1873  — 1960

William Charles White

Canadian Anglican missionary to China and archaeologist.

Born in England. White migrated to Canada with his family in 1881. After graduating from high school, he worked in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). In 1894 he enrolled in Wycliffe Bible College and audited in a medical school. In 1896 he was ordained as a deacon in Toronto. The following year, he was sent by the Church Missionary Society as a missionary to the northern part of Fukien, China. He took on the Chinese name of Lu Guang, which means “walking toward light.” He adopted the same outfit and hairstyle as the Chinese and performed dental work to approach the Chinese.

In 1899 White was ordained a pastor and was deeply impressed by the Chinese culture. In 1909 he was consecrated a bishop and returned to Honan to start a new missionary district. He supported the indigenization of the Chinese church and commented that property that belonged to the mission board should be under the Chinese bishop’s control. In 1929 White consecrated Chinese pastor Zheng He Fu as assistant bishop and, five years later, installed him as bishop.

During the warlord time, White was involved in resolving a conflict at Honan. While China suffered drought, he took up famine relief work in Honan and was commended by the locals and government officials. White had once been the agent for the Ontario Royal Museum, and he purchased a few thousand pieces of ancient Chinese crafts from Honan. During the years 1929-31, the purchase sum amounted to more than C$90,000, and the most precious collection included inscriptions on bone tortoise shells of the Shang dynasty as well as Bronze Age items. White was also interested in collecting the remains of Jews who resided in Kaifeng, and these collections were later shipped to the University of Cincinnati in the United States.

In 1934 White retired from the mission field and took a teaching post at Toronto University. He taught the archaeology of China and was head of the Far East Collection of the Royal Museum. In 1946 he paid another visit to China for one year.


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.


White, W. C. Luo Yang Gu Mu Lao (The excavation at Luo Yang Caves); Zhong Guo Si Miao Bi Hua (Wall drawing of China temples); Zhongguo You-Tai-Ren (Jews in China); Zhongguo Qing Tong Qi Wen Hua (Bronze Age civilization of China). Austin, Alvyn J., Saving China (1986).

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