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Chinese tribute to missionary's healthcare work

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

By Geraint Thomas

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WHEN Swansea-born Griffith John left his home to pursue his true calling he entered another world.

The 19th century Christian missionary, who worshipped in the city's Ebenezer Chapel as a boy, faced a long and difficult journey in 1855, halfway around the planet, but arrived safely in China where he was to leave such an impression his name would still be known over 150 years later.

So much so, in fact, a Chinese delegation has travelled the same path as John, in reverse, to present a bust of the missionary to Swansea Museum today to mark the 100th anniversary of his death.

John spent over 50 years in China in the 19th Century where he made a giant contribution to education and health services in the Wuhan province.

In 1866 he founded the Union Hospital in Wuhan, now a major centre for healthcare and medical research.

Today there is a statue of Griffith John positioned outside the hospital, and keen to strengthen the area's links with Swansea, the hospital board has commissioned the bust as a gift to Swansea.

The copper bust has been made by a famous Chinese artist called Xiang Jinguo.

After being handed over it will sit in Swansea Museum where it will accompany an ongoing exhibition at the attraction about Griffith John, which will run until February 18.

Exhibition

Dr Zhidau Xia, from Union Hospital has been working at Swansea University for a number of months.

He was instrumental in the provision of information and images for the exhibition, and also in the commissioning of the commemorative bust.

Councillor Nick Bradley, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: "Griffith John is a key figure in Swansea's history and his commitment to education and healthcare in China in the 19th Century means he's still a revered figure there.

"The fact a Chinese delegation has visited Swansea to present us with a commemorative bust of the man speaks volumes for his legacy and enduring popularity.

"The bust will now take permanent pride of place at Swansea Museum where it will add to a fascinating, ongoing exhibition about the life and times of Griffith John," he added.

John, who returned to Great Britain in January 1912, died in London on July 25 of that year but he was buried in Swansea in Sketty Cemetery.

Of the current exhibition the museum's events officer, Jane Brown, said: "We have had people in who are really pleased Griffith John is being commemorated and remembered in this way, to people who have never heard of him and are pleased to find out about this remarkable man from Swansea."

Of the exhibits the most striking items are a series of banners presented to John on his 74th birthday.

Ms Brown said: "I think they gave them to the museum in the 1970s and it's the first time we have displayed them."

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  • Neathboy234  |  November 29 2012, 9:17PM

    Very interesting article, I'm glad this man has not been forgotten to history

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  • Lunkhed  |  November 29 2012, 8:47PM

    When I die, please name a block of council flats after me.

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