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Missionaries Beloit's First China Connection

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The general picture tells us that missionaries played a vital role in bringing Chinese students to the United States. Among them we could find many Beloiters who mad significant contributions to the education of Chinese students in China. It was these Beloiters who started the connection between Beloit and China.


-- Beloit's First China Connection --

     Long before its first Chinese students, Beloit had already established a connection with China through missionaries and their work there. Many Beloit graduates went to foreign countries for mission work. There they spent many years of their lives with desires to convert the unbelievers. While carrying on their religious service, they also devoted time to educational work. "The great part which Beloit has played in... spreading christian education was evidenced by the many Beloit names appearing upon the honor roll of Christian educators." (The Round Table, April 17, 1918, p.3) Arthur Henderson Smith, Henry Dwight Porter, and Lucius Chapin Porter were the most significant figures among them.

     "During the tenure of Beloit's first president, Aaron Lucius Chapin (1850-1886), Beloit sent several missionaries to China under the auspices of the ABCFM (The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions). The Beloit contingent in China was led by Henry D. Porter and Arthur H. Smith, both members of the class of 1867, and their families." (Beloit Magazine, Winter 1986, p.8) Born on July 18, 1845, A. H. Smith entered Beloit College in 1864 and graduated in 1867, the valedictorian of his class. At the college, Smith met H. D. Porter. They remained friends for more than 30 years. After graduating from Beloit, Smith and H. D. Porter entered the ABCFM North China mission and went to China in 1872.

     The Smiths and Porters lived in a small north China village called P'ang-chia-chuang for 18 years. There they set a permanent base for the ABCFM mission. At P'ang-chia-chuang, they devoted considerable time to preaching and patrol work. Miss Porter "ran a school for Christian children, and Dr. Porter ran a dispensary which evolved into a small, inadequate and unsanitary hospital ... Rev. Smith became a correspondent for the North China Herald and the Consular Gazette, the main English paper of the China coast." (Beloit Magazine, Winter 1986, p.8)

     Later the Porters went to Chefoo, and the Smiths went to Beijing to escape the danger caused by the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. In 1901, H. D. Porter returned to the U.S., "his health broken by his long service in China." (Beloit Magazine, Winter 1986, p.8), but Rev. Smith continued to stay in China for a few more years.

     As "one of the pioneers of the missionary world," (The Round Table, May 5, 1915) Rev. Smith taught and preached whenever possible during his 54 years in China. He had thrilling times during his long years of service, "having been in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and in the revolution as well as having been in the center of various revolutionary uprisings." (The Round Table, January 12, 1921, p.1) His personal experience and observation of Chinese rural life yielded him two influential books -- Chinese Characteristics and Chinese Village Life and several other books. "Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, missionaries were the only ones who knew their people and hence were the diplomatic connectives for most all of the foreign countries." (The Round Table, April 24, 1918). Rev. Arthur Smith was said by President Eaton to "bring the east and west together." (The Round Table, April 24, 1918). He saw Asia as becoming the center of the future events in the world. He believed that "Beloit College should act to help the rest of the nation understand how important Asia will be and take the lead among American institutions in recognizing that importance." (The Beloit Alumnus, June 1, 1927, pp.7-8)

     The connection between Beloit College and China was strengthened when more Beloit graduates entered the missionary field in China. Among them was the son of H. D. Porter, and grandson of the college's first president, Aaron Lucius Chapin, Lucius Chapin Porter, class of 1901 of Beloit College. L. C. Porter was born in China in 1880. After graduating from the Divinity school of Yale University in 1906, he was commissioned by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and left for Beijing, China in 1908. From 1908, Dr. L. C. Porter taught psychology and philosophy in North China Union College at Tungchou. In 1918 North China Union College was "absorbed into the new American Protestant-backed Yenching University" in Beijing. (Beloit Magazine, Winter 1986, p.8) From then he served as a professor of philosophy at Yenching until his retirement in 1949. "During the Japanese occupation, he was a prisoner on the campus and later was interned by the Russian." (Milwaukee Journal, September 8, 1958) During 40 years in China as a missionary and a teacher, Dr. L. C. Porter developed strong friendships with Chinese students. It was through Porter that many Chinese students came to study at Beloit. This will be narrated in more detail later.

     While missionaries connected the east to the west, Beloit missionaries acted as a bridge connecting Beloit College to China. Beloit's long history of close contact with China reflects that the college had already taken an initiative to promote an outward view of the world.



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