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Man on a mission

By  Wang Kaihao  (China Daily)

10:04, June 26, 2012

Stanley Crawford cleans the memorial dedicated to his great-grandfather, Edgerton Hart, at Yijishan Hospital in Wuhu, Anhui province. (China Daily/Wang Kaihao)

Stanley Crawford isn't a patient or a healthcare provider, but doctors and nurses at Yijishan Hospital of Wannan Medical College in Wuhu, Anhui province, nod and smile knowingly when they see him there.

The American quietly polishes a book-shaped stele in the hospital's garden with a fistful of grass before suddenly shouting to passers-by: "This is my great-grandfather!"

Doctor Fu Yuelian smiles and greets him in simple English.

"I see him a few times a month although I don't know his name," she says.

Crawford has come to the hospital to retrace the steps of his great-great-grandfather, Virgil Hart, a Methodist missionary who arrived in China in 1866 and settled down in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, a year later.

He embarked on an ambitious mission to build several hospitals and schools along the Yangtze River in the following decades.

He founded Yijishan Hospital in 1888. Crawford's great-grandfather, Edgerton Hart, was born in Jiujiang in 1868 and became the hospital's director in 1895.

Wuhu became a trading port after the Sino-British Yantai Treaty in 1876. It became a major hub for foreign missionaries.

"I know some foreigners did something bad in China at that time, like selling opium, but I am proud my ancestors were not among them," Crawford says.

The little memorial in the hospital garden was built in 2000 to commemorate Edgerton Hart. Edgerton Hart's tombstone is believed to have been destroyed during World War II, like many foreigners' graves in the same cemetery.

Crawford worked as an English teacher in the Wuhu-based Wannan Medical College for a year and a half, after he took a position at the medical school of Jiujiang University in Jiangxi province for three years. He says he wanted to take a medical-related job to honor his great-great-grandfather.

"When I was a child, I was fascinated by a black-and-white photograph of the Summer Palace," he says.

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