A PLAN to honour a British missionary who is virtually unknown in the UK could mean an unlikely influx of Chinese tourists to Barnsley.
James Hudson Taylor is not even a household name in the South Yorkshire town where he was born and preached in the 19th century.
But he is credited with taking Christianity to China and is revered by millions of Christians across Asia.
Now Barnsley’s James Hudson Taylor Group is hoping to set up a trail in the town to recognise his work, and local businessmen believe it could become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Chinese Christians.
John Foster, who runs a bakery in Barnsley, said it was incredible that Mr Hudson Taylor was such a noted figure in the Asia-Pacific region but virtually unknown in his home town.
“If you go round Barnsley and ask people about James Hudson Taylor, they’ll know absolutely nothing,” Mr Foster said.
“But he’s probably Yorkshire’s biggest export.
“He took Christianity to China and in the Asia-Pacific region there isn’t a Christian who will not have heard of him.
“He’s their founding father, like Wesley is to the Methodists.
“Yet in his home town, he’s not known.”
Mr Foster said the group wants to put a series of plaques around the town to mark the places where Mr Hudson Taylor was born, lived and preached.
And the revamped town museum is set to open later this year with a section on his achievements.
Mr Foster said he is sure Chinese visitors will flock to pay their respects to Mr Hudson Taylor.
He said a group of Chinese Christians were seen kissing the ground near the missionary’s birthplace during a visit a few years ago.
The businessman said those at the inaugural meeting of the James Hudson Taylor Group last year were also amazed when they were interrupted by a New Zealander who had come halfway round the world to visit the Salem Chapel where Mr Hudson Taylor preached.
James Hudson Taylor was born in a room above his father’s pharmacy in Barnsley in 1832. The building is still used as a pharmacy by Boots.
He later became an English missionary to China, where he stayed for 50 years and founded the China Inland Mission, one of the largest Christian movements in the world. He died in 1905.