For­mer US en­voy was long­time res­i­dent of city

China Daily (USA) - - G20 2016 CHINA - By RAYMONDZHOU raymondzhou@ chi­

John Leighton Stu­art was awarded an honorary ci­ti­zen­ship by the Hangzhou congress in 1946 when he re­turned to the city for a visit. He had just been ap­pointed US am­bas­sador to China, a po­si­tion that would put him on a path he him­self could not con­trol.

Am­bas­sador Stu­art was not air­dropped from the US. He was lit­er­ally a na­tive kid, hav­ing been born in Hangzhou in 1876 and spent 14 years of his life there. It was re­ported he could speak the lo­cal di­alect be­fore he could speak English and his Chi­nese had some Hangzhou fla­vor. He al­ways con­sid­ered him­self more Chi­nese than Amer­i­can.

Most Chi­nese learned of his name, the Sini­cized Situ Lei­deng, from aMao Ze­dong ar­ti­cle from 1949 where he was viewed as “a loyal agent ofU.S. cul­tural ag­gres­sion in China”. That was the year he left China for good. He died in the US in 1962.

It was only in re­cent years that or­di­nary peo­ple have dis­cov­ered the other side of Stu­art, the side apart from his official po­si­tion as the last US am­bas­sador be­fore New China. Prom­i­nent among his con­tri­bu­tions was his suc­cess in turn­ing Yench­ing Univer­sity from a school of 94 stu­dents to a top in­sti­tu­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion in China.

Even though the school ex­isted for only 33 years, it was a cra­dle for China’s top sci­en­tists and jour­nal­ists. Ninety per­cent of Chi­nese jour­nal­ists sta­tioned over­seas dur­ing World War II were Yench­ing alumni.

Stu­art built the Yench­ing cam­pus, cur­rently home to Pek­ing Univer­sity, with tra­di­tional Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture, but he adopted a very West­ern ap­proach of teach­ing, en­cour­ag­ing equal and am­i­ca­ble ex­changes be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents.

Af­ter Beijing fell to Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion, Stu­art re­fused to fly the flag of the pup­pet regime or of­fer “thanks” for Ja­panese “lib­er­a­tion”. He was ar­rested and put in jail for three years and eight months un­til the end of the war.

Many of his Yench­ing stu­dents ended up join­ing the Com­mu­nist Party, and he me­di­ated through them when he be­came US am­bas­sador. Wen Yiduo, He was also re­spon­si­ble for chang­ing the US stance from all-out sup­port for the Kuom­intang govern­ment to that of a coali­tion govern­ment.

Son of Pres­by­te­rian mis­sion­ary par­ents, Stu­art had ear­lier helped found a Hangzhou-based school which is now the Zhi­jiang cam­pus of the fa­mous Zhe­jiang Univer­sity.

His mother, af­fec­tion­ately called “Mother Stu­art” by lo­cals, had founded the Hangzhou School for Girls, one of the first of its kind in China.

The street where their res­i­dence sits is still called Chris­tian Church Lane, and the church Stu­art’s fa­ther presided over, Tian­shui Tang, is only a few steps from the res­i­dency. On a re­cent Sun­day morn­ing, lo­cals were singing hymns to lyrics dis­played on over­head tele­vi­sion screens. There was a con­vivial at­mos­phere more be­fit­ting a fam­ily gath­er­ing in the 140-year-old house of God, the old­est in Hangzhou and newly re­stored in 2009.

A year be­fore that, Stu­art’s ashes were buried in a Hangzhou ceme­tery.

Wen Yiduo, a scholar held in high re­gard by Com­mu­nists, spoke of Stu­art be­fore he was as­sas­si­nated by the Na­tion­al­ists in 1946: “John Leighton Stu­art is a friend of the Chi­nese peo­ple. ... He un­der­stands the needs of the Chi­nese peo­ple, but that doesn’t mean he has su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers to solve all of China’s prob­lems.”

His­to­rian Lin Mengxi of­fered this ap­praisal: “Not a sin­gle Amer­i­can dur­ing the 20th cen­tury had such a long-last­ing and com­pre­hen­sive in­volve­ment in, and such a deep im­pact on, Chi­nese pol­i­tics, cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion as John Leighton Stu­art.”

a scholar

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