Members Stories

A world-renowned missionary - Rev. Thomas Torrance, father of Abbey member the Rev David W. Torrance, is being honoured  by a Chinese university for having opened " a window on the western world and introducing Britain and America to the remote region of western Sichuan and its people, the Chi'ang.
The Rev Thomas Torrance (pictured left, above) a missionary and sinologist,  
spent 40 years living and working in China and now, as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations,  the Sichuan University Museum, Chengdu -- previously the West China Uninon University Museum of Antiquities - is celebrating  "120 years since the arrival of Thomas Torrance " who sourced and donated many of the artefacts now on display in the museum, in an extensive,  special exhibition.
David's  family have been told that, apart from a tribute to Eric Liddell, this is the first time China has recognised and highlighted the contribution of a Christian missionary.
"When construction of the museum was in its initial strages," say the organisers "the museum posessed only one object. From 1914-33, Mr. Torrance procured and presented more than 5000 cultural objects ranging from the Han dynasty to China's republican period, including picture bricks, pottery, bronze ware, coins etc." 
Born into a farming family in North Lanarkshire in 1871, The Rev Thomas Torrance was called to be both minister and missionary. He studied theology at Hulme Cliff College, Sheffield and trained at Livingstone College London, sailing to China in 1895. After language study, he was sent as a missionary to Chengdu, 1200 miles inland, to be in charge of several outstations. 
In 1910, when attending the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, he accepted an invitation to be the American Bible Society's Superintendent for west China and served for 25 years, later as the Superintendant for west China of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Earlier this year David  was visited by Mr Wu Damin, who organised the exhibition, to "shine a spotlight on the forty years that Torrance spent living and working in China" and  "enhance cultural exchange and dialogue between the civilizations of East and West."
In a tribute to the significance of the Rev.Torrance's work, one exhibiton panel states:- 
"Mr Torrance served as vice chairman of the museum committee from 1929-30 and for a long time, maintained correspondence with the director, discussing museum-related affairs. Over two decades he published many research papers based on his own anthropological surveys and collection of historical objects."
Through many publications, he introduced the west to the history and customs of the Chi'ang people and by translating Chinese texts, helped provide a better understanding of western Sichuan , opening " a window on the western world."  
Describing him as a "pioneer" of the museum, the organisers add that the Rev Torrance "mastered the Chinese language, had excellent written Chinese and a great interest in Chinese history and archaelogy." 
To coincide with the exhibition, Sichuan University published a book "Selected Works of Thomas  Torrance."
In the preface, Professor Huo Wei - Head of the Museum and Professor of Archaeology - expresses his appreciation of  the Rev Torrance´s "distinguished contribution with regard to research into Chinese traditional culture and the local culture of Sichuan."