| Cai Yuanpei
Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) was born in Shanyin, Shaoxing. His job as a proofreader at Guyue Library in his teenage years enabled him to read classics extensively. After the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, he began to expose himself to western knowledge. He sympathized with the reform campaign. In 1899 he came back to Shaoxing and held the post of Supervisor at Shaoxing China West School. In July 1902, he went to Shanghai and taught at Nan Yang College. In 1903, he organized China Education Society in collaboration with Jiang Guanyuan and other people. He was chief steward of the organization. He also set up a school and an association for women in Shanghai where he served as general manager. In 1904 he went to study in Germany.
In 1912 when the Republic of China was founded, Cai Yuanpei served as education minister for the provisional national government in Nanjing. He was a champion of adopting the western education system and promoting a co-education for boys and girls in the same school. He was the very person who ushered the western education system into China. After the failure of the Second Revolution, he exiled himself to France, where he and Li Shiceng co-founded an organization for Chinese students engaged in work-study programs. In 1917 he came back and served as president of Beijing University. He advocated the New Culture Movement and called for academic researches. He supported students’ patriotic activities in the May Fourth Movement and rescued arrested students in many ways. After he was forced to resign, he went on a few lecture and study trips to France and GB. After the September 18 Incident, Cai called for efforts against the Japanese invasion and advocated the cooperation between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang.
In 1932, he founded and organized China League for Protection of Civil Rights in collaboration with Song Qingling and Lu Xun in patriotic efforts to fight the invading Japanese troupers. He died of illness in Hong Kong on March 5, 1940 and was buried in a Chinese cemetery in Hong Kong.
Cai Yuanpei’s former residence in Bifei Lane in the city proper of Shaoxing is now a memorial in his name. It is a key cultural relic site under the protection of the Zhejiang provincial government. A middle school and a primary school in Shaoxing have been newly established and named after him. His works are collected under the title of the Complete Works of Cai Yuanpei. Who’s Who in Modern China, a large-scale dictionary on Chinese personages in the modern and contemporary China, presents a brief entry of his life story.
Editor: Wang Moyan