Opened in 1881, it was a large institution from the outset. (At that time the name of the city was transliterated as Fatshan.) It was begun by Dr Charles Wenyon, a globe-trotter before he entered the ministry, who studied medicine alongside his circuit duties in response to a call to be a medical missionary. Within months of his arrival he was able, thanks to the generosity of an English well-wisher, to rent premises big enough for a main ward of 80 beds, a women’s ward of 16 and a further twelve beds specifically for opium addicts, together with an outpatient department, operating theatre, laboratory and chapel. He saw 100 patients on the day it opened and 6,000 in the first three months, as well as performing 50 operations. After over a year working single-handed, he met and recruited a converted Swedish sailor, Anton Anderssen, trained him as a dispenser and sent him to study medicine in Denver. After qualifying, Anderssen returned to the hospital in 1895. In 1883 Wenyon enrolled seven medical students and registered the Wesleyan Medical College from which over a hundred doctors graduated in the thirty years it functioned.
Wenyon treated indigent patients for nothing, but charged fees to those who could afford them, and this enabled the hospital to support itself by the time the promised five years’ rent expired. In 1904 a new building was opened on a fresh site, under the direction of Dr Webb Anderson who served in South China from 1896 to 1923. In 1925 hospital life was disrupted by anti-British, anti-Christian demonstrations, which forced a temporary closure. By then, however, there were Chinese doctors and other staff who soon re-opened it. In 1938 the city was taken by Japanese troops. Amid the chaos and destruction, the various churches organized refugee camps, the hospital was filled with casualties, and the children’s ward took in a score of baby girls abandoned at the gates. Under Chinese leadership, the hospital worked on when the European staff were interned, but in war conditions it was easier to care for patients than for buildings and they deteriorated badly. There was no opportunity to renovate them before Mao’s Liberation army took control and the last missionaries left. The medical work continued under the new administration but before long a wall of silence ended all contact with Methodism.