1829  — 1890

Alexander Williamson

Scottish missionary in China with a vision to influence the higher classes through Christian literature.

Williamson was appointed a missionary to China with the London Missionary Society and arrived in Shanghai with his wife in 1855. He returned in ill health to Scotland after two years and remained there in ministry for six years. In 1863 he was appointed the first oversea agent of the National Bible Society of Scotland. In this position he traveled extensively in Bible distribution and preaching in north China, Mongolia, and Manchuria. At the General Missionary Conference in Shanghai in 1877, of which he was one of the conveners, he was appointed secretary of the School and Textbook Series Committee. During a second period of recuperation in Scotland, he formed a Chinese Book and Tract Society. The funds raised through this organization were used to found a publishing house in Shanghai and helped establish the Society for the Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge among the Chinese.

Williamson’s vision was for this society to influence the higher classes in China through literature on the Christian faith designed to show the fruits of Christianity in Western countries. (In 1906 this organization became the Christian Literature Society for China). He contributed many articles on natural theology during 1857 and 1858 for the Shanghai Serial, edited by Alexander Wylie, and also wrote Journeys in North China (2 vols., 1870).


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Kenneth S. Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (1929); A. J. Broomnhall, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century, vol. 6 (1988).

About the Author

Ralph R. Covell

Formerly Professor of World Christianity and Academic Dean, Denver Seminary, Denver, Colorado, USA