Pan Xiushan (P’an Sheo-shan) and his wife belonged to the Hmu tribe, a subgroup of the Miao. They were born and brought up in Huangping, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) east of Guiyang, the provincial capital. Pan’s job as a mason took him to that city and they settled there for many years. Soon after they arrived, Pan and his wife heard the gospel, believed it and were baptized by J. F. Broumton of the CIM, who in 1877 had been one of the first two Protestant missionaries ever to set foot in Guizhou.
Pan taught a few of the missionaries Hmu, and they soon realized that the various Miao languages differed completely throughout Guizhou, and nothing of Pan’s tongue could be understood by the other Miao communities living closer to Giuyang. In 1896, Pan accompanied Mr. and Mrs. F. B. Webb as they established a mission base at Panghai, near Kaili, to reach out to the Hmu. They found most of the tribespeople to be very friendly and receptive to the gospel, but the Chinese, who were outnumbered in that part of the country, were afraid of the Christians’ intentions and especially hated Pan for the assistance he gave the foreigners.
The following year, the Webbs left the area due to ill health and were replaced by another missionary, F. E. Bolton. Together, Bolton and Pan made a good team. Bolton’s letters frequently mentioned the impact Pan was making on his fellow Hmu: “From early morning till 10.30 or 11 p.m. the chapel has been filled, and preaching has gone on all day. The evening service is a sight to behold; the place packed inside, and as many people outside. Both Mr Pan and the teacher have preached splendidly, taking the meeting in turns.”
After a three-week evangelistic trip with the missionary William Fleming, Pan returned to Panghai to find great animosity between the Hmu and the Chinese. He and Fleming tried to escape to Guiyang, but a short distance from Panghai they “observed two or three men following them, one of them being armed with a long cavalry sword.… This man suddenly set upon the evangelist and quickly dispatched him—hacking at him as he tried to get out of a field into which he had fallen.”
Today, approximately three million Hmu comprise the largest subgroup of the Miao nation in China. Pan Xiushan was the first of this tribe to follow Christ. His death was an inspiration to many Hmu, who, knowing he had been killed unjustly, reflected on the message he had preached so fearlessly. On 12 May 1899, little more than six months after the martyrdoms of Pan and Fleming, a missionary wrote:
There are quite a few persons in Panghai and Qingping district who profess to be interested in the Gospel and want their names put down as enquirers. Several parties have come to Guiyang to see us. One was deputed by forty or fifty men to come, and another by a whole village of thirty or forty families. Already our brother’s life and labours are bearing fruit.
China’s Book of Martyrs. Carlisle: Piquant Editions, 2007. Used by permission.
- Some English-language sources have spelt his name Pan Shoushan.
- See Paul Hattaway, Operation China: Introducing All the Peoples of China (Carlisle: Piquant, 2000) for profiles of 490 distinct ethno-linguistic groups in China, including more than 40 groups belonging to the official Miao “minority nationality”.
- Samuel R. Clarke, “P’an, the Evangelist”, China’s Millions (August 1899), p. 121
- “Particulars of Mr. Fleming’s Death” p. 22
- Clarke, “P’an, the Evangelist”, p. 121.