months after the Seminary was founded in 1812, the students
organized a Society for Missionary Inquiry, writing letters
around the world inquiring about religious and physical
needs. The students not only responded to the replies with
prayer, they also began to recruit volunteers for service
abroad. The first missionary to go from Princeton Seminary
was Henry Woodward, Class of 1818, who sailed to Ceylon (now
Sri Lanka) and served there until his death in 1834.
was soon followed by other Princetonians going to Asia. In
1838 John Mitchell, Class of 1830, went as a missionary to
China, which began a procession that included 173 Princeton
Seminary alumni by 1950. Among these were Walter M. Lowrie,
Class of 1841, who, with his wife, served in China until
1847 when they were thrown overboard by river pirates,
becoming Princeton’s first martyrs. John L. Nevius, Class
of 1853, served in China until his death in 1893. A
brilliant thinker, he devised a system of missionary policy
called the three-self plan—self-government, self-support,
and self-propagation—for the local church. His plan was
used in China, but had a more significant impact on the
rapid growth of the Korean church, with whom Nevius spent a
year consulting. He was also deeply impressed with the
phenomenon of demon-possession, which he observed about him
in China, and wrote a balanced, careful study of the subject
after years of firsthand investigation. Henry Luce III’s
grandfather, Henry Winters Luce, Class of 1896, was an
educational missionary in China from 1897 until 1927, and
was a leading developer and vice president of Peking
University, China’s Harvard.
medical service and a hospital were introduced in Siam (now
Thailand) through the mission begun by Princeton alumni
Stephen Mattoon, Class of 1846, and his friend Stephen Bush,
Class of 1848. Their leadership extended beyond evangelism,
education, and medicine. In 1870 the regent of Siam
remarked, “While it took British and French guns to relate
China to the West, Siam was peacefully introduced through
the efforts of Presbyterian missionaries.” Twenty-nine
other Princeton alumni followed them to Thailand through
after Japan opened its doors to the West, Princeton Seminary
graduate Edward R. Miller, Class of 1870, arrived and
remained there until a few months prior to his death in
1915; he taught in a theological college. He was soon
followed by ten other Princeton alumni, and by 1950,
sixty-nine Princeton alumni had gone to Japan.
Presbyterian church was begun in Korea in 1886 with the
triple emphasis on evangelism, education, and medical work.
The mission grew rapidly, despite severe government
opposition, and was reinforced by a Princeton alumnus,
William B. Hunt, Class of 1897, who went out to Korea within
months of his graduation. In 1892, Samuel A. Moffett, father
of PTS professor Samuel H. Moffett, went to the north of
Korea where the church enjoyed rapid success. There are
today in Korea more Presbyterians than in any other nation
in the world, including the United States.
emeritus Samuel H.
Moffet in Korea
Presbyterian churches in Seoul have more than 50,000
members. One of them, the Youngnak (Eternal Life)
Presbyterian Church, has a congregation of more than 75,000.
It was founded by Princeton alumnus Kyung Chik Han, Class of
1929, and he served as its pastor until 1972. He
was followed there by David Kim, Class of 1954. In all,
sixty-five alumni of the Seminary through 1950 have served
traffic between Asia and Princeton did not flow one-way
only. Within fifteen years of the arrival of the Reverend E.
R. Miller in Japan in 1870, our first student from the Far
East, Naomi Tamura of Tokyo, enrolled at the Seminary. He
was followed by 131 Japanese students who came to the
Seminary through 1950.
|Toyohiko Kawaga with PTS president J.
Ross Stevenson (left) and PTS Professor Charles Erdman
in Miller Chapel in 1933
One of the most distinguished of
these was Toyohiko Kagawa, Class of 1915. He was born a
Japanese aristocrat and was converted to Christ by a street
preacher; on his return to Japan, Kagawa enjoyed an
extraordinary ministry as evangelist, labor union organizer,
poet, and pacifist.
has the distinction of sending the first women students from
the Far East. Keiko Obara and Yoshiko Yamamuro came to
Princeton in 1950, where they studied Christian education.
Obara became a pastor after her return to Japan, and
Yamamuro-Watari became the editor of one of the largest
women’s magazines in Japan. The two women translated and
published a collection of PTS president John Mackay’s
sermons and conference talks. Also at Princeton Seminary at
the same time was Sachi Shimomura, who with her family had
come to Princeton from California. After one year as a
student at the Seminary, she became a librarian, becoming
PTS’s first Japanese American employee. There she met a
Japanese doctoral student, Yasuo (Carl) Furuya, who had come
to the Seminary in the fall of 1952. They were later married
and have worked together for almost fifty years at the
International Christian University in Tokyo. (Furuya was the
Seminary’s 1998–1999 John A. Mackay Professor of World
Our first student
from Korea was Syngman Rhee (not related to the recent moderator
of the PCUSA), who came here in 1908 as a student both at the
Seminary and at Princeton University. He eventually earned a Ph.D.
in political science from the university and became in 1948 the
first president of the Republic of Korea. By 1950, seventy-three
Koreans had followed him to Princeton.
In 1909 our first student from China, Zung-Ziang
Kway, came to Princeton, and he was followed by eighty-seven other
Chinese students through 1950. Exchanges between Asia and Princeton have enriched the Seminary
immeasurably—and continue to do so today.
William Harris is Princeton Seminary's
librarian for archives and special collections.