Characters

British Characters

  • Lord Napier
  • William Jardine
  • Sir James Matteson
  • George Chinnery
  • Captain Charles Elliot
  • Karl Gutzlaff

Karl Gutzlaff

A talented linguist the Pommerian missionary helped translated the Bible into Chinese. Recruited by Jardine he translated for the opium trading and later became the High Commissioner and spymaster for the British.

Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (8 July 1803 – 9 August 1851), anglicised as Charles Gutzlaff, was a German missionary to the Far East, notable as one of the first Protestant missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand and in Korea as early as 1832. He wrote widely read books, such as Journal of Three Voyages along the Coast of China in 1831, 1832 and 1833, with notices of Siam, Corea, and the Loo-Choo Islands (1834). He served as interpreter for British diplomatic missions during the Opium Wars. Gutzlaff was one of the first Protestant missionaries in China to wear Chinese clothing. Gutzlaff Street in Hong Kong was named after him.

The Netherlands Missionary Society sent him to Java in 1826, where he learned Chinese. Gutzlaff left the society in 1828, and went first to Singapore, then to Bangkok with where he worked on a translation of the Bible into Thai. He made a brief trip to Singapore in December 1829, where he married a single English missionary Maria Newell. The two returned to Bangkok in February 1830 where they worked on a dictionary of Cambodian and Lao. Before the work was completed, however, Mary died in childbirth, leaving a considerable inheritance. Gutzlaff married again, this time to Mary Wanstall, in 1834. The second Mrs. Gutzlaff ran a school and a home for the blind in Macau. She died in 1849 in Singapore, and was buried there. Gutzlaff’s third marriage was to Dorothy Gabriel in England in 1850.

In 1840, a group of four people (Walter Henry Medhurst, Charles Gutzlaff, Elijah Coleman Bridgman, and John Robert Morrison) cooperated to translate the Bible into Chinese. The translation of the Hebrew part was done mostly by Gutzlaff, with the exception that the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua were done by the group collectively. This translation, completed in 1847, is well-known due to its adoption by the revolutionary peasant leader Hong Xiuquan of the Taipingtianguo movement (Taiping Rebellion) as some of the reputed early doctrines of the organization. This Bible translation was a version (in High Wen-li, Traditional Chinese) correct and faithful to the original.

In the 1830s Gutzlaff was persuaded by William Jardine of Jardine, Matheson & Co. to interpret for their ship captains during coastal smuggling of opium, with the assurance that this would allow him to gather more converts. Gutzlaff later assisted in negotiations during the Opium War of 1840–42. He also served as High Commissioner and spymaster for the British captured territories.

In response to the Chinese government’s unwillingness to allow foreigners into the interior, he founded a school for "native missionaries" in 1844 and trained nearly fifty Chinese during its first four years. Unfortunately, Gutzlaff’s ideas outran his administrative ability. He wound up being victimized by his own native missionaries. They reported back to him glowing accounts of conversions and New Testaments sold. While some of Gutzlaff’s native missionaries were genuine converts, others were opium addicts who never traveled to the places they claimed. Eager for easy money, they simply made up conversion reports and took the New Testaments which Gutzlaff provided and sold them back to the printer who resold them to Gutzlaff.

Shattered by the exposure of this fraud, Gutzlaff died in Hong Kong in 1851. However, the Chinese Evangelization Society which he formed lived on to send out Hudson Taylor who founded the successful China Inland Mission. Taylor called Gutzlaff the grandfather of the China Inland Mission.