International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Hangchow Leper Hospital (later Guangji Leprosarium)


    Category Leprosarium
    Country China
    Address Hangchow, Chekiang
    Current Address Hangzhou, Zhehang


    The following brief account of the history of the asylum was published in 1927:

    "In 1875 Dr. Duncan Main, accompanied by Mrs. Main, came to China from Great Britain and settled down in the provincial capital of Chekiang as a medical missionary. Seeing the wide prevalence of leprosy in Hangchow, he started a leper hospital on the old site of the Maternal Hospital at Da Fong Pah.

    As the place was too close to the business center of the city, Dr. Main felt the need of removing the hospital to a more quiet place so as to segregate the lepers. So in 1897 the hospital was removed to Gem Hill on the shores of the beautiful West Lake with thirty inmates. The new site was more spacious and the institution much better equipped.

    Since the establishment of the Republic in 1911 the West Lake was so developed and improved in its natural and artistic beauty that tourists from all over the country came in increasing numbers. As a preventive measure a further removal was deemed necessary. The Pine Grove was finally selected as the new Home for Lepers, and in 1914 a still more spacious and beautiful hospital was built. The new location is just opposite Gem Hill, facing the Chien Tang River with its silver lining and sighting the zig-zag motor bus roads at its feet. The place is exceedingly quiet, and the air exceptionally pure. Indeed, it is an ideal place for lepers to live in.

    The hospital is divided into two homes: one for men, and the other for women. The Men's Home is larger, having three stories and more than ten good-sized rooms. The auditorium on the ground floor is the chapel in which the male lepers worship God every morning and evening.

    The Women's Home was formerly composed of a three room house. The building was simple, but nice. Mr. Sidney Duncan Main, the son of Dr. Main, seeing the need of a better and larger building for the Women's Home, raised a large amount of money and rebuilt it in the form of a modern building, which contains more than ten rooms. Besides the bed rooms there are a kitchen, a parlor, a chapel, and bath rooms. This building was completed in 1924. There is a resident physician who gives injections at least once a week. There are nurses and matrons who dress their wounds and look after their welfare. Excepting those patients who can pay their own way, the clothing, beddings, utensils, and food are all provided by the asylum free of charge.

    There are at present more than sixty inmates in the whole institution. Of them, 60% are capable of doing some kind of labor. There are patients who have lived in our homes for eight, ten, and even thirty years, for though they are cured, they have no homes to which to go. There is also a number of cases that have been completely cured as a result of the chaulmoogra treatment."

    Source: Dr. Wan Lin-Zei, "A brief history of the Hangchow Leper Hospital", The Leper Quarterly, 2 (1927): 20-22.

    NB For an alternative account (published in 1930), see:

    Textual and historical references to this asylum

    Leprosaria - Historical References
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