Block-printing in the Garden of Yan
Yifengtang shicun, block- printed by the library of Yenching University, witnessed glories and legends of its author Miao Quansun and the Yenching University.
Today many people hurry to and fro in Peking University, but few people know that this place used to belong to Yenching University, the most famous Chinese Christian university in modern times founded by American missionary John Leighton Stuart (1876–1962). He was also the first president of Yenching University. As Yenching University was founded, its library was established also, which collected many books in Chinese and foreign languages.
In 1939, Yenching University's library block-printed and released Yifengtang shicun (“collection of Yifeng's poems”), a collection of poems by Miao Quansun (1844–1919). The book later became a classic among the works block-printed by Yenching University's library.
Grand University with High Reputation
In modern times, with the continuouscontinuo expansion of Western countries' invasioninv of China, Western missionaries also came in throngs and preached in China. After the Second Opium War (1856–1860), missionaries' activities became more frequent. They preached Christianity and established churches, and even specially founded newspapers and magazines and translated and published books. Missionaries set up many schools in the name of the church, many of which were prestigious with influence on China's modern education.
The Bridgman Girls' High School
was founded by Mrs. Elizah Bridgman, a missionary in China from the American Christian Congregational Church. In 1864, she established Bridgman Girls' Elementary School at Dabogeshi Hutong north of Dengshikou Street in Beijing. She took charge of the small school's administrative affairs by herself. Later, the school employed Chinese teachers and became more developed. In 1895, it began to take shape and the four-year Bridgman Girls' High School was established. It later expanded and was renamed the North China Union College for Women.
In 1867, the American Christian Congregational Church founded the Jefferson Academy in Tongzhou to provide education, food and clothing for children from low-income families. In 1889, the Jefferson Academy was promoted to university status with “spreading the Gospel, opening up roads” as the goal and with The Holy Bible, Chinese and English as the main courses. Students must participate in all religious activities and mostly became preachers after graduation. In 1912, the Jefferson Academy was renamed North China Union College, the predecessor of today's Beijing Luhe High School.
In 1889, the American Methodist Episcopal Church established the Chongnei Reason-nurturing Academy at Chuanban Hutong near Chongwenmen, later renamed Huiwen University. It was the predecessor of today's Peking Academy.
In 1900, during the Eight-nation Alliance's invasion of China, these three universities were devastated and couldn't conduct teaching activities on a regular basis. Therefore, the American Methodist Episcopal Church, the American Christian Congregational Church, American Presbyterian Church and the British London Missionary Society merged the three church schools into the well-known Yenching University. Its first president was the missionary John Leighton Stuart.
Stuart was born in 1876 in Hangzhou. His parents were both missionaries in China, and he began to preach in many places in China at the age of 28. In 1918, the American Northern Presbyterian Church and Southern Presbyterian Church ordered Stuart to establish a “new comprehensive university,” so after the merger of North China Union College for Women, North China Union College and Huiwen University, Stuart was appointed president of Yenching University.
After taking office, he prepared to build a new campus but had to solicit contributions from society due to lack of funds. He once rode a small donkey to select a site for the new school, asked for donations everywhere to raise funds for running the school, and shuttled in Beijing's high streets and back lanes. He also went a long way to raise funds in the US on several occasions.
At first, Yenching University used the site of the former Huiwen University at Kuijiachang in the southeast corner of Beijing's inner city. Later, Stuart took a liking to a garden northwest of Beijing and sought to buy the land with 200,000 silver dollars, but that piece of land belonged to Military Governor of Shaanxi Province Chen Shufan (1885–1949). After he told Chen Shufan his thoughts, this warlord showed great passion for education beyond his wildest expectation. Chen Shufan not only sold the land to Yenching University at the low price of 60,000 silver dollars, but also took out 20,000 silver dollars and donated it to Yenching University as a scholarship fund.
Stuart later mentioned this experience in his memoir My Fifty Years in China, calling it a beggar's trip. After raising enough school-running funds, he engaged Murphy, a famous American architect, to carry out overall planning. The site of Yenching University is today's main campus of Peking University—the Garden of Yan. All buildings in the complex adopted the style of ancient Chinese palaces and imitated exteriors of Chinese classical buildings as much as possible. In terms of internal functions, they adopted the most advanced facilities such as radiators, hot water supply, flushing toilets and drinking fountains.
In 1926, Yenching University officially moved to the Garden of Yan. After many years, Yenching University became China's most beautiful and accomplished university. In terms of teaching philosophy, this university implemented free teaching without emphasising Christian education. From 1929, the School of Arts, the School of Sciences and the School of Law were officially established with nearly 20 departments in total. Its graduates were active mainly in China's educational, political and religious circles.
Though Yenching University was a religious school, Stuart proposed the schoolrun policy of “completely Sinicizing Yenching University” and the motto of “Freedom through Truth for Service.” He once said, “Yenching University must be a university in the real sense capable of withstanding any test, and one's belief is just a private affair.” As a practitioner of education, he deeply knew that “a university should have not only tall buildings, but also great masters.” Yenching University engaged many foreign teachers and gathered numerous first-class Chinese scholars. Many well-known people such as Feng Youlan (1895–1990), Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967) and Zheng Zhenduo
(1898–1958) taught at Yenching University, the Chinese campus with the largest scale, the highest quality and the most beautiful environment in modern times. Its fast rise could be deemed legendary in China's history of higher education.
Culture and Grand Scale
A few years after Yenching University was founded, its library was established in 1919. In modern times, church universities and their libraries occupied a place in China's education history. At that time, church universities were only used for preaching, so their libraries mainly collected books of Western languages and religion. After the May Fourth Movement in 1919, Chinese intellectuals' national consciousness was continuously awakening, so they gradually organised movements to take back the right of education from various church schools. To survive in China, church schools adopted the “Sinicisation” policy and their libraries also began to collect large numbers of Chinese books. Some of them even surpassed other types of university libraries in China in terms of ancient literary and historical books. As a newly established comprehensive university, Yenching University became a Chinese style university. Its library not only collected Chinese books, but also could block-print books with block-printing techniques.
When Yenching University was established in 1919, its library was located at Kuijiachang southeast of Beijing. At that time, there was only one house with a collection of a little over 200 books. In 1925, the library had only three houses with a collection of less than 10,000 books, most of which were in Western languages. In 1926, Yenching University moved to the Garden of Yan, in which its library was a Chinese-style building imitating the Imperial Library, capable of housing 300,000 books. In 1935, the library was rebuilt to expand the usable floor area.
At that time, it was Yenching University's tradition to name buildings after donors, so the library was named Berry Memorial after the Mr. and Mrs. Berry, who donated funds. The Yenching University Library Committee was responsible for library management, consisting of the director of the library and prestigious professors, among whom Hong Ye (1893– 1980) and Tien Hungtu contributed most to Yenching University's library.
In his early years, Hong went to the US for study, taught at Yenching University after returning to China, and served as chairman of the Library Committee. In 1928, Hong served as acting director of the library. That year, he led the formulation of a series of the library's rules and regulations, purchased many books and promoted cooperation between Yenching University's library and Harvard Library.
Later, Tien who graduated as a library science major from Boone University in Wuchang succeeded Hong as director of the library. Tien studied in the US, served as an assistant with Columbia University Libraries, learned about library affairs, and contributed to Yenching University's library.
Yenching University's library had a large collection of more than 300,000 books, second only to Peking University and Sun Yatsen University, including not only Westernlanguage books of studies on Chinese and Eastern cultures, but also many rare editions of ancient books and printing blocks. Its collection of ancient books, many of which were old editions of the Song (AD 960–1279) and Yuan (1271–1368) dynasties, reached more than 3,000 titles and attracted many readers. Yenching University's library also block-printed many books using traditional block-printing techniques, including Yifengtang shicun, a collection of poems by Miao Quansun, a great scholar and founder of modern library undertakings.
Miao was a native of Jiangyin County, Jiangsu, born in 1844. When he was 17, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom's army captured Jiangyin, so he and his stepmother fled to Huai'an for refuge. Four years later, his family moved to Chengdu. He later studied and passed the provincial imperial examinations there. In 1876, Miao came to Beijing and participated in the metropolitan exam at age 33. He became a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations and was appointed compiler at the Imperial Academy. Later, he worked as an editor for more than ten years, and compiled Shuntianfu zhi (“annals of Shuntian Prefecture”).
During the Self-strengthening Movement, Zhang Zhidong (1837–1909, Chinese politician) entrusted him with the task of surveying and studying in Japan. After his return, Miao Quansun compiled textbooks himself to develop education, fostered many talented individuals, and founded the Jiangnan Library (today's Nanjing Library).
In1909, the Qing government planned to build the Imperial Library of Peking, the predecessor of today's National Library of China. Miao supervised construction of the library's infrastructure, engaged other librarians, classified books and alone founded the Imperial Library of Peking. Therefore, Miao is reputed as a “founding father” of modern libraries and “great master of a generation.”
After the Revolution of 1911, Miao returned to Shanghai. In his later years, he called himself Yifeng Elder and participated in compiling Qingshi gao (“the draft history of Qing”). Before his death, he was still engaged in compiling Jiangyinxian xuzhi
(“a supplement to the annals of Jiangyin County”). In 1919, Miao died of gastric ulcer in Shanghai. He wrote many poems and essays in his lifetime, but most of them were lost. The only poetry collections left of his are Yifengtang shicun and Bixiang ci (“fragrant jade poems”). In 1939, Yenching University's library combined the two collections of his poems into one and finally completed the famous edition of Yifengtang shicun block-printed in 1939.
Refined Words, Outstanding Essays
In 1939, Yenching University's library, according to the introduction by the great historian Deng Zhicheng (1887–1960), divided Miao's Yifengtang shicun into four volumes and attached the one-volume Bixiang ci to combine two poetry collections
into one. There are two editions of this finely printed white-paper book: a black ink edition and blue ink edition. Very few copies of the blue ink edition were printed, and the existing ones’ colour has turned a little green. The Chinese characters are long and squarish, and each stroke is full of energy. The words “Collected by Yenching University’s library, Printed and Released in the twenty-eighth year of the Republic of China period” are on the title page. After this book became widespread, people gradually learned about Miao’s collection of poems.
Miao made a living by writing all his life and was author of many works. In Nianpu (“chronicle”), Miao wrote “I have been to 16 provinces and written 200 books,” excluding some local chronicles compiled by him. Miao inherited knowledge from his family in his childhood and occasionally studied poetry after studying at age 12 to 13. He wrote many poems during his life, yet most were lost in the Revolution of 1911 and fewer than 200 remain.
Miao’s poems are imbued with his experiences, and some even record valuable historical facts. In the third poem in Yifengtang shicun, Miao mentioned the incident of the Taiping army’s capture of the Jinling camp in the beginning when he was less than 20 years old. In 1860, the Taiping army captured Nanjing, Danyang, Changzhou and Jiangyin successively and left after burning, pillaging and killing more than 200 men and women. Before long, Miao learned that the Taiping army had withdrawn, so he hired a boat to cross the river. However, after coming back home, he saw only a dilapidated house with no clothes inside and three unknown bodies. So he and an old man buried the three bodies. At that time, Miao felt sad and wrote four long poems. At the end of the fourth one, he wrote, “I’ve escaped jackals and tigers, while Jiangnan is attacked by enemies.”
In 1895, the Sino-japanese War broke out, and the Beiyang Fleet was wiped out. After China’s defeat, Li Hongzhang (1823– 1901, Chinese politician) signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki with Japan, ceded territory and paid indemnities in exchange for temporary peace. On the 17th day of the tenth lunar month of 1896, the birthday of the patriotic poet Lu You (1125–1210) in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279), Miao thought about Lu’s determination to fight against the Jin Dynasty and recapture the central plains, but the imperial court’s cession of territory and payment of indemnities angered him, so he wrote: “A peace treaty was signed to end the war. I burst into tears for what happened before. Chrysanthemums are blooming and the wine is strong. I see the portrait of a person dead long.” At that time, Miao was filled with grief and indignation, wanting to dedicate himself to the service of his country and hoping a famous minister like Lu would emerge. After the Sino-japanese War, Chinese national consciousness began to awaken.
After Yifengtang shicun was blockprinted, the printing blocks were kept at Yenching University for future printing. However, after two years, the Pacific War broke out and the Japanese army closed down Yenching University. The university had to move to Chengdu temporarily with Kung Hsiang-hsi (1880–1967) as president and Mei Yi-pao (1900–1997) as acting president. After the War of Resistance against Japan was won in 1945, Yenching University reopened its campus in Beijing.
After the Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan, Yenching University in Hong Kong was merged into Chung Chi College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Yenching University was dissolved in the restructuring of schools and departments in Chinese institutions of higher learning in 1952. Most of its arts and science departments were merged into Peking University, its engineering departments were merged into Tsinghua University, and its law school and sociology departments merged into China University of Political Science and Law. Yenching University’s school buildings were taken over by Peking University, and Yenching University’s library was also merged into Peking University Library.
In 1952, Peking University moved to the Garden of Yan, where Yenching University was located. In China’s history of higher education, this university is reputed as an “Eastern Harvard” and can be called a miracle though it only existed for more than 30 years. Yenching University has become history, but books block-printed by its library have been passed down.
“Yenching University is a grand and splendid.” Now Yenching University’s school song is often sung by people and brings that legendary university “forging ahead actively to explore truth.” Yifengtang shicun block-printed by Yenching University’s library is not only a witness to Yenching University’s glorious past, but also an account of a great scholar’s experiences.
Yifengtang shicun by Miao Quansun
Peking University’s previous campus was that of Yenching University