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Last updated :2012-11-10

CAI Yuanpei and Sun Yat-sen University

CAI Yuanpei, the famous educator of the country, once had deep friendship with Sun Yat-sen University.

When the National Guangdong University founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen was renamed Sun Yat-sen University, Cai Yuanpei was specially invited to be a member of the Preparatory Committee. Not long after, he was added as a member to the special regional committee of Sun Yat-sen University of the Chinese Kuomintang.

During February 1928, The Division of Learning (later changed to the Ministry of Education), with Cai Yuanpei as director and Yang Xingfo as deputy director (invited as member of the preparatory committee of National Guangdong University) made the decision that all the universities named after Dr. Sun Yat-sen must be altered to the name of the local place, except the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou founded by him for commemoration, since many universities had been all over the country to commemorate Dr. Sun Yat-sen after his death, which not only lose the meaning in commemoration, but cause confusion in international academic exchange. Hence, Sun Yat-sen University became the only famous university named after him and was also founded by him until today, which is the most treasured aspect that deserved our pride since the founding of Sun Yat-sen University.

The Research Institute of Language and History, prepared by Professor Fu Sinian, director of the department of literature and history (later changed to Department of Liberal Arts and School of Literature), in August 1927, and founded in January 1928, was selected by Cai Yuanpei, director of Central Research Academy under preparation (formally founded on June 9, 1928) as the base for the Research Institute of History and Language under preparation. He appointed Professor Fu Sinian and Professor Gu Jiegang, Yang Zhensheng as members of the Preparatory Committee. The same people were organized under two signs. The Research Institute of history and language was founded at Bo Yuan, No. 35 Xueguyuan Street, Dongshan District, Guangzhou in October 1928, then moved to Yangxinzai, Beihai, Beiping in March 1929. Professor Fu Sinian also went to Beiping as director of the institute, while at the same time was invited to be adviser of the Research Institute of History and Language by Sun Yat-sen University. This academic institute attached to Sun Yat-sen University was thus divided into two institutes, one growing into a national academic organization, the other continuing to develop, which laid the foundation for Sun Yat-sen University become one of the three national universities to set up research institutes in 1935.

When the Japanese imperialists staged the “9.18” event to occupy the northeast of our country with armed forces, patriotic teachers and students of Sun Yat-sen University at the southern door of the country raised resistance against Japan promptly to save the nation from extinction. They set up the "Executive Committee to fight the Japanese and save the nation in Sun Yat-sen University", which composed of 21 representatives of teachers and students including the Acting President, Professor Xu Chongqing, to lead the campaign. The Committee published "Special Anti-Japanese Issues" to broaden the propaganda of resistance against Japan and to start a campaign against Japanese goods, and held a publicity week of national sufferings from October 5, inviting celebrities to make speeches calling on people to fight the Japanese.

The speakers on the first day of the week of national sufferings on October 5 were Cai Yuanpei and Zhang Boquan (Zhang Ji). All the students, as well as President Xu Chongqing and the members of the Anti-Japanese Committee attended the meeting in the auditorium in Sun Yat-sen University. Cai Yuanpei made the first speech which was carried on the Sun Yat-sen Universtiy Daily on October 8, 1931.

Cai Yuanpei’s speech focused on mobilizing people to resist the Japanese aggression. Though he did not attack the non-resistance police of Jiang Kaishek directly, he was obvious singing a different tune from Jiang Kaishek’s policy of compromise and surrender. The speech demonstrated that Cai Yuanpei hated the Japanese aggressors, that he was a patriot advocating resistance against the Japanese imperialism. The contents of his speech are as follows:

At the beginning, Cai Yuanpei said: "Today, you have just return from an anti-Japanese demonstration and must be very tired, but you have to listen to my speech. I am sorry I don’t have much to say, but at your hearty invitation, I have to say something."

After some polite greetings, he concentrated on the issue of anti-Japanese and saving the nation, which is matter of all concern. He said, "It is a matter of unanimous agreement to fight the Japanese. They invade the three provinces in the northeast, occupy our territory, kill our people, all the Chinese people, no matter how far away they are, are deeply concerned. He asked the audience, “Why are the Japanese so rude and violent? Why don’t they dare to invade Britain, France or the US, but come to the three provinces in the northeast? He answered the problem directly: “This is because they know that our forces can not be compared with those in Britain, France or the US." He mentioned a historical lesson by saying "The Japanese and Russians had been engaged in war, yet the battlefield was within the Chinese boundary. Then the Chinese troops should have been engaged too, but the Japanese didn’t allow us to intervene, so we had to remain neutral. Wasn’t it a shame! If all people in the nation had noticed the dangers in the northeast after this battle, and had trained our army, how did the Japanese dare to invade our country?"

He then analyzed the excuses the Japanese used for invading China, "The Japanese often say that they have too little land and too much population, while in Manchuria it is the opposite. They stimulate the people by encouraging them to go live in the northeast in China. At this, he talked about another historical lesson, "There is a lot of uncultivated wasteland in the northeast, a lot of mines that are not developed. Why didn’t we move our people there?"

All these have been over, what we must solve urgently is to fight the Japanese. Therefore, he has talked about two solutions:
"First of all, all the people in the nation should be united, no matter whether the resistance force is strong enough, we must fight to the last moment. We won’t allow the tragedy of the Romans killing the Cathes to be repeated."

"Second, the Japanese outrage this time is completely a barbarian warlord move, so far we have not yet declared war on Japan, This problem, may be temporarily solved with diplomatic actions. But we must not forget the shame; and we may face more dangers. If we don’t defend ourselves, our nation will be wiped out. We should carry on the responsibility of military service; replace the volunteer military service with the hired soldier system. If our military needs and economic needs can be self-sufficient, we don’t need to depend on foreign country."

At the end of his speech, Cai Yuanpei placed great hope on the students of Sun Yat-sen University. He said: "You young people will take more responsibilities than we do. In university you learn a lot of knowledge. I hope that you will study the better ways of solving the problems and lead the people to fight the Japanese."

Afterwards, Cai Yuanpei advocated actively for resistance against the Japanese, opposed to Jiang Kaishek’s non-resistance policy. In December 1932, he started the Chinese Civil Rights Guarantee Alliance with Song Qingling, Lu Xun, etc. and took the position of vice chairman. In 1937 after the War of Resistance Against Japan broken out and Shanghai fell into the hands of the Japanese army, he moves to Hong Kong. He died of illness in Hong Kong on March 5, 1940. When the news of his death reached Sun Yat-sen University which had moved to Yunnan province because of the war of resistance against the Japanese, the Sun Yat-sen University Daily carried the news on March 13, 1940. Zou Lu, the president of the university who was recuperating in Chongqing extended his condolences to his family members on behalf of teachers and students, expressing their heartfelt mourning for his death.

From Guangdong University to Sun Yat-sen University

Sun Yat-sen University was originally called National Guangdong University, founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen on February 4,1924. Dr. Sun Yat-sen paid much attention to the preparation work, and he not only staged revolutionary campaigns from the National Guangdong Normal School, one of the three predecessors of Guangdong University, so as to increase its influence, but also issued orders frequently in the name of generalissimo to solve specific problems in preparing and running the university. As a result, the National Guangdong University quickly became a multi-disciplinary institution of high education in South China which was the first one founded by a Chinese compatriot. After the death of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the National Government which was set up during the first cooperation between the Communists and Nationalists formally decreed to change its name to Sun Yat-sen University to commemorate, inherit, and develop the great revolutionary spirit of Dr. Sun Yat-sen on July 17, 1926.

I. Founded Guangdong University

In March 1923, Dr. Sun Yat-sen established the generalissimo residence again in Guangzhou and took the post of generalissimo. At that time, the political situation is Guangdong was in turmoil, he still bore in mind the development of higher education. The twists and turns in the democratic revolutionary struggle in China and the successful experience of the October revolution in Russia made him realize that talent training was of vital importance to the great cause of saving the nation and the people, while in order to train talents with the spirit of the time, we had to run new-type schools of our own. To meet the demands for talents by the quickly developing revolutionary situation in Guangdong and the country after the establishment of the cooperation between the Communists and the Nationalists in the early 1920s, Dr. Sun Yat-sen gave orders to set up the Marshal School of the Academy of Army Officers on January 24, 1924, which was afterwards called the Huangpu Military School. On February 4 of the same year, he promulgated two orders of the generalissimo, appointing Zou Lu director of the preparatory committee of Guangdong University, merging and restructuring the National Guangdong Normal School and the Guangdong College of Law, which were established in 1905, as well as the Guangdong Agricultural School, which was established in 1909, to form the "School of Literature and Arts" National Guangdong University, which was afterwards renamed Sun Yat-sen University.

The preparatory committee was formed in the month when Dr. Sun Yat-sen promulgated his order of the generalissimo, which consisted of Zou Lu, senior statesman from Kuomintang as director and 35important members from Kuomintang central, provincial and municipal governments as well as Communists such as Hu Hanmin, Wang Jingwei, Liao Zhongkai, Wu Chaoshu, Ma Junwu, Sun Ke, Li Dazhao, Xu Chongqing, Hu Shi, Chen Shuren, Xiong Xiling, etc. At the first meeting of the preparatory committee held On March 3 the charter of Guangdong University was adopted. According to the charter, the Normal School was reorganized into the departments of natural sciences and liberal arts in Guangdong University, the Law School was reorganized into the Department of Law, the Agriculture College was reorganized into departments of agriculture, the department of engineering and preparatory school were established, and a normal school was set up later. The preparatory committee also formulated rules and regulations one after another, of which "the University Regulations" and "the National Guangdong University donation articles" were announced in the name of the generalissimo.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen appointed Zou Lu the first president of the National Guangdong University on June 9, 1924. In the summer of the same year, the university enrolled its first batch of 372 students in the pre-school, and a ceremony for the founding of the National Guangdong University was held on November 11. President Zou Lu presided over the ceremony, Hu Hanmin, Liao Zhongkai, Wang Jingwei and other important Kuomintang politicians attended the meeting and delivered speeches. Dr. Sun Yat-sen didn’t attend the meeting because he had to prepare for his trip north to meet Feng Yuxiang, but he entrusted Hu Hanmin, governor of Guangdong Province to represent him and deliver a speech of congratulation. He also wrote the inscription of "study extensively, enquire accurately, reflect carefully, discriminate clearly and practise earnestly" for the university.

The National Guangdong University was a top multi-disciplinary institution of higher education in South China, which "takes it as its purposes to instill and research advanced theory and technology and try hard to popularize its application according to national conditions," (Regulations of the National Guangdong University) The University was located in four places in Guangzhou, and the site of the original Normal School at Wenming Road (now the Guangzhou Zhongshan library) was the main division of the university. There is a hall on the campus where Dr. Sun Yat-sen presided over the first conference of the Chinese Kuomintang and re-interpreted his Three People's Principles, a big clock tower that served as the landmark of Guangdong University. Even since the beginning, the university tried to employ scholars with specialties, and many teachers had profound learning in the profession. The University had invited a batch of famous personage to teach, among them were Yang Shouchang, Chen Gongbo, Guo Moruo, Yu Dafu, Cheng Fangwu, etc. Famous educator Xu Teli, Liao Zhongkai, standing member of the Central Committee of Kuomintang, as well as Mao Zedong, Wu Yuzhang, Zhou Enlai and Liu Shaoqi of the Communist Party had been to the university to lecture or to deliver a speech.

The Big Clock Tower, Emblem and School Anthem use in that time

II. Renamed Sun Yat-sen University

On March 12, 1925, Dr. Sun Yat-sen dies of illness in Beijing. To commemorate the founder of the National Guangdong University, Liao Zhongkai suggested to rename the National Guangdong University to National Zhongshan University at the 71st session of first Central Executive Committee of Kuomintang on June 19, 1926. The National Government approved to set up the preparatory committee for the National Sun Yat-sen University consisting of 40 people such as Zhu Minyi, Chen Shuren, Song Ziwen, Chen Gongbo, Jiang Kaishih, Xu Haoqing, Guo Moruo, Deng Zhiyi, etc. Other members of the Committee included 30 people such as Lin Boqu, Ssun Ke, Cai Yuanppei, Wu Zhihui, Gu Mengyu, Li Shizeng, and Jiang Mengling. On August 17, the National Government issued order to formally rename the National Guangdong University as National Zhongshan University, with Dai Jitao as president. The standard English translation of the name of Zhongshan University is "Sun Yat-sen University", with November 11 as its anniversary day.

III. Change the University Day

On November 3, 1951, the university made the announcement of "the Decision to make Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s birthday the University Day", posted it on campus and carried it on the campus newspaper People’s Zhongda.

The university sent a cable to Song Qingling, vice chairman of the Central People's Government in Beijing in the name of President Xu Chongqing and Vice President Feng Naichao on November 11, which reads as follows:

Our university is the only one that commemorates Dr. Sun Yat-sen in the country. In order to stress the meaning commemorating Dr. Sun Yat-sen, we decided to change the University Day to November 12 (Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s birthday) starting from this yea. In addition to holding a celebration meeting and an entertainment evening party on the University Day this year, there will also be exhibition of natural sciences, exhibition of cultural relics of minorities and ball games simultaneously. We send the cable to inform you about the change and express our courtesy.

Xu Chongqing, president
Feng Naichao, vice president
November 11

Madame Song Qingling replied quickly:

President Xu and Vice President Feng: I am pleased to receive your cable and to learn that your university has changed the University Day to Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s birthday, which is really meaning. I Hope that you may inherit the revolutionary spirit of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, strengthen the sport of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea under the wise leadership of Chairman Mao, train talents for the construction vigorously, and struggle to build a prosperous and beautiful new China.

Sincerely yours,
Song Qingling