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1889 Tongwen Shuhui Shanghai-Chinese Missionary Calendar Broadside

中西合厯 / Combined Chinese and Western Calendar. - Main View

1889 Tongwen Shuhui Shanghai-Chinese Missionary Calendar Broadside


Translating calendars and thought systems between the West and China.


中西合厯 / Combined Chinese and Western Calendar.
  1889 (dated)     19.5 x 28 in (49.53 x 71.12 cm)


A rare 1889 (Guangxu 15) missionary broadside printed by the Combined Learning Publishing House (同文書局), the first Chinese owned lithographic press in Shanghai. The broadside attempts to link the wonders of western technology, such as trains and suspension bridges, with Christianity.
Roebling's Niagara Falls Bridge: linking Christianity and Western Science
At center, Dieudonné Lancelot's woodcut engraving of Roebling's Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge immediately draws the eye – which, while then considered a wonder, would ironically be deconstructed less than 10 years later. The upper block of text in the middle describes the 'iron bridge known far and wide' (馳名鐵橋).

This view, taken from an unknown photo, was engraved for the Parisian periodical Le Tour du Monde. The other two images are Biblical scenes from the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The imagery sets the stage for the broadside's textual elements, all of which are in Chinese, and which conflate western technological advancement with Christianity. Just below the description of the bridge is a block of text laying out a Christian view of humanity in relation to God.
Chinese and Western Calendars
The broadsheet's textual content is focused on a comparative calendar appearing at bottom center. This calendar features western months on top and compares them with the Chinese luni-solar calendar. To either side, Chinese text dates the map using both the western system (left) and the Chinese imperial era system (right). To the left and right of the calendar are the Chinese text of the Ten Commandments (聖誡十條), the Apostles' Creed (使徒信經), the Lord's Prayer (祈禱文), and grace (食飯祈禱文).
Tianjin Railway
The upper-right text block describes the Tianjin Railway and advocates for the benefits of railways. Construction of the railway began in 1886 and was completed in 1888, one year before this broadsheet was issued. At the time, it was the first standard gauge line built in China and terminated at the first train station constructed in China. It was connected to the Kaiping Tramway and Imperial Railways of North China and renamed the Jintang Railway (津唐铁路). During the Boxer Uprising a decade later, much of the railway was famously dug up and destroyed by the Boxers.
China Compared to Other Countries
At top-left is a table listing statistics about China and various other countries. Great Britain and Russia are the first two countries in the list, reflecting their status as the two great powers of the era. Following them are China, the United States, Turkey (the Ottoman Empire), France, and so on. The columns show the countries' relative size, population, economic activity, and military strength.
Late Qing Reform Efforts
This broadside is a product of the rush of new external influences in the late Qing period. The First and Second Opium Wars along with a string of uprisings in the mid-19th century, the most drastic being the Taiping Rebellion, had put the Qing Dynasty in a precarious position. Only by delegating authority to capable officials like Li Hongzhang and Zuo Zongtang could the dynasty survive. These officials understood the benefits of Western technology, especially military technology, though they disagreed with each other, with the Qing Court, and with the wider group of bureaucrats and literati on the pace and manner of reforms needed. Thus, while state-backed efforts at military modernization, industrialization, and railways were undertaken, they often ran into roadblocks, whereas much of the impetus for further reforms came from people outside or adjacent to the official bureaucracy. Particularly in the foreign concessions in Shanghai and other cities, Chinese reformers and modernizers of many stripes, including Christians, were given free rein to promote and debate ideas.
Publication History and Census
This broadsheet was printed in Shanghai by the Combined Learning Publishing House (Tongwen shuju 同文書局, listed here as Tongwen Shuhui 同文書會), the first Chinese owned and operated modern printing concern. It was completed on behalf of the London Missionary Society Press (墨海書館), an English missionary press that by this time has ceased to print on its own behalf, but contracted with other local printers to produce promotional material. The broadside was edited by Joseph Edkins, the representative of the London Missionary Society in Shanghai and a great Sinologist, with input from over a dozen foreign and Chinese translators. It is very rare, and we have not been able to identify any other known examples.


Tongwen Shuju (1882 – 1899), 同文書局 or sometimes 同文書會, the Combined Learning Publishing House, was the first Chinese owned and operated Lithographic book publisher in China, credited for China’s lithographic ‘golden age’ (1876 - 1905). Established in Gunagxu 8 or 1882, the firm was founded by the wealthy merchant Xu Run (徐润, 1838 – 1911) and Xu Hongfu (徐鸿复) printed books and broadsheets in lithograph. Xu Run was impressed with British publishers active in Shanghai and wanted to duplicate their printing success. He purchased 12 large rotary lithograph presses and established an office in Shanghai that employed nearly 500 workers. Their publications included printed of Chinese classical texts, western texts, missionary materials, broadsides, and official documents. Their offices were destroyed by fire in 1893, leading to the loss of much of their equipment. Xu Run, who also established the first insurance service in Shanghai, had the business well insured and they consequently quickly recovered. It continued to print until 1898 or 1899. Learn More...

London Missionary Society Press (1842 – 1889), known in Chinese as 墨海書館, was a British-Chinese missionary publishing house active in Qing Shanghai during the second half of the 19th century. The press was founded by missionaries Walter Henry Medhurst (1796 – 1857), William Muirhead and William Lockhart (1811 – 1896) in 1842. Shortly afterwards they were joined by Joseph Edkins, and William Charles Milne. The firm is considered to be the earliest modern printing establishment in Shanghai and the first to introduce western-style Chinese-language printing. It is said their first presses were giant iron contraptions run by a belt that traveled through a hole in the wall where it was driving by concealed oxen walking in circles. The Society Press focused on publishing western religious and moral works in Chinese, as well as Chinese-English crossover works. The organization ceased printing on its own account in 1873, but continued to publish work by contracting other local printers until about 1890. Learn More...

Joseph Edkins (December 19, 1823 – April 23, 1905), known in Chinese as Ai Dijin 艾迪瑾 or Ai Yuese 艾約瑟, was a British Protestant missionary and Sinologist who published many works on the Chinese language and Chinese religion. He was involved with several key institutions of 19th century Chinese history, including the London Missionary Society and the Imperial Maritime Customs Service, and he was one of several missionaries in Shanghai who visited the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom based in Nanjing to determine the nature of their self-proclaimed Christian faith. Many of Edkins' books were reference works, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, catalogs, etc. Learn More...


Very good. A few minor verso reinforcements along original fold lines. Edges exhibit some wear.


Wang Jiarong, 'The Era of the London Missionary Society Press – the Beginning of Secular Periodicals' Library Development 1988, No. 5 [汪家熔, '墨海书馆时期——世俗期刊的开始',图书馆建设, 1988 年第 5 期].