A Force for Reform: The American Presbyterian Mission Press in China, 1836-1870

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Dove, Kay Lee
Folsom, Kenneth E.
The American Presbyterian Mission Press (PMP) was a vital, if indirect, force in stimulating intellectual reform in China. During its early years, 1836-1870, the PMP developed technological innovations in the printing of the Chinese language that led to the modernization of the Chinese printing industry, which, in turn, provided textbooks for modern education and periodical literature for the development of public opinion. At the same time, the Press trained a corps of Chinese in modern printing technology, which was then able to apply this training in Chinese private and governmental printing offices. The PMP worked with Chinese printing establishments, selling them Chinese type and assisting them to purchase printing presses and other equipment which was necessary for use with metal movable type. Before the 19th century Chinese printing had become a finely developed art, but by this time, printing technology in Europe and America had modernized, and it was more efficient and less expensive. Type founders and missionaries in Europe and Asia reduced the 40,000-character Chinese language to amanageable number by determining which characters were necessary for printing Christian literature. Then they mass-produced them in metal movable type. The PMP was the pioneer that succeeded in this effort, thereby modernizing China's printing industry and promoting the massive introduction of Western secular as well as religious thought. The modernization of China in general rests upon the modernization of the printing industry, for this development preceded and made possible the reforms which followed it.