all kinds of wild animals.

Sometimes it was not necessary to use their rifles or revolvers. When the bandits found out that the fathers were heavily armed, they didn’t dare to attack. Theophile Redant wrote on December 14, 1888: “We met five highwaymen. Showing our weapens was enough to chase them away”. But if necessary he fired several shots. “The bandits were close at my heels. They tried to grab the reins of my horses. But I used my pistol several times to keep them at bay”.

  The missionaries sometimes did more than hunting or protecting themselves. When in mortal danger they defended themselves, sometimes killing their Chinese enemies. The Belgian Scheutist Karel Verellen traveled from Europe to the north of China. In Shanghai he met his colleague Koenraad Abels, from the Dutch town of Weert. “We visited father Martinet. Koenraad Abels was with him”, he wrote. “The missionary was treated very badly by the mandarin [in the north] and sent into exile. What was the reason for this kind of punishment? Koenraad defended himself against soldiers breaking into his church. He killed one of them”. So it happened that Chinese fell victim to missionaries with arms.

  New Christians with weapons

The new christians, the new converts, in most cases also had good European guns at their disposal. They were seldom afraid if a mission post came under attack. On December 9, 1891, Theodoor Rutjes reported to his family in the Netherlands: “The converts took up their weapons and marched to our mission post [Our Dear Lady of the Pines] in order to defend our residence. I forbade them to fight against these superior forces. There were thousand of rebels”. The attack was the result of an insurgence with many casulaties.

  The new christans were not afraid at all, reported Rutjes. “‘When there are too many we will have to flee’, they answered. ‘But if there are not more than two thousand rebels, we will hold out easily’”.

The organisation of the mission in the north of China

In his book Génie du christianism (1802) the French author and politician Chateaubriand explained how the mission posts, set up in South America by the Jesuits in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, were established. The Jesuit fathers were the leaders of huge agricultural colonies. In every mission post two Jesuits made the decisons about all the aspects of the life of the indians. It was up to them to decide concerning all the details about the jobs of the local people, to organise marriages at an early age and to set up an army so that the christians were able to defend themselves and their mission post against hostile actions from outside.

   The Belgian and Dutch priests who in the nineteenth century traveled to China in order to propagate the catholic faith among the heathens all had read the mission texts, as written by Chateaubriand. Even in the early years of the twentieth century the writings of the Frenchman were regarded as an example of how a mission should be run. In 1922 the Dutch Scheutist Godfried Frederix from the village of Afferden wrote down: “In Sandaohe [the Ordos area] we organize our little missions like the huge reductions of Paraguay [in South America]. The missionaries here are farmer-priests”.


The nineteenth-century missionaries gave the agricultural colonies the name ‘christianities’ (chrétientés, christenheden). Establishing such a christianity turned out to be effective in persuading the Chinese to ‘adept the catholic way of life’. Quite often there were long periods of drought. People in the countryside then had really no food at all. The men sometimes had to sell their wives and children so they could eat. People perished in great quantities.

   The christianities offered help if the Chinese were prepared to be converted. The missionaries sometimes bought food in the black markets in order to be attractive for converts. They also offered farming land for cultivation, work for building houses, a church and other buildings, a catholic school for the children, an orphanage for children without parents, medicines for the sick and holy sacraments for those who had been baptized. Many thousands of Chinese, displaced and hungry because of rebellions and drought, sought refuge north of the Chinese Wall. They were anxious to survive. The christianities functioned as a refuge for desperate families in proper China south of the Wall.

In an article in a mission magazine the Belgian Scheutist Jan-Baptist Steenackers explained to his readers what he had experienced himself in the spring of 1878. There was no food available for the people. Father Steenackers had more than enough money, one can read in Missiën in China en Congo (April 1896). He was able to buy a basket full of apples. “Immediately I distributed the fruit among the children. Even the mothers had their share in this delicacy”. He rewarded the peddler not only with money but also with a catechism translated into Chinese.

   A year later, according to the story as told by the missionary, the Chinese peddler came back and showed him the catechism. Steenackers asked him if he had read in the catechism. “Every night”, he heard. And more. “When my neighbors visited me, I taught them the catholic religious rules. Everybody was interested and enthusiastic. That’s why I’ve come back. Please come to us and teach us more”, he said he heard on that occasion.

   Steenackers added: “I could not refuse his invitation”. The Belgian priest felt that God himself had arranged it like this. “So I followed the apple-man, who turned out to be a farmer. The village where he lived looked like an excellent christianity to me. I saw a lot of good grass growing on the soft slope of the hills. I was convinced that the land was very fertile. It was owned by several heathens. They were prepared to sell all the land to me. I was able to buy it with horses and oxes from our own cattle.

   From that moment on converting people was quite easy. Twenty families decided rightaway to embrace the catholic faith. Many others followed soon. In order to explain the religion to all these converts, I needed help. In 1882 father Cesar De Brabander arrived and joined me”.

  A new christianity under the leadership of two missionaries had been established.

 07 Steenackers Jan-Baptist

Jan-Baptist Steenackers

In a letter, dated February 25, 1898, the young Flemish missionary Jules Anicq explained to his aunt in Belgium his responsibility for such a Chinese agricultural colony in Mongolian territory. “I feel great again, for I am able to work almost around the clock. Everyday I have to preach and teach the Chinese many times here in Mongolia. I have to take care of more than a thousand horses and all these new christians. I am the manager of this farm. So I have no time for games. My job is to be chief priest, mayor, judge, farmer, owner of the land and all the buildings on it, banker, physician and what have you. I will enclose a note from our own bank. There is much money involved here. We have to pay all of our servants. We need to help the new christians. We have to build quite a lot”.

   The Chinese, once ‘converted’, were dependent on the help of the European priests. They had to behave as if they really wanted to live the life of true catholics. They had no other option if they waned to survive. There were more than enough candidates to take their place. The missionaries regularly removed Chinese when they were not willing to live the life they wanted them to live.

   Jules Anicq kept his Belgian family up to date on the progress of his mission work. “I preach four times a day. But this is not the kind of preaching as in Belgium. I shall explain to you how we do it here. You have to understand, most of our Mongols [Chinese in Mongolian territory] are new christians. They are uneducated, semi-wild and heathen. It is not so easy to teach our good and virtuous way of catholic life to these rough characters. We really have to treat them in a harsh way. They do not understand the teachings of the catechism or the ten commandments at all. Only by continuous repeating they might begin to understand it. And that means hard labour.

   In the freezing winter-climate there is not much work to be done in our christianity. During several months it is too cold for any agricultural activity. That is the best time for teaching them the christian life and the catechism. Very early in the morning we bang the Chinese gong. Everybody is obliged to come to the church for the morning prayer and to attend holy mass. Some new converts do not care very much and stay in their bed. In that case we send one of our servants to wake them and order them to come to the church. A few of them are still not prepared to follow these orders. In that case we, missionaries, know what to do. Armed with a stout stick we hit them until they come out of their beds and join us in the morning prayer.

   After the holy mass I gather the women in my room for some preaching and teaching. In the evening the gong is banged once again for a late prayer. Afterwards the men come to my room for their daily lessons in the catholic faith. During daytime I teach the catechism in the two schools, one for the boys and one for the girls”.

   Anicq didn’t have a high esteem of the Chinese. To his family he called the women ‘stupid’ and the children were ‘brats, at certain moment very disagreeable’. Many missionaries shared his opinion of the local Chinese. They made it clear that they hadn’t gone all the way to the Far East to love the Chinese but only to convert them to the true christian faith.

The young Belgian priest, not yet thirty years old, clarified to his converts what their position, their status was all about. They are, he wrote, ‘our subjects. The priest is their real master, both for their temporary [material] and their spiritual existence’.

   The Chinese were now living in Mongolian territory. Therefore, many or all of them had obligations towards the semi-independent Mongolian princes. It seems that they had to render some services to them. Several Chinese in those Mongolian territories converted in order to shirk from the authority of the princes. Regularly there were conflicts between the missionaries and the principalities.

   The converts also fell under the authority of the Chinese mandarins. Some of the new christians had a number of crimes on their record and fled to a nearby christianity. In order to be accepted there they were willing to convert. In a letter, dated February 22, 1898, Anicq explained to members of his Belgian family what he had taught to those now living in his christianity: “If the mandarins approach and badger them, they have to make it clear: ‘You mandarins have nothing to do with our lives anymore. We only have one master, the priest’”.

   The European missionaries referred to the treaties of 1860. They applied them not only to their own position but to those Chinese they had accepted as new christians as well.

   The foreign priests certainly kept a tight hand over their converts. On the other hand they offered them protection in a lot of ways. A missionary man was like a father to his children, a shepherd to his sheep.

Problems with each other and with women

The missionaries in the north of China lived a celibatarian life. They were not supposed to have intimate contacts with women. However, blood sometimes is thicker than water. The fathers had a lot of power and authority in their christianities, and like other people, they were men of flesh and blood. They had conflicts with each other. They didn’t always stick to the rules they had made up for themselves.

   When they wrote to each other from one christianity to another, or to their headoffice in Scheut, the missionaries communicated their displeasure. Many of those letters were destroyed after reading them. In the ones that have survived, at the end one can often read remarks such as ‘this is personal, please don’t talk about it with your colleagues’, or simply: ‘destroy this paper after reading it’.

   One nice example of this kind of writing is a letter forwarded by Alfons Lievens on May 31, 1887. Somebody of the western part of the Scheut mission in Mongolia had to be selected for a convention of the most important missionaries north of the Chinese Wall. Flemish father Alfons Bermijn had more or less won the battle to be sent as a delegate.

   Lievens warned his colleague Jerome Van Aertselaer. “I am convinced that Bermijn will raise his voice against [the Belgian bishop] Msgr. De Vos. Be careful with him. Bermijn probably will misuse his position and is planning to hurt De Vos”.

   Lievens had lots of grievances against Cesar De Brabander. He didn’t formulate exactly what his colleague had been up to. Probably Van Aertselaer knew all about it. But one thing was certain – De Brabander was gossiping all the time. In fact, that’s exactly what Lievens was doing himself when he wrote the letter. “I know that De Brabander really hates Msgr. De Vos. He has thrown mud at several of us with the intention to excuse himself and diminish his own failures. The best thing to do is remove him from our mission in China. The best thing is not to make too much noise about it and quietly send him back to Europe”.

   Bishop De Vos had canceled all of De Brabander’s competences ‘because Cesar has left his post without any reason or permission’. Lievens had one more thing to say to Van Aertselaer in the more eastern part of the Scheut mission. “De Brabander leaves on a big and beautiful horse. Christian converts have raised much of the money. So the horse is not his property. When he arrives, seize the horse and send it back to us, together with other things he probably has taken with him without asking our permission”.

   The missionaries in China organised their own postal system. It looks like De Brabander himself would deliver this letter to Van Aertselaer.

   At the end of it Lievens asked his colleague only to read this personal letter and not to talk about it with anyone else. And, like a true priest, he wrote: “Please pray for me, I will certainly pray for you”.

   In 1889 Ferdinand Hamer became bishop in the Ordos area. Lievens couldn’t bear Bermijn’s way of acting. Hamer had even bigger problems with Bermijn especially when the Flemish priest was appointed provincial of the Ordos by Van Aertselaer, the new leader of the mission in Scheut. The relation between bishop and provincial turned into a huge conflict. Hamer felt the only thing he could do was offering his resignation in Rome. It took several years before a reply arrived from the Propaganda Fide. Rome refused his resignation. The bishop was requested to continue his mission work in the Ordos. The prelate more or less decided to make the best of it.


There were also problems for the missionaries in dealing with Chinese women. In a letter, dated March 4, 1900, missionary Willem Lemmens concluded that his colleague Edward Vertommen ‘was only able to function in China as long as it was not necessary for him to stay in contact with persons of the other sex’.

   Bishop Hamer hardly knew how to cope with the same kind of problems. Soon after he became bishop, he already ordered that there should be a separation during confession when it was a woman who confessed her sins. In 1897 he had two particular cases when two of his missionaries didn’t stick to the celibacy. On November 10, he wrote to Van Aertselaer in Belgium: “Try to imagine a scene, three years ago, in front of the church for women. A certain woman confessed without any separation. With somebody as Edmond Rubbens, the congregation of Scheut is ipso facto losing its good name”. The case of Karel Verellen in 1897 was even worse for Scheut. On June 14, Hamer came to the conclusion: “Verellen doesn’t have the right attitude of mind at all. He should never have become a priest”.


Family of evangelists in China

More than a century later, it’s hard to estimate how big the celibacy-problem really was. Many of the letters dealing with it probably have not been preserved in the Scheut archives. Still, for the activities in the China mission, celibacy had its advantages. Don’t forget there was a fierce competition between the catholic missionaries and the protestant evangelists.

   Most of the evangelists had the British nationality. They were compatriots of the soldiers who had won the Second Opium War of 1856-1860. Great-Britain, the ‘shopkeeper of the world’ as it was called for many decades, was an economic superpower in the nineteenth century. Most of the evangelists, including people from Germany, Scandinavia and the United States of America, certainly had much more money at their disposal than the catholic missionaries.

   Understandably, that was a thorn in the flesh of the young Belgian and Dutch priests, operating far away from home. The Belgian mission bishop (apostolic vicar) Jaak Bax put it like this in 1878: “Isn’t it sad for us to realize that the protestants, strayed from the proper path to heaven, are able to spend twelve times, maybe fifteen times more money as the catholics. The English societies are provided with a capital of 50 million francs every year. The Propagation de la Foi in France has a total income of not more than five or six million a year, with gifts coming in from all over world!”

   The evangelists not only had more money at their disposal. They also worked in another way. They settled mostly within the walls of the Chinese cities, while the missionaries, mostly born and bred in the countryside of France and the rest of western Europe, felt more at ease in agricultural Chinese areas.

   Because of their way of living the priests were able to concentrate fully on the job they had to do in China. The evangelists sometimes had to cope with unexpected affairs. They came with wives and (young) children. The families had to spend much time on all kinds of domestic things. Children and women had to deal with diseases and even death. Much of their time, and money, was taken up by activities which had little to do with proselytizing.

   The Chinese also had their own ideas about the westerners. In their culture old men with long beards were venerated. As explained before, missionaries and evangelists grew beards when boarding a steamship to China. Women, sometimes preaching together with their husband, didn’t get the same recognition. In confucianism, the woman was subordinate to her husband. Norbert Janssens, a Dutch missionary, wrote in his mission letter home of March 15, 1889: “Do not send sisters of charity to this country. The Chinese would be irritated to see European women. Christianity would be in contempt, as has been the case with the protestants”.

   Another father remarked that an evangelist had done as much as he could but in the wrong way. “I hear that he has married a Chinese woman in order to win a favourable position with the people. The plan was good but the result didn’t meet the expectation. Many of those protestant preachers work as hard as possible to achieve something”, he added.

The catholic missionaries had only limited means for their activities in China. So they were forced to spend their money carefully. In their eyes the evangelists didn’t know very well the most effective ways to bring the Chinese to christianity. Distributing bibletexts was one of their methods. Several evangelists translated the bible, or parts of it, into the Chinese language. They gave booklets to potential converts. That didn’t always work out as they hoped for. Many of the Chinese, who might be interested to embrace the christian belief, were not able to read at all. And there were additional problems. “Bible societies did not want to offend or stir up an unending controversy between the many denominations in China or their donors back home. So the sacred literature contained no explanatory notes or even commentary of the simplest kind”.

   The people often didn’t understand the meaning of what it was all about. “The Chinese had never heard of prophets”, Nat Brandt wrote in his boek Massacre in Shansi. “They had no idea where the biblical lands were, and thought certain practices, such as the washing of feet, strange. They were often confused by such elemental matters as the frequent allusion to shepherds in the bible. In many areas of China the inhabitants had never seen sheep. What were they? Moreover, where there were sheep, they were considered the lowest form of animal, and shepherds were not highly regarded”.

   Brandt, writing about the evangelist mission in the province of Shanxi, also had something to say about the role of women. “The Chinese were shocked by the impropriety displayed by married missionary couples. Women occupied the lowest rank in their society, so inferior that it was not uncommon to find unwanted girls thrown outside a city’s walls for wolves to eat. The father was a supreme autocrat, with strict control over family income and property. He could sell a daughter into slavery. His wife never appeared with him in public and any display of affection between him and her was considered immoral”.

   Anyhow, many Chinese were grateful to be presented with printed bibletexts. They manufactured them into the soles of their shoes.

The missionaries had other methods than the evangelists. Wanting to profit from the advantages of their conversion, the catechumenes (christians not yet baptized) and new christians were obliged to have themselves be introduced in the rules of catechism and go to the mission church several times each day. The sacraments of baptism and confirmation finalized the transfer to the catholic faith. Was that a real conversion? That’s hard to say.


The catholic missionaries were convinced that it was extremely important to impress the Chinese. The protestant method of conversion they considered too weak. A French sister of charity in Tianjin reported her opinion in 1866 after attending the solemn funeral of a colleague. “Everywhere in the city there was silence. Everybody gave way to the cross and the funeral procession. There was order and respect. I felt I was back in one of the best French parishes. How long will it take before those poor and unhappy heathens will open their eyes for the true light. All this solemnity impressed the people, even more the protestants, who had to admit: only the catholic religion has such solemn rites. We do not have anything like it”.

Help for the missionaries


Pope Leo XIII

The European fathers in the north of China operated not completely on their own. Several societies and people constantly offered help. Money and all sorts of presents (stations of the cross, windows for their churches, guns, devotional prints, canned food, etcetera) were delivered by the Propagation de la Foi, the Sainte-Enfance, all kinds of catholic organisations, members of their family and catholics who could afford to help.

   Thomas Pecci, pope Leo XIII since the death of Piux IX in 1878, was an important mission helper in Rome. Pecci, a former Vatican nuncio in Belgium, had supported the Sainte-Enfance from its earliest days in 1843. Leo XIII backed the mission activities all over the world. On December 3, 1880, the pope published his encyclical mission letter ‘Sancta Dei Civitas’.  

   In it he praised the two major French mission-societies. The Sainte-Enfance ‘undertook to rescue and bring up in Christian habits the unhappy children whom their parents, pressed by idleness or want, exposed inhumanly, especially in China, where this barbarous custom is most frequent. These children the charity of the confraternity embraces tenderly, sometimes redeems them by payment of a sum of money and takes care that they are washed in the layer of regeneration, so that they may, with the help of God, be brought up as the hope of the Church, or at least may, in case of their death, be endowed with the means of acquiring everlasting happiness’.

   Leo XIII also quoted one of his predecessors Gregorius XVI, at whose instigation the Propagation de la Foi was established in the French city of Lyon. “We judge to be most worthy of the admiration and love of all good men this truly great and most holy work, which by modest offerings and daily prayers addressed by each associate to God is sustained, increased and grows strong, and which is occupied in maintaining apostolic labourers and in exercising works of christian charity towards neophytes, as well as in delivering the faithful from the attack of persecutions. Nor must we think that it is without a peculiar design of Divine Providence that an institution of so much advantage and utility to the Church has in these latter times been vouchsafed to her. For whilst all kinds of machinations of the infernal enemy harrass the beloved spouse of Christ, nothing could have happened more opportunely for her than that the faithful, influenced by a desire of propagating catholic truth, should with united zeal and collected strength endeavour to gain all men to Christ”.

   Leo XIII asked all christians to help the mission activities. “They can easily be fulfilled by men of all ranks. For who is there of such slender fortune that he is hindered from giving at one time or other a small alms, or occupied by so many things that he cannot pray to God for the messengers of the Holy Gospel?

   This work tends directly to the glory of the Divine name and to the spread of the Kingdom of Christ upon earth. But it is incredibly beneficial to those who are called out of the filth of vice and the shadow of death; and who, being made partakers of eternal life, are also brought out of barbarism and a state of savage manners into the fulness of civilised life. Moreover, it is highly useful and advantageous to those who take any part in it, since it procures them spiritual riches, supplies them with an occasion of merit, and renders, as it were, God himself their debtor”.

   A donation to the mission was worthwhile. “When you are engaged in exhortation, let every one consider that his liberality will not be to him a loss, but a gain, because he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, and on that account the practice of almsgiving has been called the most profitable of all practices”.

   Supporting the mission, praying, donating money, becoming a missionary or sister of charity, was a good investment in life after death. You donated during your lifetime. After this temporay life on earth, your donation was fully returned, with interest – in heaven!

The Japanese also were helpful to the missionaries in the north of China. In 1894 the Chinese were beaten by the Japanese army and fleet. The central power of Beijing was further weakened. The Chinese were forced to pay an indebtment to the Japanese. The Mongolian princes had to contribute to

this vast sum. Whether they were willing or not, they had to sell or lease part of their lands. The Chinese defeat, in a way, was a victory for the missionaries.

   The more land they were able to acquire, the more Chinese they could admit into new christianities, with other words: the more Chinese people they were able to ‘convert’.

   Thanks to the pope and the Church in Europe more and more fathers were arriving in China. More and more money was pouring in. With the acquisition of new grounds for agricultural colonisation and the building of churches, catholic schools and orphanages, the future looked bright.

The Boxer Rebellion

After the Chinese-Japanese War of 1894-1895 the Europeans became more and more reckless. In the last five years of the nineteenth century especially the Germans were ambitious. Emperor Wilhelm II immediately reacted when in 1897 two missionaries of the German-Dutch congregation of Steyl were assassinated in the province of Shandong. The German navy occupied part of the Shandong coast. Wilhelm II decided to annex the area for his country. It was the start of a race between the European powers to acquire new territories in the Far East.

   The Chinese government was not able to prevent the British and French from grabbing parts of their empire. They couldn’t protect its subjects either. More and more, the people had to organize their own lives. That was the beginning of the so-called boxer rebellion.

   During the war with Japan Chinese troops were transferred from the interior to the coastal areas. The muslims in the north felt oppressed. With the troops gone they revolted again. The missionaries felt threatened by this rebellion. They decided to build thick walls with watchtowers around some of their christianities. If necessary the fathers now would be able to entrech themselves in what looked like medieval forts.  

  10 Bermijn

Alfons Bermijn

Maybe because of the diminishing of the central power in Beijing a group of Scheutists under the leadership of provincial Alfons Bermijn (the ‘iron briade’) became more and more insolent. They bought new pieces of land from the Mongols in order to raise new and bigger christianities. Some of the local people living there had to be removed, probably unless they were willing to convert. If necessary the ‘iron brigade’ used violence. On May 18, 1900, there was a tragic accident at a place called Sanilu, which had been bought by the Scheutists. A gang of two hundred armed christians under the leadership of the fathers Engel Verstraeten and Herman Ramaekers occupied the land with violence.

   Ferdinand Hamer, the bishop, not involved, put it like this: “There was fighting. Three christians were wounded, but four heathens were killed and three others heavily wounded. The christians have thrown the dead and the wounded heathens into the Yellow River. The heathens have rented three boats. They are looking for the corpses. Christians are on the look-out. They plan to throw the dead bodies into the Yellow River again when they find them”.

   The Chinese authorities soon took action. They brought a charge against ten christians, including the two missionaries. In those months there were extraordinary circumstances. When in trouble, the Europeans could always ask for help in the east, where there were troops and gunboats. Besides, they felt protected by the treaties of 1860. This time, the Europeans in the north of China had bad luck. The embassy area of Beijing was cut off from the outer world by the boxers. The westerners in Beijing needed help themselves. They were not able to come to the assistance of the missionaries and new christians. 

   Because of the accident at Sanilu, the boxers had an alibi to manifest themselves in the Ordos. They were also supported by Yuxian, the new governor of Shanxi. Under pressure from the westerners Yuxian had been removed as governor of Shandong. He was not noted for his friendly relations with the always forward pushing West.

The boxers attacked the christianities, the missionaries, the evangelists and the ‘new christians’ everywhere in the north of China. More than ever before they, the missionaries, had to act as real soldiers. Most of the mission posts were far away from each other. So the missionaries more or less had to arrange their own defense.

   In the eastern part of the Scheut mission field, the Russians advanced. Russian soldiers moved forward to help the priests.

   Father Gerard Vonke, from the Dutch village of Raalte, had to fight the attackers with his own weapons. He entrenched himself in a christianity which he called the rosary village. While the boxers advanced, the converts flocked together and asked Vonke for protection. The Dutch missionary suddenly became aware that he was obliged to put his ideas into practice. After the attack was over, Vonke reported: “We had to stop more than a thousand boxers, supported by seventy soldiers. Divided in two gangs, they pressed onward. We are convinced that these boxers are not ordinary human beings: they must be lunatics, possessed by the devil. We had to act accordingly. So all of us started to throw holy water on the attackers?”

   Holy water. Did that really help?

   Father Vonke felt that he had done the right thing. “It looked as if our blessings were successful. We must have chased away the evil spirits that possessed them and made them, as they believed, invulnerable. They could only advance very slowly and seemed irresolute”.

   Holy water alone, however, was not enough. There were good weapons available for the christians. “We started firing our guns. Three of the attackers fell dead rightaway. Many were wounded. The others hastily retreated. The soldiers started shooting, not at us but at the boxers. They tried to force the boxers in this way to press forward again. One of my converts, whose son was a member of the gang of boxers, begged the soldiers to stop shooting. All of the attackers would die, he tried to make clear. Then all of them took to flight. They left all kinds of objects on the battlefield: rifles, lances, swords, and shoes, even several women shoes”.

   Not all missionaries were as lucky as Gerard Vonke. The fathers Dobbe, Abbeloos, Zijlmans, Heirman and Mallet were killed. Bishop Hamer in Ershisiqingdi sent his colleagues to a safer place. He made the decision not to flee. After 35 years of mission work he felt he couldn’t desert his christians when they were in danger. After several attacks the bishop and his converts were assassinated. The women were taken prisoner and sold to the muslims west of the Yellow River.

Men on mission

  11 Klein Brugge met puntje kerk

Fort Klein Brugge

A group of many missionaries under the leadership of Alfons Bermijn gathered in the missionary stronghold of Klein Brugge in the Ordos, just north of the Chinese Wall. Five years before this christianity was strengthened with walls and watchtowers in case the muslims would rebel again. The Belgian and Dutch priests were supplied with good arms. Bermijn all gave them names of famous Boer fighters in South Africa. They also armed their converts who had found refuge with them.

  Bermijn and his helpers survived a siege of more than a month. Some reports, published afterwards,show that they behaved as real brave soldiers. The fathers did not hesitate nor bothered to kill when they were attacked. Only one of them, Gisbert Jaspers, was killed. The siege of Klein Brugge was lifted after allied troops put an end to the siege of the embassy area in Beijing. The boxers had been beaten by superior allied weapons.

   Now revenge actions followed. German troops, brought over all the way from Germany by emperor Wilhelm II himself, were ruthless.

   The young priest father Jules Anicq sent his own reports to his family in Flanders. It was no use to be soft in handling the affairs with the Chinese. “I know what I am doing. It is a question of life and death. We must live, if God wants it. We have to be on top of everything. Everything has been destroyed, everything has been burned. Thousands of christians have been assassinated, the women and daughters dragged away and sold. Now it is my job to start all over again. I am gathering the christians who are still alive. We have to build new houses and start new christianities. We have to have our women, children, animals and possessions back, which the heathens have stolen from us. In 1900 we have fought for our freedom. Now there is peace. There is only one ruler in this part of China – That is me. Everywhere the heathens welcome me as a prince. They are afraid that I will start shooting and plundering. It takes some dirty feet to finish this operation”.

   With these down to earth words the Belgian Scheutist made it clear that mission activities had to be the work of real men.


A boxer (or China), begging for mercy

Harry Knipschild

Oegstgeest, October 5, 2012
The Scheut missionaries

Désiré Abbeloos (Opwijk, 1871-1900)

Koenraad Abels (Weert, 1856-1942)

Jeroom Van Aertselaer (Hoogstraten, 1845-1924)

Jules Anicq (Nukerke, 1860-1918)

Jaak Bax (Weelde, 1824-1895)

Cyril Van Belle (Deux-Acren, 1857-1918)

Alfons Bermijn (St. Pauwels, 1853-1915)

Cesar De Brabander (Elversele, 1857-1919)

Jozef Dobbe (Den Bosch, 1864-1900)

Godfried Frederix (Afferden, 1866-1938)

Ferdinand Hamer (Nijmegen, 1840-1900)

Armand Heirman (Berlare, 1862-1900)

Emile Indemans (Stevensweert, 1866-1912)

Gisbert Jaspers (Geldrop, 1871-1900)

Willem Lemmens (Beek, 1860-1943)

Alfons Lievens (Kapellen, 1854-1917)

Jan Mallet (Hechtel, 1870-1900)

Willem Meyer (Zeddam, 1838-1909)

Herman Ramaekers (Elsene, 1868-1936)

Theophiel Redant (Nieuwerkerken, 1860-1891)

Edmond Rubbens (Zele, 1859-1929)

Theodoor Rutjes (Duiven, 1844-1896)

Alois Van Segvelt (Rumst, 1826-1867)

Antoon Smorenburg (Soest, 1827-1904)

Jan-Baptist Steenackers (Kasterlee, 1848-1912)

Theophile Verbist (Antwerpen, 1823-1868)

Karel Verellen (Antwerpen, 1859-1925)

Remi Verlinden (Heffen, 1830-1892)

Engel Verstraeten (Bottelare, 1870-1949)

Gerard Vonke (Raalte, 1862-1906)

Alfons De Vos (Mesen, 1840-1888)

Frans Vranckx (Antwerpen, 1830-1911)

André Zijlmans (Waalwijk, 1873-1900)

Primary Sources

Archive Sparrendaal (Scheut), personal letters Theodoor Rutjes, Kloosterarchieven Sint Agatha

Archive Lazarists (Netherlands), Antoon Smorenburg letters

Archive Scheut, letters of the Scheut fathers, KADOC, Leuven

Archive Sainte-Enfance, Rome


Chateaubriand, Schoonheden des christendoms of zedelijke en dichterlijke voortreffelijkheden van den christelijken godsdienst, Haarlem 1810

Alois Van Segvelt, Les missionnaires belges en Mongolie. Coup d’oeuil sur l’établissement du christianisme à Pékin et en Mongolie, Brussels 1866

Annals Sainte-Enfance, Tilburg, 1867 (letter Sister Martha, Tianjin, September 8, 1866); 1889 (letter Norbert Janssens, March 15, 1889)

Katholieke Missiën, 1879 (Missiehuis Steyl bij Venlo)

Leo XIII, Sancta Dei Civitas, 1880, Vatican website

Missiën in China en Congo, Scheut, 1896 (Steenackers); 1900 (Vonke)

Henri Cordier, Histoire des relations de la Chine avec les puissances occidentales 1860-1900. Lempereur T’oung Tché (1861-1875), Paris 1901

Daniël Verhelst, Théophile Verbist et les origines de la Congrégation de Scheut. Documents édits, Leuven 1980

Nat Brandt, Massacre in Shansi, Syracuse University Press, 1994

Verhelst, Daniël, La congrégation de Coeur immaculé de Marie (Scheut). Édition critique des sources. Tome I. Une naissance laborieuse 1861-1865, Leuven 1986

Daniël Verhelst, Hyacinth Daniëls (ed.), Scheut vroeger en nu, Leuven 1991

Erik Raspoet, Reizigers in God. De missionarissen van Scheut, Amsterdam 2001

Danië Verhelst, Daniël, Hyacinth Daniëls (ed.), La Congrégation du Coeur Immaculé de Marie (Scheut). La correspondance de Théophile Verbist et ses Compagnons 1865-1866, Leuven 2003

Daniël Verhelst, Hyacinth Daniëls (ed.), La Congrégation du Coeur Immaculé de Marie (Scheut). La correspondance de Théophile Verbist et ses Compagnons 1866-1869, Leuven 2007

Research Harry Knipschild

Harry Knipschild, Ferdinand Hamer 1840-1900,Missiepionier en martelaar in China, Leiden 2005

Harry Knipschild, Soldaten van God. Nederlandse en Belgische missionarissen in China in de negentiende eeuw, Amsterdam 2007
Harry Knipschild, 'Bedrieglijke lieden, zaaiers van dwalingen. Katholieke missionarissen over protestantse zendelingen in China in de negentiende eeuw', Transparant, april 2008

Harry Knipschild, 'Ferdinand Hamer (1840-1900). Een held in de Chinese missie', in Ex Tempore (1), Nijmegen, 2011

Harry Knipschild, ‘Het moeizame leven van een missionaris. Antoon Smorenburg (1827-1904)’, in J. Thomas Lindblad, Alicia Schrikker (ed.), Het verre gezicht. Politieke en culturele relaties tussen Nederland en Azië, Afrika en Amerika. Opstellen aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. Leonard Blussé, Franeker 2011

Harry Knipschild, ‘‘Geen goddeloozer volk onder de zon’. Limburgers op missie onder de Chinezen’, in Publications. Jaarboek 2011. LGOG, deel 147, 2011

Harry Knipschild, ‘‘Het schijnt dat de Chinezen niet goed vooruit kunnen zonder hulp van de Europeanen’. Ed van Kan, een Maastrichtse missionaris, belegerd door de Boksers in Klein Brugge (China)’, De Maasgouw (3), 2012
Harry Knipschild, De bekering van de wereld, to be published early 2013
Speciale dank aan Cos van Teylingen

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