Legge, James

Reference code(s): GB 0102 CWM/LMS China Personal Boxes 4-10
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies Library
Domain: archival
Title: Legge, James
Date(s) of contents: 1831-c1905
Level of description:
Extent and medium: 7 boxes


Name of creator(s): Legge | James | 1815-1897 | missionary and Sinologist

Administrative/Biographical history: Born at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 1815; educated at Aberdeen grammar school; studied at King's College and University, Aberdeen; MA, 1835; affiliated with the Congregational Church; studied at Highbury theological college, London; appointed London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary to Malacca; ordained at Brompton, London, married Mary Isabella Morison (1816-1852), and set sail, 1839; arrived at Malacca and was appointed Principal of the Anglo-Chinese College, 1840; began translating and annotating the Chinese classics; he was to become a pioneering Sinologist; his wife, also a missionary, pioneered education for Chinese girls; DD, University of New York, 1842; following the treaty of 1842, which opened the ports of China, Legge left Malacca for Singapore, 1843; proceeded via Macau to Hong Kong and attended a conference of LMS missionaries and a general convention of missionaries, 1843; appointed to deliberate on the controversial issue of how to render `God' in Chinese, advocating use of the name `Shang Di'; head of the Anglo-Chinese Theological Seminary, Hong Kong (which replaced the Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca), 1843-1856; the preparatory school attached to the Seminary opened, 1844; it became co-educational, 1846; Legge helped to develop an independent Chinese congregation in Hong Kong; visited England for health reasons, 1845-1846; returned to Hong Kong and, in addition to his missionary work, pastor to an English congregation, 1848; visited England, 1858; married a widow, Hannah Mary Willetts (d 1881, née Johnstone), and returned to Hong Kong, 1859; ceased to be supported by LMS funds and returned to England, 1867; LLD, University of Aberdeen, 1870; pastor at Union Church, Hong Kong, 1870-1873; visited mission stations at Shanghai, Chefoo (Yantai) and Peking (Beijing) and returned to England via Japan and the USA, 1873; withdrew as a missionary of the LMS, 1873; Fellow of Corpus Christi College Oxford, 1875; first Professor of Chinese, University of Oxford, 1876-1897; honorary MA, University of Oxford; LLD, University of Edinburgh, 1884; died in Oxford, 1897. Publications include: translated and edited The Chinese Classics (5 volumes, Trübner & Co, 1861-1872, and 3 volumes, Clarendon Press, 1879-1894); Inaugural Lecture ... in the University of Oxford (1876); The Religions of China (1880); and numerous Chinese translations, Chinese tracts, and other pamphlets on Chinese subjects.

Custodial history: The papers were deposited with the London Missionary Society and form part of the special series of personal papers of individual LMS missionaries and officers.

Immediate source of acquisition: Deposited on permanent loan with the records of the London Missionary Society by the Congregational Council for World Mission (later Council for World Mission) in 1973.


Scope and content/abstract: Correspondence and papers, 1831-c1905, of and relating to James Legge, comprising correspondence, largely manuscript and typescript copies (some later than the originals) of letters, 1831-1897, to and from Legge, the correspondents including his wife Hannah and other family members, also concerning the Anglo-Chinese College, Malacca, and its successor the Anglo-Chinese Theological Seminary, Hong Kong; sermons, mainly manuscript but including some printed, preached in Hong Kong, including the Union Church, and England, c1837-1880; publications, typescript copies, press cuttings, and manuscripts of articles, addresses and accounts, 1839-1890s (some undated; including some later copies), mainly by Legge but including some publications of other authors, the subjects including theology, Chinese religion including Confucius, Chinese language and literature, missionary work and journeys made, and Legge's work at the University of Oxford; personal papers, 1839-1897, including his certificate of ordination, 1839, print of an engraving of Legge with three Chinese students at the Hong Kong Theological Seminary, 1849, photographs of friends in Hong Kong and Chinese friends, and letter book containing `Notes of my Life for my sons ... and their sisters', begun 1896; papers relating to Legge, including printed papers relating to his death, 1897, and the typescript `James Legge: Missionary and Scholar' [before 1905]. Many of the typescript copies of correspondence and other writings were presumably made for Legge's daughter, Helen Edith Legge, for her James Legge: Missionary and Scholar (1905).

System of arrangement:


Language: English and some Chinese

Conditions governing access: Unrestricted.

Conditions governing reproduction: No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids: Unpublished handlist.


Related material: The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including letters from individual missionaries, among them Legge (Ref: CWM/LMS South China Incoming Correspondence); his candidate's papers (Ref: CWM/LMS Candidates' Papers Box 9 No 44); his report for 1866 from Hong Kong, 1867 (Ref: CWM/LMS South China Reports Box 1 File 1); engravings of Legge (Ref: CWM/LMS General Portraits Box 3); a print of an engraving of Legge by J Cochran (Ref: CWM/LMS China Photographs Box 6 File 27). SOAS also holds other letters and papers of Legge, 1859-1897, mainly letters from him and his wife Hannah to their family (Ref: MS 380476), and a drawing of him with three Chinese students (Ref: PCE China Photographs Box 2 File 2).

Copies: Published on microfiche by IDC Publishers.


Archivist's note: Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); LMS Register of Missionaries, ed James Sibree; National Register of Archives.

Date(s) of descriptions: Feb 2002

Academic teaching personnel
Ancient religions
Asian languages
Asian literature
Chinese literature
Colonial countries
Educational institutions
Educational missionaries
Educational missionary work
Educational personnel
Literary forms and genres
Mission educational institutions
Missionary work
National literatures
Newspaper press
Ordained missionaries
Political systems
Press cuttings
Protestant nonconformists
Protestant nonconformity
Religious activities
Religious doctrines
Religious groups
Religious institutions
Religious movements
Religious texts
Social scientists
South and Southeast Asian languages
Travel abroad
Visual materials
Wives of missionaries

Personal names
Confucius | c551-? 479 BC | Chinese sage
Legge | Hannah | d 1881 | née Johnson | formerly Hannah Willetts | missionary x Johnson | Hannah x Willetts | Hannah
Legge | Helen Edith | fl 1903-1923 | author
Legge | James | 1815-1897 | missionary and sinologist

Corporate names
Anglo-Chinese College | Malacca
Anglo-Chinese Theological Seminary | Hong Kong
Missionary Society x LMS | London Missionary Society x London Missionary Society
Union Church | Hong Kong
University of Oxford | Professor of Chinese x Oxford University | Professor of Chinese

East Asia
Hong Kong
South East Asia
West Malaysia
Western Europe