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COLLECTION Identifier: hyl00001

Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. collection on Muslims in China, 1858-1984 Digital


Collection made by American Episcopal missionary Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. (1900-1985) documenting Christian missionary activities and Muslim communities and publications in China. Also includes materials produced or collected by Pickens' father-in-law Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952), American minister of the Dutch Reformed Church and missionary to and scholar of the Muslim world; and materials produced or collected by Isaac Mason (d. 1939), British missionary with the Friends' Foreign Mission Association in China.


  • Creation: 1858-1984.

Language of Materials

Materials in English, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, and Persian.

Conditions Governing Access

Access by appointment only. Applications to consult this material should be directed to the Public Services Department at Harvard-Yenching Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is held by Harvard University. Claude L. Pickens' original deed of gift retains rights of reproduction and publication for himself, his wife and their heirs. Said heirs Samuel Pickens and Patricia Emery transferred any and all reserved rights including copyright to Harvard University in a separate deed of gift dated June 5, 2002.


38 boxes

Collection contains correspondence, subject files, travel diary, published writings, photographs, albums, negatives, maps, posters, scrolls, and printed materials that constitute an historical and documentary record of Muslims in China, an ethnically and linguistically diverse group, and of Christian missionary activities among them in the early decades of the 20th century. Also includes materials on Muslims and Christian missionary activities in the Middle East and elsewhere. Materials written in English, Chinese, Arabic, and other languages.

Biographical Note

Claude L Pickens, Jr. (1900-1985) and his wife, Elizabeth Zwemer Pickens, were Christian missionaries of the China Inland Mission (C.I.M.) who had a particular interest in the category of China's Muslims who are now officially designated as "Hui" in China. Their interests were both evangelical and scholarly. In 1933, Rev. Samuel Zwemer, the father of Elizabeth Pickens and a missionary to Muslims in the Middle East, was invited by the Kuling Convention Committee in Kiangsi, China, to address the Convention. Zwemer, who was editor of the influential journal Moslem World, had previously visited China in 1917. Zwemer arrived in Shanghai in June of 1933 but before addressing the Convention, he and Claude Pickens journeyed to several Muslim sites where Pickens photographed whatever he encountered. Pickens followed up with another trek into China's northwest in 1936, during which time he supplemented his earlier photographic record.

Pickens' scholarly interest in China's Muslims led to his amassing a large collection of books and ephemera on the Muslims, which, along with his photographic records, were given to the Harvard-Yenching Library by Rev. and Mrs. Pickens in memory of their friend Joseph Fletcher, Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History at Harvard University. The collection formed the basis of Annotated Bibliography of Literature on Islam in China (Hankow: Society of Friends of the Moslems in China, 1950), which had been Picken's M.A. thesis at Columbia University (1945). His own copy of the Bibliography contains numerous citations added in hand by Pickens over the years and is held in the Harvard-Yenching Library's collection of his materials.

Included in the collection are numerous books on Islam that had been assembled by Rev. Isaac Mason, an earlier missionary to Muslims in China. Mason presented the books to Pickens as he prepared to depart China.

Biographical Sketches of Samuel Marinus Zwemer, Isaac Mason, and Claude Leon Pickens, Jr.

SAMUEL MARINUS ZWEMER (SMZ) was born in Vriesland, Michigan in 1867. He earned an A.B. degree in 1887 from Hope College, where he was active in the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM). He received a D.D. from Brunswick Seminary, N.J. and was ordained a clergyman in the Dutch Reformed Classis in Iowa in 1890. From 1891-1912, SMZ worked in various mission stations in Iraq, Bahrain Islands, Oman, and along the Persian coast. SMZ married English nurse and missionary Amy Elizabeth Wilkes Zwemer (AEZ) in 1896; they had six children. Daughter Nellie Elizabeth Zwemer married CLAUDE L. PICKENS, JR. (CLP).

In 1905 SMZ returned to the U.S. to promote missions in Muslim countries and serve as traveling secretary for SVM and field secretary for the Reformed Board of Foreign Missions. In 1906 at Cairo he organized the first general missionary conference on Islam. In 1911 he organized a second conference in Lucknow and founded the journal Moslem World (later Muslim World). From 1912 to 1929, SMZ was assigned to Cairo where he taught in the theological seminary of the Arabian Mission and Cairo Study Center and worked with the Nile Mission Press.

In 1927 SMZ was appointed Professor of Christian Missions and History of Religion at Princeton Theological Seminary. AEZ died in 1937, the year SMZ retired. Later he married Margaret Clarke and continued to teach at Biblical Seminary of New York, Nyack Missionary Training Institute and Winona Lake School of Theology. SMZ's sister Nellie Zwemer was a missionary in China. SMZ traveled there in 1917, meeting ISAAC MASON while in Shanghai. In 1933, with son-in-law Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr., SMZ surveyed Muslim areas of western China. He died in 1952 in Port Chester, N.Y.

In 1893 British missionary ISAAC MASON came to China to work for the Friends' Foreign Mission. He married missionary Esther L. Beckwith there in 1895. The Masons were based in the western provinces of China until 1915 when they moved to Shanghai where Isaac worked for the Christian Literature Society for China. After meeting SAMUEL M. ZWEMER in 1917, Mason was inspired to focus his missionary activites on Muslims in China. He became a student of Islamic culture in China collecting books, pamphlets, and posters, and producing the bibliography "Notes on Chinese Mohammedan literature" and other works on Islam in China. Mason also translated into Chinese Christian tracts for distribution to Chinese Muslims. In 1926 Mason helped found the Society of Friends of the Moslems in China (FOM) serving on its executive committee along with Rev. CLAUDE L. PICKENS, JR. In 1927 Mason retired to England; before leaving he passed on part of his collection on Muslims in China to CLP. He also sold some of his collection to the New York Public Library. In England, Mason remained an active board member of FOM, and a contributor to its newletter. He died in 1939.

CLAUDE LEON PICKENS, JR. (CLP) was born in Alexandria, VA in 1900. He received an A.B. from the University of Michigan in 1923 and two years later married Nellie Elizabeth Pickens (EZP), daughter of Amy and SAMUEL M. ZWEMER. Born in Bahrain in 1899, EZP was educated in Arabia, Egypt, and Michigan. She graduated from Hope College and, after a year at U. of Michigan Medical School, left to become a nurse in the U.S. Army. In 1926 CLP earned a B.D. from Theological Seminary, VA and was ordained as Episcopal priest at Rock Creek Church in Washington, DC. That year the couple left for China under the auspices of the Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society (FDMS) of the Protestant Episcopal Church. After attending language school in Nanking, they fled Chiang Kai-shek's advancing army and relocated in Shanghai. There CLP met ISAAC MASON and joined the Society of Friends of the Moslems in China (FOM) serving as its Secretary. EZP edited the Society's newsletter.

From 1927 to 1937 CLP worked in river ports along the Yangzi and for the Episcopal Diocese in Hankow, where he was assistant pastor to the Chinese pastor at St. Peter's Church. EZP conducted a well baby clinic. The couple had 5 children: Samuel, Peter, Kathrina, Marjorie, and Patricia. In 1933, accompanied by SMZ, and again in 1936, CLP and other China missionaries made surveys of Muslims in northwest China, northeast Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. From 1937-1938 during the Sino-Japanese war, CLP was on leave in the U.S. and in Zamboanga, Philippine Islands where he worked with Muslims. In 1939 the family returned to central China. During WWII they were held from 1941-1942 by the Japanese as prisoners of war; then from 1942-1945 CLP worked for the FDMS in New York City and attended Columbia University. In 1945 he received an M.A. from the Department of Chinese and Japanese; his thesis was titled "Annotated bibliography of literature on Islam in China."

After WWII the Pickens family returned to central China where CLP was Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, Hankow until 1950 when the family returned to N.Y. From 1953-1965 CLP worked with the National Council of Churches' Student Volunteer Movement and then with foreign students in N.Y.C. for the FDMS-Episcopal Church Center. In 1962 he took a leave to minister to Aramco employees in Arabia. CLP retired to Annisquam, MA in 1969 to study and write. He died there in 1985 and EZP died the following year.


Organized into 4 series and 29 subseries:

I. Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952)
  1. A. Miscellaneous papers found in books collected by Samuel M. Zwemer; n.d., 1931-1950.
  2. B. Writings by Samuel M. Zwemer; n.d.; 1901-1933.
  3. C. Articles, pamphlets, and manuscript books collected by Samuel M. Zwemer; n.d., 1905-1950.
II. Isaac Mason (d. 1939)
  1. A. Miscellaneous papers found in books collected by Isaac Mason, n.d.
  2. B. Writings by Isaac Mason, 1919-1936.
  3. C. Translations by Isaac Mason, 1919-1930.
  4. D. Printed materials collected by Isaac Mason, 1897-1926.
III. Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. (1900-1985)
  1. A. Miscellaneous papers; n.d., 1933-1984.
  2. B. Subject files on Muslims in China.
  3. C. Bibliographic work by Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr.
  4. D. Writings by Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr.; n.d., 1931-1979.
  5. E. Friends of Moslems in China (FOM), 1927-1952.
  6. F. Works by or about China missionaries; n.d., 1915-1951.
  7. G. Protestant Episcopal Church, 1922-1959.
  8. H. National Council of Churches of Christ, printed materials, 1952-1967.
  9. I. Scholarly papers and reports on China by others, 1955-1983.
  10. J. Scholarly papers on China by others, n.d., 1971-1978 (received later from EZP).
  11. K. Posters, prints, and manuscript items; n.d., ca. 1905-1976.
  12. L. Scrolls, n.d.
  13. M. Photographic materials; n.d., 1933-1947.
  14. N. Maps; n.d., 1920.
  15. O. Articles and pamphlets in English.
  16. P. Miscellaneous bibliographies and book catalogs; n.d., 1932-1977.
  17. Q. Miscellaneous printed materials; n.d., 1925-1982.
  18. R. Miscellaneous pamphlets and books in Chinese and Arabic keyed to CLP's bibliographies.
  19. S. Cased pamphlet sets and cased multi-volume books in Chinese and Arabic keyed to CLP's bibliographies.
  20. T. Miscellaneous pamphlets and books in Chinese and Japanese.
IV. Additional books
  1. Books collected by Samuel M. Zwemer
  2. Books collected by Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. in memory of Joseph Fletcher (1934-1984), professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History at Harvard University. Deed of gift: Dec. 13, 1984. Additional materials received later from Elizabeth Zwemer Pickens and Mary Ellen Alonso.

Related Online Resources for Visual Materials

Portions of the collection consisting of primarily visual material are described not only in this finding aid but also in VIA, Harvard's union catalog of visual materials. The descriptions in VIA are item-level descriptions. This primarily visual material includes:

  1. Series III, Sub-series K. Posters, prints and manuscript items
  2. Series III, Sub-series L. Scrolls
  3. Series III, Sub-series M. Photographs in photograph albums

General note

Hollis Number: 990089556370203941

Processing Information

Processed by Judy Greene, January 2004.

Materials that were identified by the inclusion of bookplates, inscriptions, stamps, or marginalia as originally produced or collected by Samuel M. Zwemer or Isaac Mason were grouped into separate series or subseries based on provenance.

Pickens, Claude L., 1900-1985. Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. collection on Muslims in China: A finding aid.
Harvard Yenching Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard-Yenching Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University Repository

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