“Go and Teach All Nations”: A British Missionary’s Narrative on China in the 1840s

Author: Paul C. Corrigan, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Email: Paul.Corrigan@cityu.edu.hk
Published: November 2015

Citation: Corrigan, P. C. (2015). “Go and Teach All Nations”: A British Missionary’s Narrative on China in the 1840s. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.4.1.03


Texts in the genre of travel writing provide description and analysis of the author’s journeys and destinations. A variety of foci exists among texts in the genre, including accounts of explorations, personal narratives, or military memoirs. This article discusses Rev. George Smith’s A Narrative of an Exploratory Visit to Each of the Consular Cities of China, and to the Islands of Hong Kong and Chusan, Church Missionary Society, In the Years 1844, 1845, 1846 as an example of a missionary narrative, a sub-genre of travel writing, embodying features of British imperial ideology. Smith’s Narrative contributed to the discursive formation of China in the minds of people at the imperial center of London and probably other centers. His account and commentary of his travels to China in the early years of Hong Kong’s colonial history helped to foster the imperial meaning-making process. Written in a time of stable classifications of knowledge gleaned from the British imperial project, Smith’s travel writing affirms, consolidates, and incrementally expands features of the British imperialist ideology. Building on existing structures and employing the rhetorical and discursive strategy of binary oppositions, Smith’s Narrative depicted China as an inferior culture and Britain as superior to others and with a divine mission. Whereas China was dark and pagan, British civilization was enlightened and Christian. A hierarchy emerges where Britain is positioned above all others in terms of culture, religion, medicine, military technology, and law.


travel writing, missionary narratives, China, British imperialism, ideology