A rousing account of a New England missionary doctor who worked for 40 years in China.
Bliss (Journalism/American Univ.) compiled this testament to his father’s life from interviews with him, his wife Minnie, and their family and contemporaries, as well as from their personal correspondence. As a young graduate of Yale Medical School, the elder Bliss applied and was accepted for service as a missionary doctor, and in 1892 he was assigned to the remote mission station at Shaowu in the province of Fujian. For most of the next four decades, Bliss was the sole practitioner of Western medicine for many miles around, and his practice quickly outgrew its capacity. To help serve the overwhelming demand, he trained Chinese assistants in the basics of Western medicine and taught them how to prescribe drugs. He also tried to set up agricultural collectives, and worked to find an inexpensive vaccine for rinderpest (a devastating livestock disease that was very common in the region). His exploits are chronicled from the last days of Imperial China through the various republics that arose in the wake of the 1911 revolution to the appearance of the Communists and the coming of WWII. Although it is common practice nowadays to view missionaries as agents of western imperialism, Bliss comes across well in his son’s account—compassionate without being paternalistic, and instructive without being domineering.
A loving paean to a long-absent father—an exemplary man whose faith and devotion provide a refreshing tonic against the ambivalence and cynicism of later ages.