Miao Mission (1937–1939)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: September 28, 2022

Introduction

The Miao (Miáo Zú苗族) people are counted among the earliest tribes in China. They are different to the Han Chinese and are usually divided into four sub-groups: The Red Miao of western Hunan Province; the Black Miao of south-east Guizhou Province; the White Miao of south Sichuan, west Guizhou and south Yunnan Provinces; and the Big Flowery Miao of north-east Yunnan and north-west Guizhou Provinces. They practiced ancestor veneration, cultivated maize, sorghum, potatoes, beans, peanuts, sugar cane, and cotton on the plateaus in the mountainous regions. They wore colorfully embroidered costumes and enjoyed singing and dancing.1 To many people from the West, they are also known as Hmong. In reality, they are a subgroup of the Miao people who live in Southwest China and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Loas, and Thailand). After the Vietnam war, a large number emigrated to the United States.2

Preliminary Activities

Seventh-day Adventists first attempted evangelism among the Miao in 1929 when a national worker, Kwang Yu Tsen of the West Kweichow Mission, visited Chaotung (now Zhaotong) in the north-eastern arm of Yunnan Province. He found many Miao in the surrounding villages developing an interest in his message. Unfortunately, he became ill and had to return home where he passed away soon after.3

Late in 1930 five Miao young men walked south to the mission headquarters at Yunnanfu (now Kunming) to stay for a few days. They enjoyed singing during the evening services.4 Another Miao man became a baptized member and did translation work for the mission and wrote songs into the Miao language beginning in 1929.5 Claude Miller, stationed at Yunnanfu, toured north among the Miao in 1932 conducting evening Bible studies. He reported “at least fifty families have begun keeping the Sabbath. We have opened three day-schools among them and have over fifty students.”6

In July 1934 nearly one hundred Miao were conspicuous by their colorful costumes at the annual East Kweichow Conference meetings. One Miao young lady, Pan Shu Lo, had trained at the Shanghai Missionary College and graduated as a nurse from the Shenyang Sanitarium. It was planned that she would start a dispensary in Kweiyang (now Guiyang),7 but she was utilized instead as the Sabbath School secretary for the East Kweichow Mission.8

A national evangelist, Pan Tsung Seng, went among the Miao at Zhaotong and Pukwai in 1935.9 His efforts initially yielded eighteen who were baptized. Later other baptisms were held, including one of seventy believers, making a total of 112 Miao members in the area by mid-1938. One convert, Tao Fang Djeng, joined the evangelistic team in the Yunnan Mission and later transferred to the East Kweichow Mission. Sadly, he was murdered in April 1936 by bandits while in the course of his evangelism.10

Official Formation of the Mission

In February 1937 Dallas White was appointed to pioneer work in western Hunan Province among the Red Miao people in that territory. The earlier converts among the Big Flowery Miao in the north-eastern arm of Yunnan Province would come under the responsibility of the Yunnan Mission.11 The new enterprise in Hunan was expected to meet with similar success. A national evangelist, Ai Deng Ho, was selected as White’s assistant, and he went ahead to Chiencheng, western Hunan, to secure suitable premises for accommodation and a chapel. First attempts to attract an audience met with mockery from the locals. In order to break down prejudice, White used medical evangelism by extracting teeth, treating lepers, and other common ailments. Within eighteen months, progress was “highly gratifying” because of “a large interest.”12

Early optimism did not guarantee a harvest. The Miao Mission was listed in the statistical summaries from all the missions in China, but as of December 1939 no attainment figures were recorded for the entity.13 Unlike the Miao people of Yunnan and east Guizhou, the Miao of west Hunan resisted Christianity but were happy to accept medical aid. After three years of special attention, the Miao Mission in west Hunan was closed. Any further evangelism for these tribes was conducted by the broader Hunan Mission.

Sources

Branson, William H. “Visiting the Tribes Work in Yunnan.” China Division Reporter, December 15, 1939.

Chen Chih-Luen. “Among the Miao in the Chaotung Area.” China Division Reporter, June 1938.

Crisler, Clarence C. “The Annual Conference in East Kweichow.” China Division Reporter, September-November 1934

Djang Djeng Chiang. “Visiting the Miao.” China Division Reporter, November 1937.

“Miao People.” New World Encyclopedia, September 20, 2018. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Miao_people.

Miller, Claude B. “Fifty Families Observing the Sabbath.” China Division Reporter, July/August 1932.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1938-1939.

“Statistical Summary.” China Division Reporter, August 1, 1940.

White, Dallas R. “From Yunnanfu.” China Division Reporter, August/September 1931.

White, Dallas R. “Medical Ministry Opens a Door.” China Division Reporter, September 1938.

White, Vera N. “From Yunnanfu.” China Division Reporter, February 1931.

Notes

  1. New World Encyclopedia on “Miao People,” September 20, 2018, accessed June 15, 2022, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/miao_people .

  2. Encyclopedia Britannica on “Hmong,” accessed July 30, 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hmong; Wikipedia on “Hmong People,” accessed July 30, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hmong_people .

  3. Chen Chih-Luen, “Among the Miao in the Chaotung Area,” China Division Reporter, June 1938, 3-4.

  4. Vera N. White, “From Yunnanfu,” China Division Reporter, February 1931, 3.

  5. Susan Patt, granddaughter of missionaries Dallas and Vera (Mosebar) White, email message to the editors, August 22, 2023. Dallas R. White, “From Yunnanfu,” China Division Reporter, August/September 1931, 8.

  6. Claude B. Miller, “Fifty Families Observing the Sabbath,” China Division Reporter, July/August 1932, 2.

  7. Clarence C. Crisler, “The Annual Conference in East Kweichow,” China Division Reporter, September-November 1934, 2.

  8. “East Kweichow Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1936), 122-123.

  9. Djang Djeng Chiang, “Visiting the Miao,” China Division Reporter, November 1937, 5.

  10. Chen Chih-Luen, “Among the Miao in the Chaotung Area,” China Division Reporter, June 1938, 3-4.

  11. William H. Branson, “Visiting the Tribes Work in Yunnan,” China Division Reporter, December 15, 1939, 1.

  12. Dallas R. White, “Medical Ministry Opens a Door,” China Division Reporter, September 1938, 7.

  13. “Statistical Summary,” China Division Reporter, August 1, 1940, 10.

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Hook, Milton. "Miao Mission (1937–1939)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 28, 2022. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6HQB.

Hook, Milton. "Miao Mission (1937–1939)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 28, 2022. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6HQB.

Hook, Milton (2022, September 28). Miao Mission (1937–1939). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6HQB.