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Annual and quarterly reports of YMCA international work in China

Identifier: Y.USA.9-1-1


Annual and quarterly reports of North American YMCA foreign secretaries working in various cities in China between 1895 and 1949. This set of reports was collated from the set of bound Reports of Foreign Secretaries (for all countries) and from the records of YMCA International Work in China. In addition to documenting the successes and challenges of establishing the Young Men's Christian Association in China, the reports provide unique observations on Chinese society during the late Qing and Republican periods. The reports also document the YMCA movement's role in introducing and spreading Western philosophies of education, public health, and physical fitness.


  • 1896-1949
  • Majority of material found within ( 1896-1925)


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Use of Materials:

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Although the YMCA movement had been active in China as early as the 1870s, the first North American work YMCA work in China dates from 1889, when Luther Wishard travelled there as part of his efforts to lay the groundwork for a major expansion of YMCA foreign work. He found four student YMCAs in existence and organized three more. Associations, chiefly for foreigners living in those cities, had also been organized in Shanghai and Hankou (Hankow). In 1895, the International Committee of the YMCA in North America sent the first American YMCA secretary, D. Willard Lyon, to China as a response to appeals from missionaries in Beijing (Peking), Shanghai, and Yantai (Chefoo). This was the beginning of fifty-five years of North American YMCA involvement in China. Over the years approximately 150 secretaries served in about forty associations throughout the country.

Lyon launched his work in Tianjin (Tientsin), rather than Beijing, as he had first intended, for there, so he said, was "the only city in China with a well-organized system of educational institutions for the teaching of Western subjects." As the future leaders of China, students were the focus of much the International Committee's attention. Following a tour of institutions of higher learning by Lyon and John R. Mott, then general secretary of the newly organized World's Student Christian Federation, twenty-two new student YMCAs were organized in China in 1896.

Part of the appeal of the YMCA was the International Committee's policy of stressing indigenous leadership, support, and control, which appealed to the burgeoning nationalism of the Chinese. However, the rapid growth of the YMCA in China initially required additional staff from the North American Association. Among the other early YMCA secretaries sent were Robert Ellsworth Lewis, Robert Reed Gailey, and Fletcher Sims Brockman. The Boxer Rebellion briefly halted the YMCA's activities in China, but recovery and advance followed rapidly. The General Committee of China, Korea, and Hong Kong was founded in 1901. The following year, headquarters were established in Shanghai. In 1912 the General Committee became the National Committee of the Young Men's Christian Association of China, with Brockman as the first national secretary (1901-1915). The peak of the International Committee's involvement came in the early 1920s, with 89 secretaries serving in China. By that time, there were 30 city associations with a membership of over 32,000, plus 170 student associations counting 14,200 members. Local boards of directors and the National Committee soon became predominantly and then exclusively Chinese. More and more, the responsible positions, both local and national, were filled by Chinese. In the position of National Secretary, Brockman was followed by C. T. Wang (1915-1916), David Yui (1916-1936), S. C. Leung (1926-1949), and Y. C. Tu.

While the YMCA's foreign work was rooted in the missionary movement and Bible classes were among the first activities offered by the fledgling association, the program included a variety of other educational programs, including English classes, lectures, and vocational training. Physical training, public health education (a national health campaign organized by the YMCA in 1920s virtually ended typhus in China), and other fields of work were soon added as the YMCA responded to local needs. The YMCA introduced many Western sports and Western-style sports competitions, and can also take credit for the early organization of the Olympic movement in China. Under the leadership of Max Exner, who became the first national physical director in 1908, as well as C. H. Robertson and educator Zhang Boling (Chang Poling), the YMCA organized the Far Eastern Games, the first international competitions in the far east.

After the revolution in 1949, the American YMCA continued to support Chinese YMCAs in Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan. Involvement by North Americans (or acknowledgement of the Y's Western connections) proved impossible under Communist rule. Nevertheless, a number of YMCAs on mainland China persisted. As of 1955, twenty-six continued to operate, the only Christian institution with a social program which had not been taken over by the government, but the YMCA in the United States had little direct contact with the YMCA in China during the middle decades of the century. In 1979, relations between the Chinese and American YMCA movements were renewed when Li Shao Pao, K. H. Ting, and Wen Han Zhou attended the World Council on Religion and Peace Conference in Princeton, New Jersey. Following friendly negotiations, funds held by the U. S. National Council of YMCAs for the YMCAs of China during World War II and following were returned in 1983. Subsequently, there have been continued delegations and visits by groups and individuals.

[Historical information adapted in part from Kenneth Scott Latourette, World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of The Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, New York: Association Press, 1957. ]


1095 reports


Collected reports, primarily quarterly and annual, of North American YMCA foreign secretaries working in various cities in China.


Each report is listed along with the name of its author (the reporting foreign secretary), the title of the report, and the year it was issued. The locale (usually a city) reported on is also provided in both the older form used in the original reports and, in parentheses, the more modern Pinyin form of romanization. Lists of the reports with links to the digitized versions are provided in three arrangements:

  1. Chronological
  2. Alphabetical by Author
  3. Alphabetical by Location


These reports are also available in print in the form of a set of 19 published volumes: The Archives of the Young Men's Christian Assoication in China at the University of MInnesota Libraries: the Annual Reports, 1896-1949(Guangxi Normal University Press, 2011). In addition to facsimiles of the reports themselves, these volumes also include biographical sketches of the reporting secretaries, a brief history of Chinese YMCA city association buildings and conference centers, and various useful indexes.


Extensive additional reports, correspondence, and other related records can be found in Records of YMCA International Work in China (Y.USA.9-2-4), separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives

Processing Information:

Collated from Reports of Foreign Secretaries (for all countries) and from the Records of YMCA International Work in China (Y.USA.9-2-4) and digitized by the University of Minnesota Libraries in 2007.

An Inventory of Annual and Quarterly Reports of Work in China
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov.
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Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area