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Home  >  News  >  China Tribute to Scottish Missionary


China Tribute to Scottish Missionary

Tuesday August 23

As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations this year, a Chinese university museum is commemorating the unique cultural contribution made there by a Scottish missionary and sinologist.

His family have been told that, apart from a tribute to Eric Liddell this is the first time China has recognised and highlighted the contribution of a Christian missionary.

Sichuan University Museum, Chengdu -- previously the West China Uninon University Museum of Antiquities - is celebrating "120 years since the arrival of Thomas Torrance", who sourced and donated many of the artefacts now on display.

"When construction of the museum was in its initial strages," say the organisers "The museum possessed only one object. From 1914-33, Mr. Torrance procured and presented more than 5000 cultural objects ranging from the Han dynasty to China's republican period, including picture bricks, pottery, bronze ware, coins etc."

Born into a farming family in North Lanarkshire in 1871, The Rev Thomas Torrance was called to be both minister and missionary. He studied theology at Hulme Cliff College, Sheffield and trained at Livingstone College London, sailing to China in 1895. After language study, he was sent as a missionary to Chengdu,
1200 miles inland, to be in charge of several outstations.

In 1910, when attending the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, he accepted an invitation to be the American Bible Society's Superintendent for west China and served for 25 years, later as the Superintendant for west China of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Earlier this year, one of his sons, David - a retired Church of Scotland minister now living in North Berwick, East Lothian - was visited by Mr Wu Damin, who organised this year's exhibition to 'shine a spotlight on the 40 years that Torrance spent living and working in China' and 'enhance cultural exchange and dialogue between the civilizations of East and West'.

In a tribute to the significance of Torrance's work, one exhibiton panel states:- "Mr Torrance served as vice chairman of the museum committee from 1929-30 and for a long time, maintained correspondence with the director, discussing museum-related affairs. Over two decades he published many research papers based on his own anthropological surveys and collection of historical objects."

Through his many publications, he introduced the west to the history and customs of the Chi'ang people and by translating Chinese texts, helped provide a better understanding of the western Sichuan , opening 'a window on the western world' and introducing Britain and America to this remote region and its people.
Describing him as a "pioneer" of the museum, the organisers add that Torrance 'mastered the Chinese language, had excellent written Chinese and  a great interest in Chinese history and archaelogy'.

To coincide with the exhibition, Sichuan University published a book "Selected Works of Thomas  Torrance."
In the Preface, Professor Huo Wei - Head of the Museum and Professor of Archaeology - expresses his appreciation of Torrance´s 'distinguished contribution with regard to research into Chinese traditional culture and the local culture of Sichuan'.


Margot Muir Crossing - Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

“I met Mr Wu Damin in China in 2016. It was a great honour. His effort alongside the Sichuan Uni brought Rev Torrance's work into the contemporary space.
Of course Pastor Whiteheart had always hoped that West Christians would know of a group of Israelites that had migrated to China, kept their customs until they met the Christ.
Pastor Whiteheart was martyred in 1937, WW2 broke out in 1939, then post war communist China almost erased the memories of the people to whom Torrance found in 1910 but Mr Wu Damin has reprinted his work in Mandarin and English.
Praise God for Scottish missionaries. ”

Jihe Song - Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

“I just read with interest this brief report. I was facilitating Mr Wu's visits to Scotland, and am still in touch with him and the David Torrance. ”

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