1873  — 1916

Xie Honglai

Hsieh Hung-lai, H. L. Zia

Influential Chinese Protestant writer and publicist as well as director of publications for the Young Men's Christian Association in China.

The eldest of the seven children of a Presbyterian minister, Xie was taught the Confucian classics as a child. In 1892 he enrolled at the Buffington Institute (later Suzhou University), a school established by the Methodists. After graduating in 1895, he taught physics and chemistry at the Anglo-Chinese College in Shanghai, another forerunner of Suzhou University. He developed and compiled science teaching materials. In 1900 he worked part time with the Commercial Press in Shanghai, editing and translating textbooks on science, mathematics, and geography.

In 1904 he joined the YMCA full time, serving as secretary of the national committee and director of the publications department. His writings were of a high literary standard yet easy enough for the average reader to understand. He contracted tuberculosis in 1907, spent several months in the mountains of Colorado in 1909, and returned to recuperate in the mountains of Jiangxi, during which time he wrote Consumption: Its Nature, Prevention, and Cure. Aware of impending death, he moved to Hangzhou, where he continued to work as editor in chief of the YMCA Association Press. In 1914 he prepared the Bible study leaders and directed the follow-up program in Hangzhou for the meetings of Sherwood Eddy of the World Student Christian Movement. He initiated the informal Fortnightly Club in Hangzhou to provide a forum for the intelligentsia and professionals to discuss philosophical and ethical issues.

In the course of his career, Xie produced more than 200 books, pamphlets, and articles in Chinese and English. He also compiled the first edition of the YMCA hymnbook and was responsible for publicizing the YMCA throughout China. Xie was so highly respected that more than 20 memorial services were held in his honor when he died at age 43.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


Boorman, Howard L., ed., Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Vol. 2 (1968).

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