When China Stood Up: The Experience of Dr. James Gareth Endicott—
Asian Heritage Month Lecture 2008 by York University Professor Emeritus Stephen Endicott about the life of his father.
The lecture was followed by a premiere reading of the play, Dragonfly: Scenes from a Screenplay on Dr. James Endicott, by York University Professor Emeritus Robert Fothergill, winner of a Chalmers Award and a Dora Award nominee.
James G. Endicott (Wen Yiuzhang) was born in Sichuan province of Canadian missionary parents in 1898, in the late years of the Qing Dynasty. After service in the Canadian army in France during the First World War and after graduation from the University of Toronto, he returned to China with his bride, Mary Austin, as an evangelical and teaching missionary of the United Church of Canada. The Endicotts settled in Chongqing, in 1925, where the young missionary soon became fluent in the Chinese language.
During the war to resist Japan, after Chongqing was severely bombed, the United Church mission responded favourably to a request from Madame Chiang Kai-shek, in 1939, to have Endicott serve as a political adviser for the New Life Movement.
Later, after the United States entered the war against Japan, its secret service, the Office of Strategic Services, requested Endicott to become one of its agents with special responsibility to find out more about the Chinese communist movement. His reports were forwarded to the American government in Washington, DC. From getting to know Zhou Enlai, Qiao Guanhua and others in the course of this assignment, Endicott had his eyes opened about the meaning and course of the Chinese Revolution.
Back in Canada, where he became chairman of the Canadian Peace Congress and vice-chair of the World Peace Council, he hailed the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China. During the Cold War and for more than 40 years, he and Mary Austin published the Canadian Far Eastern Newsletter, which advocated understanding and friendship with the revolutionary New China. His advocacy led to public controversy with his church and with the Canadian government, which at one time considered putting him on trial for treason.
Before the end of his life, his church, the City of Toronto and York University all recognized him as one of Canada’s prophetic voices in coming to terms with the march of history in Asia and for the possibility of peaceful co-existence between differing social systems. Shortly before he died in 1993, the Chinese government honoured Endicott with the Peoples’ Friendship Ambassador Award.