Community hero – Hudson Taylor

April 15, 2010
White Devil: manga about Hudson Taylor

White Devil: a manga about Hudson Taylor - click to enlarge

To the Protestant Christian communities of East Asia, Hudson Taylor is a founding hero. He lives in their collective memory as the brave, anti-racist man who brought salvation to their ancestors. I am his descendant. Hudson was born on 21st May 1832 in Old Mill Lane, Barnsley – 17 miles from where I live now. He trained in medicine and then decided to be a medical missionary in China.

In 1853 at the age of 21 he left England and spent five months sailing before he reached Shanghai. He found out the hard way that in Chinese folklore the devils wore black and had long hair. So it is obvious what the local people called the long-haired missionaries with black coats! Many of the first Christian missionaries were stoned and driven away.

Hudson did something no Christian missionary had ever done before. He tied his hair in a Chinese queue, shaved his forehead and wore a light coloured quilted cotton coat. An exceptionally talented linguist, Hudson found the best preaching was direct to the people without an interpreter. These improvements resulted in success. The people stayed to listen to his preaching and a community of believers grew steadily.

I am familiar with the superb two volume hardback biography of Hudson written by his son Howard Taylor and his wife and published in 1911 and 1918. What would I make of a 21st century paperback manga, written and drawn in Hong Kong for young people who read Mandarin and then translated into English?

Well, its amazingly good! Unlike the 1911 and 1918 books it is heroic and romantic, sad and triumphant and keeps to a strong story line throughout. And it’s accurate. You get a real sense of what was happening at each stage in Hudson’s life, his failures and triumphs and yet it follows the narrative facts detailed in the big biography very closely. The author, Tien Dao, clearly respects Hudson and his life’s work – the China Inland Mission.

I’ve some minor criticisms. The title of the manga White Devil: the life and legend of Hudson Taylor is inaccurate. Hudson was first referred to, when he looked like a European missionary, as a ‘black devil’. There is a positive inaccuracy – this manga is not really about a ‘legend’. Tien Dao has kept it faithful to history, entertainingly accurate.

A few anachronisms in the drawing will make you smile. Click the diagram above to look at the left hand page. The young man is drawn wearing a modern backpack instead of a nineteen century leather shoulder satchel! In Spring 2010 the ‘cross-shoulder bag’ has now come back as the latest women’s fashion!

Overall, White Devil is perfect for its readership. An accurate and moving tribute to a brave, energetic and brilliant man. Appropriately, it’s published by Lion Hudson!

Hudson Taylor 2 vol set - buy discount from OMF Books

White Devil - £1.20 from


Akeel is Dewsbury’s Festival of Flight Ambassador

April 14, 2010

Akeel and Lt. Commander Whitfield next to a Hawk jet trainer

As promised in my post on 3rd April we now have details of Dewsbury’s young Festival of Flight Ambassador. He is Akeel Javed, a business studies student at the Dewsbury campus of Kirklees College.

In our photo above Akeel is shown learning about flight at the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton, Somerset with the Hawk jet trainer squadron commander, Lieutenant Commander Matt Whitfield. The photo was taken last Thursday April 8th.

Akeel is travelling to Inverness, Scotland this week to learn more about flight, including flying a light aircraft. He will then return to Dewsbury to play a major part in the travelling Festival of Flight exhibition which has already visited several schools and youth centres in the Dewsbury district.

Festival of Flight is co-ordinated by the Heartstone organisation, a social enterprise which exists to increase understanding between young people who are aged 8-18 of all classes, creeds and colours and encourages them to examine and express their hopes, fears and expectations for the world today and tomorrow.

Global villages – Barnsley and Alipore

April 13, 2010

In my posts on Hudson Taylor in Signs of Communities I looked at how Barnsley, which was a large village in the nineteenth-century, had a world-wide effect through the work of Hudson Taylor. The effect of West on East.

I will look then to the east, to the village of Alipore in India from which people came to settle in Kirklees. The effect of East on West.

A source revisited – Ferdinand Tonnies

April 10, 2010

Copmmunity and SocietyI’ve just revisited Ferdinand Tonnies‘ book Community and Society. You could have come across it in a course for community leaders or in any sociology course from introductory to advanced level. It’s an indispensable source. First written in 1887, it’s the ‘founding work’ in the sociology of community.

Everyone who has taken courses about community is familiar with the distinction Tonnies draws between local co-operative communitiesGemeinschaft and global competitive market societiesGesellschaft.

Read the original book carefully and it’s clear that he did not believe in a simple community = good and society = bad equation.

That crude distinction comes down to us from the ancient world:  Plato’s ideal communities in the Republic and the Laws versus the Sophists; Confucius’ ideal community in the Analects versus the Chinese Legalists and so on. This sharp opposition was a recurring theme in the Romantics and in many later counter-cultures.

What Tonnies rejects is clear, but what he agrees to is rather confused. It appears it’s all a matter of Will. Community comes from Natural Will and Society from Rational Will. He also draws a sharp distinction between his theory and the real world social order. So his theory cannot lead to a social science that can predict things. When first published Tonnies’ book went largely unnoticed. When republished in 1912 its sales took off when it was taken up by romantics who mistook its argument as being for an earlier age of community, of Gemeinschaft.

With hindsight it could be that Tonnies had been looking at a solution all along – but not drawing the correct conclusion. A signs of communities conclusion. He came from a rural German background to Oxford University when Britain had a vast global empire. The University was a society dominated by communities with global connections, dominated by financier, merchant and rentier money signs.

Batle of Omdurman

The colonial Battle of Omdurman 1898

What struck me as odd in Tonnies’ book is that there’s no real consideration of money in his definition of society or of community. Yet the British Empire he saw from its centre when he was at Oxford was an empire of money. It dominated the world through its control of the gold supply backed up by its navy. In Tonnies’ world and in our world – money is the supreme social sign. For the British Empire this was especially true. The book’s first publication coincided with the start of a long depression which resulted in the relative decline in manufacturing from which the island of Britain would never recover. A depression in which the power of finance was the key factor

A warm, mutually supportive financier community directed the colonial genocides, famines and slavery. It thrived on depression and industrial decline at home. A community, a Gemeinschaft, with shared life experiences from the cradle to the grave. Their harmed populations were re-made into societies, into Gesellschafts.

So the relation between community and society is one of coexistence in time. There was no clear-cut golden age of community declining later into a dark age of society as the romantics and counter-culture people believe.

Perhaps if Tonnies had thought of community and society as different systems of signs he could have led the social sciences onto a rewarding new route. A road not taken – over a century ago.

The British Empire

The British Empire at its greatest extent

New Asian Voice – read and consider advertising

April 8, 2010
New Asian Voice magazine

Click to read latest edition

New Asian Voice is a new full colour monthly for North Kirklees with a community focus. It’s available locally in print and also as a downloadable e-zine from the website

New Asian Voice and this blog do have a lot in common. In the March ’10 issue on page 3 you will read Empowering Community Voices. A photo article on the Empowering Voices Online (EVO) blogging workshop held at Ravensthorpe Community Centre at which your author was introduced to blogging. Where is he on the panoramic photo of participants? Behind the camera!

On page 5 The Sky is Not the Limit covers the Festival of Flight featured in Signs of Communities posts on February 24th and April 3rd. Their focus is on the Festival of Flight exhibition and event held at Earlsheaton Technology College.

New Asian Voice is a great local venture which deserves your support in these early months of its existence. The best way to support them is to take out a paid advert. To see what they can offer I suggest you could give them a call on 01924 422214 or download the media pack PDF file from their website.

Lots of laughs (LOL!) ‘communities’

April 8, 2010

Private Eye logoThe current issue of Private Eye magazine  gives three comic examples of how some people can read ‘community’ into anything:

“Eurocontrol, the FAA and the Russian State Research Institute of Aviation Systems have agreed on the need for three conferences which will bring together the wake vortex community at a global level” – Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers.

“Challenges facing the undersea defence community” – press release for Undersea Defence Technology conference, Hamburg.

The eagle falconry community is small, self-policing and extremely responsible” – Daily Telegraph.

Huddersfield’s Queensgate Market Hall is 40

April 5, 2010
Ceramic sculpture in the Market Hall

Interior sculpture

Tomorrow the architectural wonder of Kirklees, West Yorkshire celebrates its 40th birthday. It’s Queensgate Market Hall in the centre of Huddersfield. This unique building is an expression of geometric genius. It’s ”roofed with 21 free – standing asymmetric hyperbolic paraboloid shells”. It is also a ceramic giant with what is probably “the world’s largest ceramic sculpture”. A combination of distinguished architecture and art.

Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner, the Mayor of Kirklees, will unveil a commemorative plaque and blow out the candles on a birthday cake in the Market Hall at 2.30 pm tomorrow April 6th.

Architectural wonders are often reserved for metropolitan elites.

In contrast, the Market Hall is used by a wide range of people in Huddersfield.

Market Hall at night

Night scene

Its many market stalls and market shops have served the town with fresh produce and a wide range of goods for 40 years. The market is still popular with the market traders and their customers.

Local communities are grateful for the work of Huddersfield Gem, a local heritage group, which has done a lot to promote the preservation of the Market Hall in recent years.

Here’s a link to two impressive fly-through architect’s animations of the Market Hall.

Market Hall 1973 photo

Photo taken in 1973