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Rewi Alley Biography


In 2016, the Rewi Alley 120th Anniversary Commemoration Committee was formed in Christchurch, composed of representatives of over ten Canterbury organisations including our society and members of Rewi’s family, with the aim of putting together a number of commemorative activities to mark the 120th anniversary in late 2017 of his birth.

One project quickly decided on was to republish the biography written in 1997 by his niece Philippa Reynolds, which details the life of the New Zealand-born writer, educator and political activist who dedicated 60 years to humanitarian causes in China.

Rewi Alley was a remarkable man, who spent 60 years of his life in China. He had a ringside seat to what was a tumultuous period in China’s history.  He was variously a fireman, a factory inspector, an organiser of flood relief, the founder of the Chinese Industrial co-operative movement, the founder of the Shandan Baillie school and its second Headmaster, an educationalist, translator of Chinese classical poetry, the author of over sixty books, a skilled amateur archaeologist, a photographer and an activist in the Peace movement. In the latter part of his life, his influence saw New Zealand being one of the first western countries to establish diplomatic relations with China.  He also encouraged the setting up of the New Zealand China Friendship Society and the establishment of the sister city link between Christchurch and Gansu province in north western China, where he spent many years.

In 1997, the book was published by the Christchurch China Sister Cities Committee. The republication, carried out by chair of the Christchurch China Sister Cities Committee Bernard Duncan and the Rewi Alley 120th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, is a refreshed hardcover edition, with many more photos, several in colour. With the generous help and support of the Confucius Institute, HUST University in Wuhan translated it, with opposing pages in English and Mandarin.  The Chinese Consulate made a substantial contribution to the publication cost.


On 21 April 2017, the 120th anniversary of Rewi Alley arrival in China, Bernard Duncan

and Christchurch branch member Dave Adamson presented a copy of the book to Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to commemorate this important event. New Zealand was represented by two delegations; one from our society and the other composed of members of the Alley family.

Left to right: Alley relative Jocelyn Watkin, Dave Adamson, Vice President Li Yuanchao and Bernard Duncan.

This fascinating book is available for $35 plus postage.

Contact Judith [email protected] for details.


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