FRED LOGEVALL: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. And welcome to our event this evening. My name is Fred Logevall, and I'm here tonight in my capacity as director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. And it is such an honor for me to have an opportunity to say just a few things at the start of our proceedings.
One of the things that gives me particular satisfaction as Einaudi director is to work with program directors, programs that are within Einaudi-- or at least are housed by Einaudi-- work with directors who come up with innovative pedagogically an intellectually exciting new endeavors. And what we're here to talk about tonight-- and to sort of kick off, I guess you could say-- is the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative.
And so I want to first off applaud what director Hiromi Osaki-- who is the director of the East Asia Program, one of the programs within Einaudi and a world-renowned East Asia Program. What Hiro has done in conceiving this particular initiative, I think is immensely important for several different reasons I think that we can all anticipate. One of course, is Cornell's historic engagement with China, which makes this-- it seems to me-- perfect. Our continuing strengths at Cornell with respect to China studies and research, and study in and about China. The strength of the library collection on matters relating to China. Our terrific major in the arts college, CAPS, China and Asia Pacific Studies. This-- it seems to me-- is perfectly in line with what is happening with CAPS.
And finally, I guess I would single out China's importance in the world, and the importance that I attach to making sure that Cornell-- with tremendous strengths relating to China across the campus, really in all the colleges and schools at Cornell-- that Cornell is part of the discussion about China and about understanding China and Chinese history, Chinese civilization.
So to be here as Einaudi director is just an honor. And to have a chance to support this initiative that Hiro has conceived. And by the way, I might say that in addition to this particular initiative, Hiro has several others that he has spawned, that he has created within the East Asia program. And again, it's just a pleasure to be associated with this and to help-- in my small way-- to support what he's doing.
In addition to that then, to have a chance to not introduce my good colleague, Sherm Cochran, but to recognize Sherm and to say that that part of it is an added honor for me to have a chance to be here associated with a lecture that is going to be given by my very dear colleague in the history department, Professor Sherm Cochran, is just a thrill for me.
So I want to welcome you. I want to say that the Einaudi Center is very, very enthusiastic about this new initiative. It's clear that we're going to have a lot of terrific and stimulating events happening associated with the initiative, and we're going to do our part in the center to support it.
And what I'm going to do now is ask one of the aforementioned China experts one of the reasons why we're in such a strong position I think to kick off this initiative and to have it thrive, I'm going to ask Professor Robin McNeil, who is a specialist on Chinese history, languages, and literature, and who is also the associate director of the East Asia program. I'm going ask Robin to come up and introduce our speaker. Robin?
ROBIN MCNEAL: Thank you. Thank you, Fred Logevall, thanks to the vice provosts, Office of International Affairs, and to the Einaudi Center for supporting these new initiatives which Fred just spoke about in East Asia program, many of them just now underway, just being launched. This new lecture series that we're here to inaugurate will be part of one of those new initiatives That is part of the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative, in which we will be bringing in important speakers from a broad range of disciplines, touching on social issues in contemporary China here to Cornell on a regular basis to speak.
The underlying goal of this initiative, then, is to draw scholars, students, researchers with experience and interest in-- as I said, a sort of a broad range of things that are happening in China today-- together, bring these people together into dialogues that will cross, or stretch, or threaten, or maybe just ignore some of the disciplinary boundaries that might normally keep us separated, but to try to bring such people together.
I have to mention-- I'm sorry, I'm usually unscripted, but I have many things I have to say. So there will be a new course associated with the lecture series when we begin in earnest next semester, a one credit course that students can take if they want to have a sort of deeper engagement with the lecture series. And related to this, there will be videotapes made of each of these events. And they will eventually all also be archived online on the web page for CCCI through the East Asia program.
So you're welcome to sign up to the listserv if you want to know more about the lecture series. You're welcome to come and talk to me at the reception after this event that everyone is invited to, which will be across the street in the physical sciences building in the Baker portico. And there's food and refreshments for everybody, so you're welcome after the talk to join us, and you can ask me or some of the other-- Sherm or other people involved-- about that class if you're interested in.
Now, since we will be recording tonight and in each of the lectures, I'll just ask if you can all help me keep noise to a minimum. If you need to get up and leave the room, if you'd use the back doors rather than the front. And perhaps you can all join me in silencing your phones now. This is the main thing we all have to remember right before such an event. And then, I'll just say briefly-- I'll try to be as quick as I can-- sort of echoing what Fred has said, that there's certainly sort of a different feel in recent years, particularly maybe the last decade, about China and the rest of the world's engagement with one another.
When I was a college student in the 1980s embarking on my career in studying Chinese history and language, it was very common that if someone asked me what I was studying and I told them Chinese history, that I would see that look in their eye-- you know, that sort of you poor soul. You're destined to a life of obscurity on the periphery. You'll never have a job, you'll never talk to anyone because you're studying something so strange. And I'm happy to say that today, that that never happens to me or my students. Today, when people hear that you study something about China, there's a recognition and an excitement that China is not remote or peripheral, that in this short time really-- 30 years-- that it is geographically in the same place, but feels much closer.
So this lecture series is intended to sort of capture that new engagement in many disciplines, many fields, many ways with what is happening in China-- with changes that are happening in China. And so it is in recognition of this sort of new centrality, or existing centrality-- and I recognize that we do this. We will bring speakers mostly on Mondays starting in February-- I believe early February of next semester-- and as I said, there'll be a class with this. We have several prominent speakers already lined up. For example, Karl Gerth from University of California at San Diego will be here. He's got an excellent book a few years back that has really defined this kind of interaction, describing how as the Chinese economy and social world changes, so does really the rest of the world.
We'll have a speaker, for example, from Hong Kong, a fellow named Sebastian [? Vague ?] who works on issues of government and democracy, and changes there. We have a speaker named Christian [? Saurus ?] who's coming to talk to us on earthquake relief efforts and sort of mobilization, and things like that. So a handful of speakers. And we hope to have the schedule out soon.
Finally then, because of this reach-- this interdisciplinary reach-- we will have-- each week-- many people to thank, many of our partners to thank. So briefly, if you'll bear with me, I would start by thanking our friends who have brought us to their house tonight-- our friends in city and regional planning. We have faculty from the College of Architecture on our advisory board and helping us to choose some of our speakers. And we hope to talk of other things like housing and historic preservation, and that sort of thing. So first, a hats off to our friends in Millstein who have allowed us to use this room.
Second, I want to give a special thanks to a partner that all of us benefit from all the time, which is the Cornell Library. The Cornell Library has played a special role in tonight's lecture, because first of all, they have played a role as steward of the Hu Shih materials, the papers and documents that had been housed here and that Sherm is able to draw on, and that are now-- I learned recently-- digitized, so more easily accessible to everyone.
But also, played a role because they have actually helped shape the lecture as it came together. Some earlier this year, Sherm has visited various cities and given a variation on this talk as one of the salon talks that the [AUDIO OUT] --very helpful in working with us on the posters and the logistics of everything. And I'll mention that the curator of the Wason collection Dr. Liren Zheng will be teaching a new course on China next academic year, one of several new courses that the China Initiative will sponsor and seed. So we've invested money in trying to create new classes, and you should see several new such classes over the next couple of years.
And finally, note that the library's commitment to China studies is, in fact, much deeper and richer. For example, they have created many partnerships with libraries and librarians in China, and done more than almost any other library institution in America to bring people here and train them in preservation and other sort of library sciences things. So a thank you to the library.
And as I said, they have helped us to organize this specific talk, and that brings me to the final person I need to thanks, and that is our speaker tonight, Sherm Cochran. Sherm joined the history department here at Cornell in 1973. And he was indeed a truly beloved teacher. This is something you hear about him all the time. For the 40 years that he taught here, offering courses in modern Chinese history, he also served during that time variously as the director of the East Asia program, the chair of history, and also the director of the CAPS program, the CAPS major.
During this same time, he has published an impressive nine scholarly books, and over 40 scholarly articles, including his 2008 book, Chinese Medicine Men, which won the prestigious Joseph Levenson prize as the best book published that year on China in the 20 or 21st centuries. Last year's The Lius of Shanghai from Harvard University Press, just out, coauthored by Andrew Hsieh. And now, soon to be weeks from being released, yet another new book, The Capitalist Dilemma in China's Communist Revolution, edited by Sherm. So he's been a busy, busy person this whole time.
Not long after I joined Cornell in 2000-- not too long afterwards-- Sherm was named the Hu Shih Endowed Professor of Chinese History here. So it's really only fitting that he inaugurate our new speaker series during this week, which is the international week of our 150th birthday here at Cornell, and in this exact date of the 100th year anniversary of Hu Shih's graduation from Cornell in 1914, it's only fitting he should then inaugurate all this with his lecture for us today-- Hu Shih, The Greatest Cornellian. So without any more ado, Sherm.
SHERM COCHRAN: Thank you, Robin. And thank you all for coming out on this cold and blustery night. And thanks to Fred Logevall too, for a very warm welcome all around. As professor McNeal has mentioned, Anne Kenny-- Cornell's university librarian, was the first to suggest that I talk about this subject, Hu Shih. And I'm grateful to her for putting me on to it. It's been fun these couple of other talks I've given, and now here back at Cornell to do it has been a pleasure.
Cornell's library in general has been a wonderful support for me the whole time I've been here some 40 years, and to my students as well. So we're all grateful for the library. I also want to mention a special thanks to Dr. Liran Zheng-- mentioned by Robin-- as curator of the East Asian collection, the Wason Collection. He and Li Shen-- also from the library-- point out there's a handout by the door outside which is on the back the website for the now digitized Hu Shih materials from Row books and manuscripts. That's the place to follow up. You can make a great entry into Hu Shih studies if you want to take it from there.
It's also an honor for me to be in this series. I'm grateful to Robin and Hiro for setting it up and inviting me to participate. I think of this as kind of a warm up lecture. The course won't really start-- as Robin said-- until next spring. And I hope it connects with what you're going to be doing in the course next spring, and I wish you all well with that course.
As I understand my opportunity here today, I am free to speak with you as though we're having a class. This is kind of a classroom relationship between you and me. Now, it's only for one day and one time-- this particular evening-- but that's the kind of interaction I'd like to think of. This is not a formal research lecture. I have not done intensive research on Hu Shih. I have never published anything about him. I'm not a specialist on the subject. I hope you understand that.
Looking around the room, it's a little intimidating to see people who do not know a lot about Hu Shih. I can tell you, they know in depth. There are a couple of little sections here and there I can see around the room who know than I do about this subject. But for us tonight, I think this might be a special chance to mix two worlds, the excitement of ideas that we have in a classroom, and at the same time, you have to get-- and I don't have to give-- any grades for this evening. This should work out well for all sides.
I prepared this lecture in the spirit that Robin mentioned about the sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of Cornell. I was thinking of it, that's the spirit of it that I want to convey to you, and I hope that comes through.
My topic is Hu Shih. I realize that there are people in the audience who know more than I do, but let me assume that some of you don't know anything about Hu Shih. So let me offer you a few basics about his early life. He was a Chinese, who was born in China in 1891. He grew up the son of a miner official, who died when Hu Shih was three years old. He was raised by his mother whom he adored.
In his teens, he received some westernized education in Shanghai. At age 19, he took exams in Beijing to compete for a scholarship. The scholarship had been set up using money from a US treaty with China following China's earlier defeat in the Boxer rising, so-called Boxer scholarships. He won one of these scholarships and he used it at Cornell. He came here in 1910. He was an undergraduate at Cornell 1910 to 1914.
After completing his degree, he had a distinguished career-- which I'm going to talk about tonight-- but just for starters, let me give you a couple of slides about his arrival here. Here, you see the 70 Chinese, each of them holding a Boxer scholarship in 1910, about to leave Shanghai to come to the United States for their American education. Hu Shih was in the third row on the far left, good luck finding him in that crowd. But he's there, I can promise you.
He used his Boxer scholarship here at Cornell. Here, you see the Chinese students at Cornell at that time. He was then a sophomore at the time of this photograph, third row, fifth from the left. I was struck by how fast these Chinese discarded their long robes and cut off their hair. And in no time-- less than a year, from 1910 to 1911-- they were in Western haircuts and business suits.
I was also struck by how they're unanimously male. Not a single woman in that group, even though Cornell was co-ed. A Cornell historian, Carol Kammen, told me the other day that there was at least one woman at Cornell in the beginning of the 20th century. I couldn't find her in this crowd. I was also struck by the number of people shown here, about 50 according to my count. That's no small amount of students from China to be on the Cornell campus circa 1911.
Here's Hu Shih's graduation photo. Many people have asked me, how did he get that mole on his forehead? In all subsequent photographs, I've never seen that mole. He must have had something cosmetic done about that. And here, you see how many students were in his own class, the class of 1914. This is an extraordinary class. I'll tell you, I could give you a lecture on a number of other people in that picture. There are some famous ones, very distinguished in their later lives. But I believe he was the most distinguished of them all.
And I'm going to devote the rest of this lecture to saying why I think he was the greatest holder of a Cornell bachelor's degree not just among Chinese, but of all Cornell BA and BS holders. As I go along, I hope you'll ask a few questions and bear these in mind. We're going to have time for Q&A at the end. I'll probably talk about another 35 or 40 minutes, and then we'll have some time for questions.
Was he really the greatest Cornellian? Do I think that really because I am the holder of the Hu Shih chair? chair up here making my case? What do I mean by greatness? Is that a viable concept, or archaic? And should it be left behind? Does it have any comparative value? Can we tell who is greater than who else?
I hope you'll think about that as we go along. And I'd like to offer you a little comparative framework here at the beginning that gets at the possibilities for comparison. I'd like to talk to you about three other contenders briefly, three other contenders for the greatest Cornellian. One I offer you is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, class of 1954. Think of her long years and accomplishments in service in public life. In 1980, nearly 35 years ago, she became a judge. In 1993-- more than 20 years ago-- she became a judge on the US Supreme Court, where she still serves to this day.
Here, you see her in her robes individually and on the court. I have a feeling that Cornell's top leaders these days would support her candidacy for best or greatest Cornellian. Here, you see her with Dean Gretchen Ritter-- Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell-- who did an interview with her two months ago at the kickoff of the sesquicentennial celebration. Dean Ritter clearly admires Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Here, you see Elizabeth Garrett, the new president-to-be of Cornell. At the announcement when she would be president of Cornell, she mentioned in some of her first remarks that she takes Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be her quote "personal hero." That's pretty close to saying she's great. That's one contender. Think about what she represents. I'll come back to her in a minute.
Another possibility for greatest Cornellian in my mind is Thomas Pynchon, class of 1959. He has written-- is still writing-- some highly original and deeply enigmatic novels. Gravity's Rainbow, you see her at the top of the pile, was his breakthrough model back in 1973. Last year, he published another new novel. He's done about half a dozen novels altogether, the latest one's called Bleeding Edge.
He's an intensely private figure, even a recluse. He never allows himself to be photographed. But once allow an animated figure of himself to appear on the television show The Simpsons. On the show, he said it was OK to show him as long as a bag was put over his head, so that we could see even an animated version of what his face might look like.
Pynchon's been very much in the news lately, especially the last couple of weeks, because for the first time, one of his novels is being made into a movie. It's called Inherent Vice. Here's the cover for the novel. At the New York film festival this fall, the cast was featured. It stars Joaquin Phoenix and Resse Witherspoon, and a rather illustrious cast. This is the first time any of his novels have been made into movies. Rumor has it that he has a cameo role in the film, but the director won't confirm or deny whether this is true. He's lurking in some corner of some scene, presumably.
And one last alternative, other contender for greatest Cornellian, Ed Marinaro, class in 1972. Ed Marinaro was a record-breaking All-American running back at Cornell, especially in 1971. You see him here on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He's playing for Cornell at this time when this magazine ran in Sports Illustrated. He then left. After college, he went to play pro football for the Minnesota Vikings. Here's his football card. And when he retired from football, he became an actor with roles in Laverne and Shirley, and Hill Street Blues. This is the Hill Street Blues cast with him up at the top of the photograph.
His most recent role was on a football comedy called Blue Mountain State. It's been going on for a few years, and there's going to be a movie made from it soon. At the sesquicentennial celebration, he was featured a couple of months ago in New York. Here, you see him in a skit with actors playing Ezra Cornell and Andrew D White. Mind you, the words Hu Shih and Ed Marinaro do not often appear in the same sentence. I might be the first one ever to mention them both in the same sentence.
But anyway, let me tell you what I've been burdening you with these three figures. If you'll permit me, I can say that Ginsburg has succeeded as a public figure in official life. Pynchon has succeeded as a writer, a sophisticated writer in high culture. And Marinaro has succeed as a celebrity in popular culture. I like to take each of them as illustrative of these concepts.
So how does Hu Shih compare with first as a public figure compared with Ginsburg, second as a writer compared with Pynchon, and third, as a celebrity compared to Marinaro? In public life-- to start with that-- Hu Shih held high official positions. He rose fast after he finished his education at Cornell, and went on to Columbia for a PhD, then back to China in 1917.
Upon arrival of China, he was immediately appointed professor of philosophy at Peking University, Bejing, the most distinguished university in China at the time-- and I daresay now too. Soon after, in the 1920s, he has made dean of the College of Peking University, dean of the arts college at Peking University. In the 1930s, he rose to President of the same Peking University. And ultimately, in the 1950s, he became head of Academia Sinica, the most prestigious research center under the nationalist government. He held this last post until his death in 1962.
That's an academic life. Now, outside academic life in government, he also had high positions. His most prominent position was as ambassador from China to the United States 1938 to 1942. This was a crucial period in US/China relations, because World War II was looming, and the question was whether the US would join China against Japan in World War II. His job was to convince the US to join China against Japan.
He held this position until shortly after December 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And the United States became fully involved in World War II. Hu Shih was especially effective in this role of campaigning for an alliance between his homeland China, and his second homeland, the United States.
Here. you see Hu Shih with Chiang Kai-Shek-- Chiang Kai-Shek, the head of the nationalist government who appointed him to be ambassador to the United States. Here, you see him as ambassador in Washington DC holding a book on Franklin Roosevelt, as he makes his way to a meeting with the president. And then, at the meeting with the president, Hu Shih and President Franklin Roosevelt in Washington DC.
Hu Shih's relationship with Chiang Kai-Shek who appointed him with this position was extremely complicated. In fact, historians are just now discovering how complicated. While Hu Shih was ambassador of the United States 1938, to '42, he did not express support for all of Chiang Kai-Shek's policies. He suddenly campaigned to align US with China against Japan. But on other questions, he took issue. And he was recalled, rather summarily, in 1942 by Chiang Kai-Shek.
Later, Chiang Kai-Shek again went back to him, and appealed him to become vice president of the nationalist government-- that was in 1948. When Hu Shih declined, Chiang Kai-Shek offered to step down as president of the national government and let Hu Shih take his place as president. He declined this offer too. So all in all, I think these examples suggest that Hu Shih performed admirably as a leader in public life, in international diplomacy, and in political and academic life. He campaigned for China at a critical moment in its history with US relations. And as a public intellectual, he wasn't afraid to express criticism of Chiang Kai-Shek and his government's policies.
Well, that's my case for Hu Shih as a great public figure. Now, if he was a great public figure compared to Ginsburg, was he also a great writer compared to Pynchon? I think the answer again is yes. In fact, Hu Shih's greatest accomplishments in my mind were as a writer. All his life, Hu Shih showed signs of greatness as a writer. He was a precocious child. By the age of four, he had already mastered 1,000 Chinese characters. For those of us who started in Chinese later in life, I can't tell you how envious that makes me feel.
In 1910, as a teenager, he used his writing skills on the competitive examinations that won him the Boxer scholarship. At Cornell, he became famous on campus for his writing. He won the prize for the best essay by any Cornell undergraduate. That's not the best prize for the best Chinese undergraduate or the best prize for an international student, this is just the best prize for anybody-- best student essay written on campus.
In 1913, he found his discipline when he took a philosophy course and decided to change his major from the agriculture school where he had been up to that point, to the arts college, where he majored in philosophy. As a junior, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. And after Cornell, he went on to Columbia to study with John Dewey for a PhD.
I think the next 20 years after he returned to China in 1917, he became the most influential writer in the country. This may be a rather bold assertion, but I'll stand behind it if you'd like to question me. Here, you'll see him at work, in this case with the ancient seals, examining them as part of his reevaluation of the Chinese tradition. Here, you see him in an act of writing at his desk. And here, an example of his calligraphy. This is from the title page of a book that he published in 1930, Renquan lunji, Essays On Human Rights. His distinctive calligraphy comes through there. Note the signature and his name in the seal.
Here, we see him later in life busy at his desk. And still later in life, in his book line studies, books, books, and more books. Always surrounded by them, writing, and producing them straight through to the end of his life. As a writer, Hu Shih was an intellectual rebel. He wrote a series of books and articles campaigning for language reform and reevaluation of the whole structure of Chinese traditional values.
More specifically, he called for a transformation of the language from the classical language-- Wenyan, which was different from the way people spoke-- to the vernacular-- Baihua-- which was meant to be similar to the way people spoke. His first proposal for such a literary revolution was made in Ithaca, New York on BB Lake, just down the road a couple of blocks from where we are tonight. That way, I guess it is.
He and two of his Cornell classmates were boating, when a storm came up and capsized their boat. He felt threatened by this, as did his classmates, until they waded to shore. And once they got to shore, in typical Chinese fashion, they wrote poems.
He wrote his poem in the vernacular. His two friends wrote their poems in classical Chinese. He then wrote an essay attacking-- was that me? I don't know-- he then wrote an essay attacking them for using this old-fashioned classical Chinese under such circumstances. And this essay was immediately published in China and took off as an instant sensation in defense of the use of the vernacular, published in 1917 and cited many times since.
It's difficult to overestimate the importance of this accomplishment, Hu Shih's success. The closest parallel I think in the west we can think about is Europe's break with Latin. In fact, Hu Shih called classical Chinese a dead language, a phrase sometimes used in attacking the use of Latin. He was not the only person to join this campaign for language reform, but he was certainly the most effective writer supporting it and promoting it, the leader of the movement.
Hu Shih's readers-- whether they agreed with him or not-- were touched by the powerful prose that he produced. Let me give you just one example. He called for a campaign quote "to overthrow Confucius and sons." And he claimed that the enemy-- Chinese tradition-- was characterized by-- let me quote here-- "bound feet, eunuchs, concubinage, five generation households, memorial arches for honoring chastity, hellish presidents, and law courts filled with instruments of torture." That's his summary of Chinese civilization.
I've never heard a darker characterization of traditional Chinese values. And I disagree with him about his assessment of the Chinese tradition. But I have to say, that's vivid prose, hard to match. So I think both for what he said and for how he said it, Hu Shih made a great contribution as a writer.
Well, if you'll go along with me on him as a public figure and as a writer, what about Hu Shih as a celebrity? Compared to Ed Marinaro, I take that as a particular challenge-- the comparison with Ed Marinaro. I think Hu Shih was a celebrity in his time.
In 1917, at age 26 when he returned from China with his Cornell BA and his Columbia PhD, he already had a mass following, especially among students and other young people. While still at Cornell, he published part of his diary in China, excerpts from what appeared in New Youth, [CHINESE], a journal founded in 1915, very aptly named Journal, aimed primarily at young readers. And it was a very influential journal, and his diary became the voice of this new youth, as it published at the time.
Hu Shih was especially popular with women. Women found him irresistible because of his empathy for their plight in traditional families. Early in his career, he showed where he stood on women's issues by translating Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, maybe you know this play. The play is about a woman who left her husband and children to find her own identity.
In 1918, theatrical groups began performing Hu Shih's translation of the play, and it sparked a heated debate over women in Chinese society. It's possible that Hu Shih struck a chord with young Chinese because of his own struggles in his personal life with tensions between old and new ways of thought.
On the one hand, stayed with a woman his mother had arranged for him to marry when he was only a small boy. She arranged this marriage, and he accepted this arranged marriage, never sought a divorce, and even though he had little in common with this woman, stayed with her as her husband for the duration of his life. That's on the one hand.
On the other hand, he had a series of love affairs with both Chinese and Western women. And he campaigned vigorously against arranged bad marriages, one of his causes. Clearly, he's torn here between traditional and modern marriage practices. So in all of the media of the day, he was featured-- theatrical performances, newspapers, magazines, journals, books, school textbooks, bestsellers. Hu Shih was everywhere.
Admittedly, he was not in movies or television-- the mass media of our time-- but in the media of his day-- the print media-- his influence and image reached widely. And the print media became more plentiful in his era, much more so than ever before in Chinese history.
So through all these popular media, Hu Shih became a famous celebrity, even a kind of household name. There was a joke in China that went on in his lifetime. The joke goes like this-- my friend, Hu Shih. The joke was that everybody claimed that his or her friend was Hu Shih. You know, when I was growing up, we had an expression, Washington slept here. Everybody claimed that George Washington had slept in his or her house. And so the joke was Washington slept here. Well, this is the same kind of a joke. Hu Shih, my friend, was funny because so many Chinese claimed him as their friend.
In 1962, after he died, at the funeral home where his body lay in state, 40,000 people paraded through to honor him. And along the route of his funeral procession, there were makeshift altars and many, many more people marking his death.
Let me give you a little picture of him. And as a young man, here's the young Hu Shih, the kind of heart throb Hu Shih, in his padded jacket in his 20's, his Chinese-style jacket. The embodiment of new youth. Hu Shih in his 30's, more mature now. Still handsome in a Western business suit. He was very popular with women in the US as well as China. His love life is a story unto itself. And there have been extensive publications lately. If you have a taste for that sort of thing, I'll put you onto them.
His first and most sustained love affair was with this Was with this young woman, Edith Clifford Williams, whom he met here in Ithaca while he was a Cornell undergraduate. She was a free spirit and a successful artist in her own right. She never did marry and had a long career as librarian at the Cornell vet school just up the road. She called herself Clifford, that was the name she used. Here she is as a teenager. This just before Hu Shih met her. And here they are late in life, 1950s getting toward the ends of their lives, well we see Hu Shih, his wife, and his lover.
Hu Shih has been held up in various media. Here, your see a bus that was cast of him in Bejing in the 1930s. He's been the story of endless newspaper stories. This is a caricature of him from 1947. In the cartoon on the blackboard you see is written education first. And then on the left side, you see the comment criticizing him for being too closely identified with Chiang Kai-Shek's nationalist government at this time. This is 1947. Oh sorry, does that get it? Right, this is the education is what's written on the blackboard. Comment on the side criticizes him for being too cozy with the Chiang Kai-Shek's government.
So in all the media of his day-- especially the print media-- he was a major celebrity in the 1930s and 40s. Now, in the 1950s, he became-- if you will-- kind of anti-celebrity or maybe celebrity is still the word we want, when he became the target of the Chinese Communist party's political campaigns against him. In 1948 and on the eve of Mao Zedong's victory over Chiang Kai-Shek-- the communist victory over the nationalist government-- in a civil war the late 1940s.
Near the end of that war, Hu Shih left his home in Beijing and moved to the United States. In 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China. Here, you see him at Tienanmen. Also in 1949, immediately the same year near the end of that year, the Chinese Communist Party seems to have tried to woo Hu Shih back to China. That's not well-grounded, that assertion. But so it seems from the documentation available.
In 1950 and '51, the Chinese Communist Party mounted a nationwide campaign in China and singled out Hu Shih as the primary target. The party chided that he had become blind to the needs of the Chinese people because of his Western learning, and the party attacked him for being the symbol of quote "decadent American Bourgeois pragmatism."
In the 1950s, the party mobilized influential people to join in these attacks on Hu Shih, Hu Shih's own son. In September 1950, his own son-- still living in China-- published a criticism of him. Famous scholars who had been his friends now denounced him in big meetings on campuses. China's most prominent organizations of intellectuals formed committees to quote, "rid China and the spectre of Hu Shih."
In 1954, even Mao Zudong himself-- the head of state and the top leader-- wrote a letter denouncing Hu Shih. 1955, '56, the campaign reached its peak. In these two years alone, no less than 3 million words were written criticizing Hu Shih in print in China. Almost sounds like overkill, doesn't it? I did not count those 3 million words, but I take this as authoritative.
These comments about Hu Shih were-- needless to say-- unremittingly negative. But perhaps they show how widely and how deeply Hu Shih's influence had penetrated China into academic life and popular culture. Did his influence last? Well, in the 1960s and 70s, I think not. He was no longer in the school textbooks or any other educational materials, as he had been in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.
But in the 1980s when I was going to China every year, I heard intellectuals express favorable opinions of Hu Shih in private quite commonly. I have proudly carried my name card to China, both to Taiwan and to the mainland. You see, I tried to play it both ways. I had some name cards in [CHINESE], and some in [CHINESE]-- some traditional characters, some simplified characters.
And when I handed out these cards and my host or my friends saw the words Hu Shih in my title, they made these very favorable comments, maybe out of politeness, but I think out of something more. For example, one said to me-- this would have been late 80s-- "now I think Hu Shih was right all along." That was the comment. Now, these comments were made in private. More recently, in the 21st century, some comment had been made in public favorable to Hu Shih in China.
In 2010, at Peking University, a lecture says was started entitled "The Hu Shih Liberal Arts Lecture Series." You see here the cutting of the ribbon to open the schools series, and it's a little hard to see. His head is obscured, but a picture Hu Shih appears-- can you see-- to the rear of this ribbon cutting ceremony.
Since 2010, this lecture series-- I'll repeat the title again, "The Hu Shih Liberal Arts Lecture Series"-- in that series, both Chinese and foreign scholars have given lectures. In June 2012, that's just year before last-- Peking University library had an exhibition on Hu Shih featuring documents, photographs, and so on, where a professor spoke and gave lectures favorably evaluating Hu Shih's legacy.
They also announced that the process of reprinting all of his publications-- which are vast and on a great variety of subjects-- will be completed. That's been going on now for the past few years, and apparently, he'll be back in print-- to me, a sure sign that he's now back in Chinese academic life with full force. He's also been included in the textbooks, these officially approved Chinese textbooks, in which he's characterized favorably as quote, "an advocate of vernacular Chinese, and a promoter of the new culture movement."
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, he's has never ceased to be eminent. He's always been considered an illustrious figure. in 1958, he became the head of Academia Sinica, the major research center in Taiwan. He came back to the United States to take this position and served in it until 1962. When he died, a statue was erected in his honor on his tomb which resides in a park named after him, still there in Taiwan, near Taipei.
In 2012, the same year that Peking University library began its show on Hu Shih, the Institute of Modern History of Academia Sinica in Taiwan opened its show which you see advertised here in this poster called Chiang Kai-Shek and Hu Shih. This show displays official records, documents, photographs, diaries of the two men, which is beginning to bring to light the very complex kind of love/hate relationship between these two. It's been going on for two years now. If you want to see it, you better hurry. It closes next month, December, 2014.
So do we have a Hu Shih revival going on here in China and in Taiwan? Is this a linear revival that will rise meteorically, much as Hu Shih's own reputation rose meteorically back in the 20s and 30s? Or is this just a superficial blip reflecting nothing more than a temporary shift in volatile politics in China? It's not easy to say. It's certainly not easy to predict where we go from here. But I think the re-publication of those writings might make a difference. Once that powerful prose of his is back in libraries and people's hands, he might come into the limelight in the future.
Now, to wrap up, let me offer you my conclusion. Was Hu Shih a public figure as great as Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Admittedly, he was not a public official in a government position for as many years as Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been. But in his own country as a leader in education and as international diplomat, he served at the highest levels of government and society, just as Ginsburg has done.
Was he as great a writer as Thomas Pynchon? He was not a creative writer like Thomas Pynchon. He didn't try to write much fiction, except in some early poems-- some poems early in his life. But he was a master of analytically powerful, straightforward, hard hitting, lucid prose-- making arguments. Compared to Pynchon, Hu Shih reached a far wider audience and exerted-- as far as I could tell-- a much more lasting influence on society, especially as father of the Chinese literary revolution.
Was Hu Shih a celebrity like Ed Marinaro? He didn't have a career in the age of television as Ed Marino has had, and he didn't appear on TV as an athlete or an actor, or anything like that. But he was-- I believe-- a celebrity, perhaps at the peak of his career, the leading celebrity-- or one of the most visible of celebrities-- because of his prominence in print media, newspapers, magazines.
The 1950s, 60s, and 70s, he became the target of political campaigns and his influence unquestionably waned. But in the 21st century, maybe he's back once again and might be honored as a celebrity in the future more than he is now. Even if we acknowledge that Hu Shih was not the match of any one of these I've just mentioned in a certain aspect or another, doesn't he surpass them all in the breadth-- the sheer breadth-- of his achievement? He was a public figure and a writer and a celebrity. It's like saying that he was Ginsburg, Pynchon and Marinaro all rolled into one. Hard to match that among Cornell graduates.
Now, a final word, and then we'll get on with our discussion. I think in the future, Hu Shih will be regarded as an even greater figure than he is now. And I'm not the only Cornellian to think so. Let me quote a tribute to Hu Shih by one of Cornell's greatest and most beloved teachers, professor Martin Sampson, who taught at Cornell when Hu Shih was an undergraduate. He said, "it is entirely possible that 1,000 years from now, Cornell may be known as the place where Hu Shih went to college." I agree, and I'd say that we don't have to wait 1,000 years to take pride in this Cornell graduate. It seems to me we can already say Cornell can take pride in being the place where Hu Shih went to college.
I was trying to think of a way to top off my claim for his greatness. So I had my wife take my photograph on the arts quad to offer you this Cornell audience. I sat on the stone bench in front of Goldwin Smith Hall. Maybe you've sat there. It's there now. It was donated originally by Goldwin Smith in 1871, and it's still there today. You can see it when you walk across the arts quad.
The bench has on it this inscription-- I'm not sure you can make it out. It says, "above all nations is humanity." I sat on the bench to modify the inscription so it would read, "above all nations is Hu.
Now, I have to pay proper deference here, I have to tell you. This was not originally my idea. I found it in Hu Shih, who apparently did the same thing as a joke. He sat on that bench next to it, as you see it reading here. But I couldn't find the photograph. I looked-- believe me-- and maybe with Zhang Liran's new digitizing, I'll be able to turn it up. In any case, I had to resort to sit there myself to make the point.
So that's what my case for Hu Shih as the greatest Cornellian. Who's greater? A public figure like Ginsburg, or writer like Pynchon, or a celebrity like Marinaro-- should we even be thinking about greatness? Isn't that an antiquated concept? Do we have trouble grasping greatness because we're in an era without heroes? Or why wouldn't we use a term like that, especially for comparative purposes? Does Hu Shih leave us anything relevant to our own time? These are questions I hope you think about and maybe you want to raise.
And I suppose I should finally ask was Hu Shih great to the extent that it's appropriate to have a lecture on him in the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative lecture series, which we've chosen to do this evening? Thank you very much.
Now, I have one last thing I'd like to add here. Before we start our question period-- which I'm looking forward to-- I want to give the floor to someone who asked the first question, even though he is not here today. I know this sounds a little strange. It's a comment on Hu Shih and his greatness that's made by a Cornell alum named Mr. Austin Kiplinger, class of 1939. He made his comment on a video which has been given to me to use tonight. You've probably heard of him. I know I had long before I realized he was a Cornell grad.
He is a distinguished journalist and businessman who founded the Kiplinger Letter On Changing Times, which is the oldest continually published personal finance publication in the United States today. He's 96 years old, and as part of the sesquicentennial, he was interviewed to celebrate Cornell's history. He made this video tape in New York City in September. And on it, he recalls meeting Hu Shih in 1936-- that's 78 years ago, believe that. He was an 18-year-old Cornell undergraduate when Hu Shih came to the campus. And this last four minutes, this videotape-- let's watch it and take it as the first comment.
Be attentive to Mr. Kiplinger's assessment of the impact that Hu Shih had on his own life and his plans for his future, and the way things have gone. Here he is, 96 years old, looking back.
AUSTIN KIPLINGER: Well, this was a very fortuitous and totally accidental meeting. I was a campus correspondent on the staff of the Ithaca Journal, the regular afternoon newspaper in Ithaca. And I was there to interview and write about visitors to the campus, lecturers, important people who happened to come to town. And I got a call from the managing editor one day, telling me that the illustrious Chinese scholar, Dr. Hu Shih-- and a graduate of Cornell, class of 1914-- was coming to campus. This was in 1936 in the depths of the Depression.
I had a little Ford car fortunately, at the time, so I was assigned to go down to the Lehigh Valley railroad station and wait for the train and find a Dr. Hu and escort him to his place where he was going to be staying. And that was the Telluride House. So I went to the Lehigh Valley station, and I thought now, this man is 45 years old or something. He was as old as my father. I was 18.
And I thought, well, he'll be an elderly gentleman, you know how we thought about everybody? Well, I didn't find any elderly gentleman, but I found a very energetic, bouncy, enthusiastic man who got off the train. And I introduced myself. And sure enough, it was the illustrious scholar from China.
I told him that I was there to escort him to his lodgings at the Telluride House, and also to ask him if he would submit to an interview. And he said yes. The Japanese had recently invaded Manchuria. And the devastation was just awful. And you can read about that in the history. And Hitler was rampaging in Europe and had just created the Anschluss with Austria.
And in the course of our conversation, Dr. Hu said to me, in the absence of almost miraculous leadership, this Japanese invasion of Manchuria will lead to a general world war. That was 1936. In 1939, three years later, Hitler invaded Poland and Europe erupted. And two years after that, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and we were in World War II.
But it affected me in a number of ways in addition to its historic significance. I believe what he said, and when I had finished college at Cornell and gone to graduate school at Harvard, I didn't ever buy into the isolationist point of view. I knew that we were a nation, and this was one world, and that we were going to be in this conflict ourselves. And so I left my graduate studies before completing them to get into journalism, become a reporter in San Francisco, and an editor in Washington.
And it was all-- I think not entirely, but to a large degree-- stimulated by this vision of what lay ahead-- not a not a very pretty vision, but a realistic one. And I credit Dr. Hu Shih for that in my life, and of course, obviously, for his influence on the rest of the world.
SHERM COCHRAN: Did you catch that part about not entirely, but largely, Hu Shih determined his future? I think maybe you more accurately-- offered a vision of such clarity and a vision so convincing, that Mr. Kiplinger grasped it and ran with it, then and perhaps for the rest of his life-- from age 18, to now 96.
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Sherman Cochran, the Hu Shih Professor of Chinese History Emeritus, presented the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative's inaugural lecture Nov. 20, 2015, making the case for Hu Shih, Class of 1914, as the 'greatest Cornellian.' Cochran framed his lecture as a comparison between Shih and other Cornell graduates: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg '54, novelist Thomas Pynchon '59, and professional football player and actor Ed Marinaro '72.
Born in 1891, Hu Shih pursued a Westernized education in China and won a Boxer scholarship that brought him to Cornell to study agriculture, although he later changed to philosophy. Shih held several important positions in Chinese academia, serving as a professor, dean and eventually president of Peking University, but he was also prominent in Chinese politics and an accomplished writer.
The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative, established by the East Asia Program, is a forum for scholars, researchers and students with interests in contemporary Chinese economy, politics and society.