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Watson McMillen Hayes, Initiator of "Sundays Off" and Founder of China's First Provincial University

Watson McMillen Hayes, Initiator of "Sundays Off" and Founder of China's First Provincial University

Watson McMillen Hayes Watson McMillen Hayes
ByCCD contributor: Paul Wu April 24, 2019
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Watson McMillen Hayes, a missionary to China with the Presbyterian Church of North America (PCNA), made tremendous contributions to evangelism and theological education in the north of China.

Hayes was born in Pennsylvania in January 1857 and graduated from Allegheny College. He was ordained in 1882 and the same year sent to China for ministry by PCNA. He came to serve the Lord in Shandong and taught in Tengchow College (the predecessor of Cheeloo University), which was founded by the American missionary Dr. Calvin. W. Mateer. In 1896, Hayes was assigned the post of college principal during which time he founded Shandong Times, the first newspaper of the province.

The Qing Government was badly defeated in the war with the Eight-Nation Alliance forcing the conservatives in the Government to reform. In 1901, the Empress Dowager Cixi issued an edict instructing each province to establish universities. Under the invitation of YUAN Shih-k'ai, the then Imperial Inspector to Shandong, Hayes led his international colleagues at Tengchow College to Jinan, Shandong, to build universities. Within one month's time, they had established the first provincial university of China - Shandong University.

Hayes worked as the teaching affairs principal at the new university. He brought the entire education system, teaching methods and materials from Tengchow College to Shandong University, raising the level of teaching quality of the school to No.1 in China at the time.

When the Empress saw that the achievement was remarkable, she issued further instructions for each province to imitate the Shandong experience, and awarded Hayes for his work. It is worth mentioning that Hayes submitted a proposal to the government for Sundays off, which was soon granted. Shandong University became the first institute of China that observesd Sundays off (non-Church system). Later, this practice was instituted in all sectors in China and still continues today.

Not long after the establishment of Shandong University, the Qing Government demanded its students to worship the image of Confucius, causing resentment among the Christians, especially with Hayes who then angrily left the institute. Afterwards, Hayes taught in a seminary founded by PNCA in Yantai, Shandong, and in 1917 became the principal of the seminary at Cheeloo University.

In 1919, Hayes found that many teachers at the seminary were influenced by liberalism and so had conflicts with them. He then led 18 student to leave the college to go to Wei County to establish the more conservative North China Seminary.

In 1922, North China Seminary moved its campus to Teng County, Shandong, aiming to educate pastors from all different denominational Chinese churches who were firm fundamentalists. The students were from all across China and even from Korea and the South Pacific.

The student number by 1922 had reached 186, the highest number of Chinese students hosted by a protestant seminary at the time. Famous Chinese pastors such as DING Limei and JIA Yuming taught in the seminary and produced many excellent ministers for the Chinese church. Due to the Japanese invasion and the latter civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, the seminary had to move to Xuzhou, Jiangsu. In the 1950s it was merged into Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.

After the outbreak of the Pacific War, Hayes was captured and put into a concentration camp by the Japanese forces. In 1944 in the camp, Hayes, aged 87, passed away in the arms of his Lord. A year later, the anti-Japanese war was won and his son John was released from the camp. He inherited his father's ministry, continuing missionary and education work in China. He however was charged with espionage by the Chinese Government in 1951 and was deported from China after ten months in prison.

- Translated by Charlie Li


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