A BARNSLEY-born missionary who is credited with taking Christianity to China in the 1800s and forming one of the largest movements of its kind is set to be the subject of a multi-million pound film which will delve into his early life, the Chronicle can reveal.
James Hudson Taylor, who moved away from Barnsley in 1854 having been brought up in the town, is revered by millions of people - particularly in south-east Asia - having founded the China Inland Mission (CIM).
The biopic - named Taylor - will follow his early life, his journey from Barnsley to become a missionary and his time with first wife Maria, who died of cholera aged just 33 having helped spearhead the movement alongside her husband.
The couple - who met in the city of Ningbo in 1858 and married soon after - had nine children, but three died at birth and two in childhood.
The four who reached adulthood all later became missionaries with the CIM but in 1897 their only surviving daughter, also named Maria, died in Wenzhou.
The film will follow the couple’s rise in influence and end during the early stages of the CIM - with potential plans for a sequel already in the offing given the vast history of Hudson Taylor’s life thereafter.
Now well into its development stages, it also has a script but producers Half Crown Media are on the lookout for potential investors given it’s expected to cost more than £10m to make.
However, leaders behind the film do not see this as a hindrance given funding has already ‘flooded in’ from Chinese churches in America given his popularity.
Spokesman Tim Jenkins told the Chronicle: “Based on the true life story of the couple, the movie is one of hope and perseverance despite seemingly impossible obstacles and heartbreak.
“Arriving in Shanghai on China’s eastern coast in 1853, he felt called to bring the hope of the gospel to the people there.
“Instead, he quickly learns that he is ill-prepared and must find his way around a new and unfamiliar culture.
“The story unfolds amid a tapestry of cultural, ideological, and political conflicts between the east and the west.
“Many missionaries and Christian workers recount how God used the Taylors’ life stories to inspire them.
“We seek to retell their stories on the big screen to bring people to faith as well as to inspire a new generation of mission workers.
“It is an incredibly interesting tale and one that will see Barnsley used as a filming location - although China’s difficult to get into, we’re planning on using northern parts of Thailand as it remains very similar to what China was once like.
“We’re in no doubt that funding can be achieved for this.”
The CIM movement - now known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship International (OMF) - is marked locally with plaques at 14 sites where Hudson Taylor preached around Barnsley, starting and finishing at Salem Wesleyan Reform Church, on Blucher Street, near the town centre.
Patrick Fung, the current director of the OMF, is reported to have given his full backing to the project.
Tim added: “It’s hard to say just how influential both James and Maria were, but it speaks volumes that Chinese tourists have done and continue to visit Barnsley because of his work.
“To get this film over the line will be another way to honour the impact he has had on millions of Christians.”