1895  — 1974

Francis Wilson Price


Presbyterian missionary in China who established the Rural Training Center and served as China's advocate in America during World War II.

Born in China of Southern Presbyterian missionary parents, Price was fluent in Chinese from childhood days. In 1923, after receiving a thoroughgoing American education at Davidson College, Columbia University, and Yale Divinity School, he returned to China with his bride, Essie (McClure), to become a professor at Nanking Seminary. During the next 20 years he contributed to the leadership of many causes: educational reform, rural reconstruction, the Church of Christ in China, and the ecumenical movement. A major undertaking was the establishment of the Rural Training Center and a five-year survey of rural churches. When war broke out with Japan in 1937, he supported the national war effort, and as a personal friend and occasional critic of Chiang Kai-shek, served as China’s advocate in America. In 1948 he traveled over the Burma Road to western China, where he served at the Nanking Seminary in exile.

Price attended the Organization Conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 as adviser to the Chinese delegation. In 1948 his optimism turned to disillusionment, but rather than go to Taiwan, he resolved to stay in China. After the Communist victory in 1949, he came under attack for his close association with the Nationalist government. The Prices were held in virtual house arrest for 22 months before being given permission to leave in 1952. Returning to the United States, Price became director of the Missionary Research Library, New York City, in 1956 and was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Southern) in 1957. His contributions to the missionary cause are legion: love of China, scholarship, support of rural church programs, and commitment to a Christian social witness.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Among Price’s published works, the following are of special significance: As the lightning Flashes (1948), Marx Meets Christ (1957), and The Rural Church in China, 2nd ed. (1948). (The first edition was lost by the publisher during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai and never printed). Also to be noted are Price’s translations of Chinese hymns and of Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People (1924, 1981). The best brief account of Price’s China years and writings is H. McKennie Goodpasture, “China in an American, Frank Wilson Price: A Bibliographical Essay;” Journal of Presbyterian History 49 (1971): 353-364. See also Samuel Chiow, “Religious Education and Reform in Chinese Missions: The Life and Work of Francis Wilson Price (1895-1974)” (Ph.D. diss., St. Louis Univ., 1988). Many of Price’s papers are to be found in the Price Collection at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va.

About the Author

G. Thompson Brown

Emeritus Professor of Missions and World Christianity, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, USA