University Relations
University of Minnesota : Driven to Discover.

Gallery Home

Reaching for Gold

The YMCA in China: Mind, Body, Spirit

Introducing the YMCA Movement in China

"while Peking is the center for the old system of education, Tientsin is certainly at the present the centre of progressive western education on the part of the Governemnt in China. Thus working among these students means influencing the coming great ment of 'new China' - men who will be scattered all over the Empire in their various posts of influence."
   - D. Willard Lyon, Letter to Richard Morse, november 8, 1896.


Thus wrote David Willard Lyon shortly after his arrival to bein YMCA missionary work in China. As part of the missionary movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the American YMCA workers (in those times known as "secretaries") went abnroad to preach the Gospel. However, their approach was unique and reflected the philosophy of the YMCA movement, which had developed considerably from its humbel beginnings in a dry goods store in London, England in 1844. When the American YMCA secretaries wen tto China, they aimed to spread the YMCA movement itself. This meant programs geared towards the development of the whole person -- their spirit, their mind, and their body. While there were YMCAs in China before the Tientsin (Tainjin) Y was formed, they were exclusively for the use of foreigners The American secretaries extended the movement to the Chinese and, as Lyon wrote, Tientsin was theperfect location to plant the YMCA seed in China. It was intended from the beginning that the Chinese YMCA should be self-propogating, self-geverning, and self-supporting as as soon as possible. By cultivating indigenous leadership, the YMCA in China became a vibrant community able to adapt to the changes of time but always seeking to be  a bright spot in their community. It was believed that the Chinese should have a part in creating their own local leadership and associations, with the variou sYMCAs establishing lasting relationships with educators, government officials, and businessmen. Their support made it possible for the YMCA to carry out and finance programs serving the community, including language classes, vocational training, science lectures, health campaings, and athletics. "reaching for Gold" chronicles the early history of the Chinese YMCA momenment's development, promotion, and training of athletics and athletes, from the initial investigation of the the field and discovery of the great potential before them, to a period of strengthening, when the role of American secretaries became diminished andd the movement was securely in the capable hands of local leaders.