James Hudson Taylor was born on May 21, 1832 in Barnsley, Yorkshire to James and Amelia Taylor. He had two sisters, Louisa and Amelia. His father worked as a chemist (now we would call him a pharmacist) and was also a lay preacher in the Methodist church. When Hudson Taylor was young, he left his parents’ beliefs, but returned to them when he was 17. Having read a tract named “Poor Richard,” Hudson made a profession of faith and committed to missionary work in December 1849.
After this decision, he began preparing himself for life in China. He removed items from his life that he would not be able to have in China and rejected creature comforts that would not be available there. He moved in with a friend in 1851 and spent much time with the poor on the streets. He listened to speeches and read what he could find about missions and China.
Hudson Taylor went to the Royal Academy of Surgeons in London shortly after that but before he finished, he was contacted by the Chinese Evangelization Society with an opportunity to work in China as a missionary. He was grateful for the offer and eagerly accepted.
After nearly six months on a boat, Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai, China in March 1854. Shortly thereafter, a civil war began in China, very near to where Taylor was working and living. He was within view of many of the battles and was able to offer care to the injured and dying.
Throughout his stay, Taylor would spend time traveling to remote villages to hand out tracts and tell the people about God. Their appearance was not like the local people, and so at first they were often not welcomed, but due to this and because he respected the Chinese culture, Hudson Taylor chose to accumulate a Chinese wardrobe, and even arranged his hair as the Chinese did. He continued this for the remainder of his life. This brought them more rapport with the native people.
In 1857, while Taylor was living in Ningbo, he chose to stop working with the Chinese Evangelization Society. Part of his reason was his inability to support himself. He and five other men joined together to evangelize in China.
In 1858, Hudson Taylor and Maria Jane Dyer married. Maria had taught at Miss Aldersley’s school and was a missionary herself, but her guardian, Miss Aldersley, had opposed the relationship for several years. The two, after receiving the blessings of many people, finally determined that it was reasonable to ignore Miss Aldersley’s objection.
Taylor’s first furlough was in 1860. He, his wife, and his daughter Grace went to England in 1860, where Hudson finished his medical school studies and built support to continue their missionary work in China. Taylor and his friend William Berger founded the China Inland Mission during this time, when he realized it was necessary to have an organization.
Hudson Taylor bathed all of his efforts in much prayer, and the Mission was no exception. He desired the approval of God in everything he accomplished. His first specific prayer for the China Inland Mission was for 24 missionaries to volunteer to go to China with him when he returned. God’s answer was quick and precise, with exactly twenty-four missionaries volunteering for the work.
Six years later, Taylor, his wife, his four children, and sixteen of the new missionaries went to China. The mission groups that were already in the country – the LMS and CEM – were shocked that all of Taylor’s group wore Chinese clothes, but that did not move Hudson Taylor. He firmly believed that it was the best way to reach the people.
Hudson Taylor used his medical degree to aid people who needed care and many Chinese people went to him for assistance when medical attention was necessary. He always spoke to his patients about the Gospel.
Taylor and his fellow missionaries spent much time along the Grand Canal and into Yangzhou. In 1868, some terrible and offensive rumors about the missionaries began to circulate, including posters. A mob of around ten thousand people gathered at the gates of the missionaries’ house and rioted. The people injured the missionaries, wrecked and looted the house, and then left. While the missionaries were injured, none were killed.
The next year, Maria succumbed to cholera and died. This was very difficult for Hudson, but he accepted it as allowed by God and relied on God’s strength.
Two years after this, he was encouraged to return to England for a break. While there, he became reacquainted with a friend named Jennie Faulding. During his time in England, the two married. Most of his time in England was used speaking about missions and finding 18 more missionaries to join him in China.
The Boxer Rebellion was a very difficult time for China Inland Mission, as there were 58 adults and 21 children who lost their lives during the uprising. No other mission group in China at the time lost as many people.
Hudson Taylor poured his body and soul into his work in China. This, the weather, and the unfamiliar diseases took a toll on his overall health, resulting in a necessary retirement. He and his wife moved to Switzerland where he continued sharing kindness with those around him.
Hudson’s wife Jennie died of cancer in 1903, and in 1905 he returned to China. He was reading when he died suddenly, and he was buried next to Maria in Zhenjiang.
His work was effective and lasting. Over 800 missionaries went to China through his influence and somewhere around 125 schools were started by him. Over 18,000 Chinese people came to Christ during his ministry, and as these told others, God’s work continued. China Inland Mission is now OMF International and continues to this day to carry on God’s work that was begun by J. Hudson Taylor.
You can read more about Hudson Taylor in biographies and other writings.
Where to Buy
The Autobiography of J. Hudson Taylor: Journals of an Evangelical Missionary Who Preached Christianity in China (Hardcover)
Union and Communion: A Devotional Study of How the Song of Solomon Reveals a Believer's Union With Christ
Written by the man himself, and including photographs, this book is his story. Its subtitle “Journals of an Evangelical Missionary Who Preached Christianity in China” aptly explains the contents.
Part of the Christian Heroes series, this book is geared more to teens and young adults. It is a simple biography about a simple man who did big things for God.
This biography is written by Taylor’s son, who also served as a missionary to China with his wife and his parents.
This book, written by J. Hudson Taylor, was first published in 1894. It is a compilation of Taylor’s journals and letters and includes things from 1849 until 1866.
This devotional offers spiritual insights from J. Hudson Taylor, compiled by Lance Wubbels.
This compilation of Taylor’s writings has been rediscovered and reprinted for our generation.
This story is put together from letters and papers and chronicles the relationship of Hudson Taylor and his first wife, Maria.
This study by J. Hudson Taylor compares the Song of Solomon with the relationship of Christ and His people.
God has made blue the color of sky and sea, but the blue is lost when clouds are between. This is a picture of God and His people and the need for believers to keep anything from being between them and God. This devotional was written by J. Hudson Taylor.