shimenkan----English----SAMUEL POLLARD





Samuel Pollard (20 April 1864 in Camelford, Cornwall ¨C 16 September 1915 in China) was a British Methodist missionary to China with the China Inland Mission who converted many of the Big Flowery Miao (now called the Hmong) in Guizhou to Christianity, and who created a writing system that is still in use today.


Born the son of a Bible Christian Church preacher, Samuel Pollard initially aimed for a career in the civil service. However, a conference in London in 1885 encouraged him to instead become a missionary. He was appointed a missionary in 1886, left the United Kingdom for China in 1887, and was posted to Yunnan province in 1888. He remained in China Shimenkan, as a missionary, until his death from typhoid.

In 1891 he was posted to a newly opened Bible Christian mission station in Chaotung, where he married Emmie Hainge. He began a Christian movement with the Big Flowery Miao in 1905 that spread to Chaotung. Pollard also invented a script for the Miao language called the Pollard Script (also sometimes called the "Ahmao script"). Pollard never claimed any divine inspiration or vision in creating the script. Rather, he left a record of hard work, advice from others, and ideas from other scripts. At the beginning, he wrote, he ¡°made an experiment in getting out a written language for the Miao¡±, even writing out some symbols in his diary (Enwall 1994:1.104). He credited the basic idea of the script to the Cree syllabary (discussed above), ¡°While working out the problem, we remembered the case of the syllabics used by a Methodist missionary among the Indians of North America, and resolved to do as he had done¡± (1919:174). He also gave credit to a Chinese pastor, ¡°Stephen Lee assisted me very ably in this matter, and at last we arrived at a system¡± (1919:174). In another document he wrote ¡°Mr. Stephen Lee and I are attempting to reduce the Miao language to a simply system of writing. The attempt may succeed or it may end... stillborn¡± (Enwall 1994:1.105). He asked himself in his diary ¡°How shall I manage to distinguish tones?¡± then later wrote how he had found the solution in adopting an idea from Pitman¡¯s shorthand (Enwall 1994:1.170, 171). In listing the phrases he used to describe the process of creating the script, there is clear indication of work, not revelation: ¡°we looked about¡±, ¡°working out the problem¡±, ¡°resolved to attempt¡±, ¡°assisted¡±, ¡°at last we arrived at a system¡±, ¡°adapting the system¡±, ¡°we found¡±, ¡°solved our problem¡± (1919:174,175). In all of this, we see no hint of specific revelation or any vision, only intellectual labor.

Pollard and Miao teachers

He used it to translate the New Testament. The script was unique in the fact that it used the initial consonant of a syllable, with the vowel placed above or below it, in order to indicate which tone the vowel was.

Pollard received pressure from some British sources that if the Roman alphabet was not suitable, he should consider using the Burmese alphabet (Enwall 1994:1.108). He did not accept this suggestions, but Pollard did leave the door open for switching over to Roman letters, writing in 1906, "It is quite possible later on to turn our system into Romanised, where there is a successful Romanised system in use which will solve the tone difficulty" (quoted in Enwall 1994:1.108). A large part of Pollard¡¯s motivation for creating his script was to have a way to adequately mark the sounds of the language, especially the tones. It has remained in use for 90 years, despite efforts to supersede it.

During his mission he travelled extensively, founding churches, training other missionaries, performing the role of language examiner, and arguing the causes of Miao Christians.



  • Sam Pollard (with Henry Smith and F J Dymond) (1909). The Story of the Miao. United Methodist Magazine.  republished posthumously as:
  • Sam Pollard (with Henry Smith and F J Dymond) (1919). The Story of the Miao. London: Henry Hooks. 
  • Sam Pollard (1913). Tight Corners in China. 
  • Sam Pollard (1921). In Unknown China: observations, adventures and experiences of a pioneer missionary. 
  • Sam Pollard, ed R Elliott Kendall (1954). Eyes of the Earth: the diary of Samuel Pollard. London, Cargate Press. 




  1. "Sam Pollard". School of Oriental and African Studies Library. Retrieved on 2005.  ¡ª the School of Oriental and African Studies Library holds most of Sam Pollard's notes, diaries, letters, and papers
  2. Edwin Dingle. "Across China on Foot". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved on 2005.  ¡ª Dingle describes how Sam Pollard used positioning of vowel marks relative to consonants to indicate tones



Further reading

  • William Alexander Grist (1921). Samuel Pollard. Pioneer Missionary in China. London: Henry Hooks. 
  • Walter Pollard (1928). Sam Pollard, a hero of China. London: Seeley, Service & Co. 
  • Ernest H Hayes (1946). Sam Pollard of Yunnan: The Pioneer Series. Wallington: Religious Education Press. , also published as:
    • Ernest H Hayes (1947). Sam Pollard of Yunnan. Carwal Publications. 
  • Zai Wei Zhide Zhongguo (In Unknown China). Yunnan Minorities Press. 2002. ISBN 7-5367-2353-9.  ¡ª full Chinese translations of books about the ministry of Po Geli (Sam Pollard) including The Story of the Miao, In Unknown China, Stone Gateway, and the Flowery Miao
  • Daniel W. Crofts, College of New Jersey. "The symbols and sounds of the Ahmao script". AAS Annual Meeting 2005, China and Inner Asia session 168. Retrieved on 2005. 
  • R Keith Parsons. "The people called ¡°A-hmao¡± and their writing". A-Hmao introduction. Retrieved on 2005. 
  • Daniel H. Bays (editor) (1996). Christianity in China: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Stanford University Press.  ¡ª Part II includes Norma Diamond's study of Sam Pollard's work
  • Samuel Pollard: missionary supreme, born 20 April 1864; a centenary tribute. 1964. OCLC 24160324. 
  • R Elliot Kendall (1948). Beyond the Clouds. The story of Samuel Pollard of South-West China. Cargate Press. 
  • Ernest C. Pollard (1993). Sermons in Stones. The Woodburn Press.  ¡ª Written by Samuel Pollard's son, a well-known professor of physics and biophysics. "Sermon" 17, The Story of Sam Pollard, written for Atheists offers a very personal look at Sam Pollard's life and motivation
  • Stone-Gateway and the Flowery Miao. London: The Cargate Press. 1937. 
  • Moody, Edward H (1956). Sam Pollard. Grand Rapids: Zondervan and London: Oliphants Ltd. 


Samuel Pollard Family Tree


Samuel Pollard

Birth: April 20, 1864 in Cameiford, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Death: September 16, 1915 in China Shimenkan

Gender (at birth): male


Sam Pollard

Bertram Pollard

Walter Pollard

Ernest C. Pollard


Emma Hainge


Ellen de Boyne

Samuel Pollard (1826-1902)


Tree stemming from the oldest known paternal father



shimenkan----English----SAMUEL POLLARD