March 9, 2007 Bicentenary of Missionary Robert Morrison's Arrival in China Is Subject of March 15 Symposium

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Mi Chu (202) 707-3626

Contact between China and the Western world was limited prior to the early 19th century due to state policy and distance. Robert Morrison, a Protestant missionary, played a major role in building a bridge between the East and West when he traveled to China in 1807. The lasting impact of his pioneering efforts is the subject of a conference titled “A Bridge Between Cultures: Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Robert Morrison’s Arrival in China” to be held March 14-17 at the Library of Congress and the University of Maryland, College Park.

The conference, which is open to the public, is sponsored jointly by the Library’s Asian Division, the Centre for the Study of Christianity in China (Oxford, England), the University of Maryland and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) For a schedule of events and registration information, visit the Centre’s Web site at, or send an e-mail inquiry to

Born in Northumberland, England, in 1782, Robert Morrison was apprenticed as a boot-tree maker. He joined the Presbyterian Church at 16. In 1805, he joined the London Missionary Society, where he studied Chinese, medicine and astronomy. He sailed to Guangzhou (Canton) in 1807, where he began to work as translator for the (British) East India Company. Morrison produced a Chinese version of the New Testament in 1813, organized Lord Amherst’s embassy to Beijing in 1816, and acted as an eminent diplomatic channel between China and the West. Morrison also translated (English to Chinese) a dictionary, grammar book and complete Bible. He died in 1834 in Guangzhou but was survived by his son John Robert Morrison, who assumed senior positions within the East India Company and the Hong Kong government.

The Library of Congress portion of the conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Thursday, March 15, in the Members Room (LJ-162), located on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The day’s events include a keynote speech titled ”Contextualizing Christianities in China: Placing Morrison in a Wider Historical Perspective” by Robert Frykenberg, professor emeritus of history and South Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and a panel discussion on “China and the Greater World: Cultural Parameters.” Attendees will also view a PowerPoint presentation on the Library’s collection of Morrison books.

A special display of Morrison material will be on view from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, March 15-17, in the Asian Reading Room (LJ-150) of the Jefferson Building. The display will include many rare books by Morrison found in the Library’s William Gamble, Arthur Probsthain and Caleb Cushing collections, as well as works by Morrison’s contemporaries. Made possible through the generous support of Thomson Gale educational publishers, an annotated catalog will accompany the display.


PR 07-042
ISSN 0731-3527