Before he died at age 37, missionary William Milne had produced a publication promoting Christianity, science, and general knowledge.

During William Milne’s nine years of ministry in Asia, the second Protestant missionary to China printed Chinese books, helped translate the Bible into Chinese, and cofounded the well-known Anglo-Chinese College. Perhaps his greatest legacy was creating the first modern Chinese periodical, Chinese Monthly Magazine.

Before Milne, only the imperial court or local government representatives disseminated information in China. Milne and fellow missionary Robert Morrison first published Chinese Monthly Magazine on woodblock in August 1815 in Malacca, a trade port in the Malay Peninsula. The periodical combined portions of the New Testament, explanations of Christian doctrines, as well as stories on science, technology, and current events.

The paper stopped publication six years later when Milne fell sick in 1821 then died the next year from lung disease. Despite his early death, Milne’s contributions to China and the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia are immense. Chinese Monthly Magazine was followed by other missionary presses. These newspapers had a large influence on Chinese society and led to the creation of secular publications. By the time of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, there were 500 newspapers and periodicals in the country.

All this by a farmer from Scotland.

Humble beginnings

Born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in 1785, Milne came from a poor family with little education. He worked as a farmer, carpenter, and shepherd, as his father died when he was six.

Despite his humble origins, Milne grew up in the church and was greatly influenced by the godly men there and by reading Christian books. In 1801, at the age of 16, Milne accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized. After reading the stories of missionaries, consulting …

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