Zhang Boling :A Patriotic and Nation-rescuing Educator

ZHANG Boling :A Patriotic and Nation-rescuing Educator

Source: Evening Daily 16 October Edition 16    Press Time: 2015-11-03 08:44


Anyone who knows China hears about Nankai.

I am not being arrogant or bragging about.

It’s a truth that people of the whole world

Know the President ZHANG of Nankai University.

No lying, no cheating. President ZHANG in Nankai,

Is like Washington in America,

Or Shakespeare in Britain.

Although he is not a resident,

Or a writer of excellent plays,

He educates numerous plain kids,

With his charm and personality,

Grand and great,

Into some great politicians or writers.

They help change ancient China

To something better than all other countries.


It is this ambition and spirit,

That causes the hatred from Japanese enemy.

Uh! They say, “so long as he is here,

We cannot even digest the carrots of Tianjin.”

Burning! Burning! Destroying! Destroying!

They set fires! They killed!

They ruthlessly destroyed the home of President ZHANG!

His home, his home,

Is just some chairs and several pieces of plain clothes.

They burnt Nankai University.

Students are his children.

Balitai is his real home!

But he has prepared! He is not afraid at all.

You burnt Tianjin,

So what!

We still have Kunming and Shapingba!

The truth is that

So long as there is China,

There is Nankai.

China will survive. So will Nankai!


The stronger Nankai is, the better China will be.

It is not only his own belief,

But the hope and faith of us all.


The words above were created by Laoshe and CAO Yu and read on the postponed 70th birthday party for ZHANG Boling, and also to congratulate ZHANG Boling on receiving the honorary doctoral degree of Columbus University. This words vividly portrays the image of this Chinese patriotic educator, in a serious and to some extent humorous way.


Determined to Rescue This Country by Education


ZHAANG Boling was born on April 5th, 1876 when China was catastrophically falling into disaster. Since the Opium War, it had been suffering from repeated defeats, had to make monetary amends and was humiliated with broken territory and national sovereignty. In 1889, ZHANG Boling, as a 13-year-old, attended Peiyang Navy School, hoping to strengthen China. In that school, he not only acquired the newest science and cultural knowledge, but also got influenced by the ideas of YAN Fu, a pioneer in ideological emancipation in modern times. But when he was to graduate from navy school and intern in ships, the Peiyang Navy was almost totally destroyed in the Jia Wu War between China and Japan. Later he interned in the remaining Tong Ji Ship where he witnessed “three changes of national flags”--Japanese flag changing to dragon flag when Japan returned Weihaiwei to China; however the dragon flag changed to a British flag because the Qing Dynasty gave it to Britain. This influenced ZHANG Boling a lot and he wrote the following:


“My heart is full of sadness, fury and motivation. China is so weak that if we don’t strengthen ourselves by education there will be no possibility of our survival. I am determined to dedicate myself to rescuing China by education to educate new backbones for China with new education”. (ZHANG Boling, Reviews on Nankai Schools of Fourty Years, October 17th, 1944)


From then on, ZHANG Boling spared no effort to focus on Nankai education, actualizing his ambition of rescuing China by education through all the hard times. From 1904, a complete school series including a university, high schools and primary schools were established over the next thirty years. In 1904, a private middle school (later called Nankai School) was founded; in 1919 Nankai University was founded; in 1928, Nankai Primary School was founded; in 1931, an economics research center was founded; in 1932, an applied chemistry research center was founded; in 1936, Nanyu Middle School was founded; in 1937, Shuguang Middle School was founded. ZHANG Boling made his distinguished contribution in education history in modern times, based on his Nankai school series, initiating the education which focused both on a willingness to benefit the public and abilities. A number of central figures of our republic like ZHOU Enlai were educated in Nankai Schools, making Nankai a special and bright light in China’s education history.


Patriotism was the most prominent and constant characteristic of Zhang Boling’s education and private life. He said that “Nankai Schools were founded because of the catastrophe of our nation; therefore the purpose of them is to educate talented people to change the society and rescue our nation”. (ZHANG Boling, Reviews on Nankai Schools of Fourty Years)  He thought that “the purpose of education falls on more than people themselves, but mostly on promoting the whole society instead of just people themselves”. (ZHANG Boling, Taking Social Promotion as the Purpose of Education, February 12th, 1919)


Patriotism (Benefiting the Public) and Self-strengthening (Ability)


Patriotism is to take benefiting the public as its own ambition. ZHANG Boling paid quite a lot attention to developing students ‘morality and honesty to benefit the public. He said that “the grandest conscience is to love his country and love this world”. (Education Principles and Methods of Nankai Schools, January 19th) He asked some students and their parents “are you going to strive for the country or for yourselves? Some of you are parents. You have paid tuition for more than ten years so it seems proper to work for your own families after graduation. But how can your families survive if our nation gets destroyed? You have graduated and are supposed to think how to strive for the nation and the public. Only by this way can you be a true Nankai student.”(ZHANG Boling, For the Country and the Public, Work Stupidly and Seriously, June 23rd) He also said that “sincerity is the source of every moral course and it should be the standard of our developments and achievements”, “I hope you all can be sincere in your study and be careful about any insincere sayings”, and “Since you all understand this, please do as it asks”. (ZHANG Boling, Sincerity Should Be the Standard of All courses, June 28th, 1916) ZHANG Boling wanted to develop those who were “sincere and selfless leaders and make them capable of solving big problems faced by China and even the whole world”. (ZHANG Boling, Striving for the Democracy of China, January 14th, 1918) He firmly believed that “being willing to benefit the public sincerely could guarantee the successes of courses”. (ZHANG Boling, the Purpose and the Spirit of Nankai, September 17th, 1934)


Patriotism includes being capable. ZHANG Boling said that “with both  patriotism and capabilities to rescue the nation, we can fulfill our nation-rescuing ambition”. (ZHANG Boling, Reviews on Nankai Schools of Fourty Years, October 17th, 1944) The capabilities he talks about include the capability of studying, the capability of researching, the capability of cooperating and organizing, the capability of writing and speaking, the capability of steady and constant effort, etc. He summarized them as “the capability of benefiting the public”. (ZHANG Boling, Reviews on Nankai Schools of Fourty Years, October 17th, 1944) ZHANG Boling attached much importance to “shaping students’ self-motivation”. (Education Principles and Methods of Nankai Schools, January 19th) He said that “I’ve made a plan for you which contains two principles—teachers’ help and students’ self-discipline. Then teachers will be depended on less; students will count more on themselves. In this way students will be self-motivated and capable for their careers”.(ZHANG Boling, A Stronger China Depends on New Youth, August 30th, 1916) HUANG Yusheng, the former director of Nankai University points out that “according to ZHANG Boling’s education theory, most important are self-motivation, self-discipline, self-government, self-volunteering and self-creating. Each and every one of these five requirements is a kind of capability”. (HUANG Yusheng, Preface of the Anthology of ZHANG Boling’s Talks Concerning Education, 1984)


Patriotism commands a healthy and strong body. Physical education is another important part of ZHANG Boling’s education theory and practice. He said that “a strong nation commands strong people; strong people command a strong body”......Since the foundation of Nankai schools, physical education has been constantly emphasized. Both physical health and mental health of students are highly important......Physical education is not only for this campus, but also for the whole society; not only for the minority, but also for all the students. In school, a good exercising habit should be formed by students; out of school, a good exercising atmosphere of the society needs their effort. The sporting skills of the athlete students should be improved; more beneficial is the physical exercise of all students. The most important thing for physical education in school is not skill advances but the improvement of physical quality. (ZHANG Boling, Reviews on Nankai Schools of Fourty Years, October 17th, 1944) Early in 1907, ZHANG Boling said that “China’s athletes will attend the Olympic Games in the future”. (ZHANG Boling, Olympic Games in Athens, October, 1907) Therefore he was the first person to promote China’s attending the Olympic Games.


Love Your Nation, Know Your Nation, Rescue Your Nation

Patriotism commands us to “know China and serve China”. In 1927, ZHANG Boling said that “previous college education was all too ‘foreign’. The teachers were foreign people; the textbooks were foreign ones; academic discussions are always based on the history and society of Europe and America. This kind of education can satisfy neither the needs of students nor the reality of China. Even if it occasionally coincides with China, it will not work in the long run. We will be just picking up the crumbs of western academic achievements. Therefore Nankai University is to strive for academic independence, recognize China’s reality, and to solve China’s problems in scientific ways. In brief, ‘know China’ and ‘serve China’. In accord with this principle, Nankai pays much attention to China’s reality......My wish will be actualized if lots of talented people will be shaped based on China’s construction.”(ZHANG Boling, Further Development of Nankai Schools, 1927)


To cope with Japan’s continental policy of invading Northeast China, the Association of Northeast Study was founded in Nankai University. A lot of large-scale field surveys were carried out from 1927 to 1929 by which much information was collected.  A special column “Northeast Study” was established in Nankai Fortnightly. A Collection of Japan’s Issues was published, many academic essays included, such as The present and the Future of Northeast Economy, The Present of Northeast Transportation, General Northeast Society and Education, Japan’s China-invading Policy, Study of China in Japan and Study of Japan in China, The Conversion from Old Thoughts to New Thoughts in Japan and China, Japan, Russia and Northeast China, etc. These research results made up the famous book The Geography of Northeast China (published in 1931 and republished in 2015). There are more than 600 pages in this book, depicting the evils of Japan’s Northeast-invasion with detailed data to warn Chinese “the sharp and severe disaster of China exposed in the Northeast provinces”. Between words and lines are a compelling patriotism and sense of responsibility towards our country and our nation.


Patriotism commands us to cooperate with each other to defend our home. When “China was faced with the most devastating disaster”, ZHANG Boling, together with all Chinese people made “the last howl”. On the day of September 18th, ZHANG Boling claimed his patriotism by his speech The Responsibility and Self-rescuing Methods of Us in Tianjin. In 1932, ZHANG Boling helped found the Association of Stopping the Civil War and became a standing member of it. While in Nankai, he called on all walks of people to attend the preparatory meeting for this association, making “no negotiating with civil war advocates; no taking part in the civil war; no funding the civil war”, etc.(Ta Kung Pao, July, 21st, 1932)


In 1933, he together with Nankai students actively supported and helped the Great Wall Anti-Japanese War. In North China in 1934, ZHANG Boling was the chief judge and Nankai students put up the banner “No Forgetting the Shame of Country” and “Getting Back Our Land” resulting in the exiting of Japanese representatives. ZHANG Boling refused to apologize to them, which was praised at that time. Nankai teachers and students were the main strength of the December 9th Anti-Japanese Movement. They went out of the campus, out of Tianjin and to the south to support the Anti-Japanese War, which cast great influence.


The National Political Council at that time, a temporary democratic mechanism enacted by central the Communist Party, was an important institution of the Anti-Japanese United Front. On June 17th, 1938, the National Political Council announced the first list of its members wherein ZHANG Boling was the member and vice chairman. “Talented people on both sides of him,” said TAO Xingzhi (meaning that many members of both the Chinese Kuomingtang and Chinese Communist party were Nankai students). ZHANG made a speech that “the purpose of this National Political Council is to pool the wisdom and strength from the masses in this Anti-Japanese period for the final triumph”. Considering the present situation of China, only the cooperation of the whole can rescue it.”(Xinhua Daily, June 18th, 1938)


 “With Us, China Won’t Diminish”


Patriotism commands our resolution and perseverance. The Japanese army invaded Tianjin after the July 7th Incident. They bombed Nankai University on July 29th and bombed Nankai Middle School, Nankai Female Middle School and Nankai University on July 30th.  Their flights repeatedly bombed; they even “fiercely shot the dorms and libraries” with guns. Later an army was dispatched to set fire to Nankai campus which destroyed all the campus. Japanese cruelly bombed Nankai schools because “Nankai University was a foundation of the Anti-Japanese War” (says the spokesman of the Japanese army). In regard to this devastating destruction, ZHANG Boling made a speech on July 30th that what the enemy had destroyed was only the material of Nankai. “The spirit of Nankai will be further inspired out of this hardship.” (Central Daily, July 31st, 1937).


 Principle ZHANG solemnly said to JIANG Jieshi that “Nankai has been burnt down by the Japanese army. My efforts of decades of years are gone. However, so long as there is any way to fight back, I am the first one to enlist”. (JIANG Jieshi declared The Announcement to All the Anti-Japanese Military Force on July 31st, 1937. At noontime, JIANG Jieshi lunched with ZHANG Boling, HU Shi, MEI Yiqi and TAO Xisheng etc. This is said by ZHANG Boling during that lunch)


Later, Nankai University, Tsinghua University and Peking University made up Hunan Temporary University which was later transferred to Kunming, Yunan and was renamed the National Southwest Associated University. “The mission of the associated university is always closely related with the Anti-Japanese War” (inscribed in the Monument of the National Southwest Associated University). It will resolutely persevere in educating “talented people” for the “course of flourishing” (later 23 masters of China’s “Two Bombs and One Satellite” were from this associated university). At that time, the National Southwest Associated University renewed the social atmosphere with its inclusiveness and openness. The academic freedom and democracy were highly praised (see above) as being a miracle of World War period education. The monuments of the National Southwest Associated University still stand at the previous location of the associated university and three component universities. The list of enlisted students inscribed in the monument shows the patriotism of students of the associated university. During the war, many Nankai students devoted their lives among which was ZHANG Xihu, the youngest son of ZHANG Boling, dying in the air force. Mr. ZHANG said that “my son died for this country. He has fully carried out his responsibilities” (written by HU Shi, translated by Angruo, The Biography of ZHANG Boling and The Momorial Volumn of Eightieth Anniversary of ZHANG Boling’s Birthday, 1956)


Mr. ZHANG Boling took rescuing China as his own career and responsibility all through his life. He cast a huge social influence during his lifetime. ZHANG Xueliang was asked for the most influential person to him during his youth, and answered without hesitation that it was ZHANG Boling. It was ZHANG’s speech “With us, China won’t diminish” that woke up and inspired him.


ZHANG Boling was dedicated to education after graduating, but his social activity was not limited to education, but covered politics, military courses, diplomacy, culture, physical education and religions, etc. He made wide acquaintances with LI Yuanhong, DUAN Qirui, FENG Guozhang, XU Shizhang, JIANG Jieshi, WANG Jingwei, FENG Yuxiang, ZHANG Xueliang and many other political and military figures. He was also close with YAN Fansun, LIANG Qichao, CAI Yuanpei, HU Shi, JIANG Menglin, MEI Yiqi, TAO Xingzhi, Laoshe and other social celebrities from all walks. An active social life and communication made him a participator and insider of many historical incidents. Although ZHANG Boling lived in “the era of KANG Youwei and LIANG Qichao” (says ZHOU Enlai) with the limitation of his time, his patriotism is eternal. His life experience, to some extent, is the a microcosm of China’s modern history.


 “Gong-Neng” Education, from Generation to Generation


As an educator, the biggest contribution of Mr. ZHANG Boling is the “Gong-Neng” Education he established; therefore he is “the first founder of China’s modern education,” says HU Shi. With the experience of years of patriotic education practice, he put forward “willingness to benefit the public; capability; every day with an improvement and innovation” as the motto of Nankai University. This motto shows the essence of education with “Gong” at the first place and the combination of “Gong” and “Neng”. It repents the biggest achievement of his educating thoughts. He made a penetrating explanation of it; he said that “the purpose of education is ‘saving the nation and people’; the principle is ‘Gong and Neng’; ‘Gong’ is to diminish selfishness, greed and pettiness; ‘Neng’ to diminish poverty, weakness and foolishness. I truly hope that everyone is well shaped by all-round developments in ethics, intellect, physique and social skills. Everyone puts the nation and country at the top priority and can sacrifice private interests for the whole society. We should develop abilities for the society and strive to serve the society so that the social and political atmosphere can be changed. Only in this way can we fully actualize the ambition of rescuing our country and our people. Over forty odd years, everything but the discipline of Nankai University has changed”. (ZHANG Boling, The Fate of China and the Education of Nankai, May, 1944) He also said that “‘every day with an improvement and innovation’ means that everyone must accept new things and moreover try to create new things. We must not only keep up with new times, but also get ahead of the time. This is the spirit of Nankai University.” (Si San Communication, Edition 11, April 1942).


In terms of principles, Zhang Boling’s education emphasized responsibility and capability, among which responsibility meant dedication to the public interest, and capability underlined students’ initiative to perform their duties; while in terms of practice, five training methods (including science, sports, teamwork, morality and patriotism) were applied to defeat the five problems (foolishness, weakness, poverty, lack of discipline and selfishness), which was a combination of theory and extra-curricular practice, as well as an all-round education system. The education of responsibility and capability owes its success to these advanced ideas and their full implementation. Zhang Boling’s theories, the treasure of Chinese education, have been passed on to several Nankai generations and have acted as their life guide. It is contemporary Nankai people’s responsibility to learn Zhang Boling’s patriotism, to understand the profound meaning of education of responsibility and capability and to implement this education theory innovatively under new circumstances.

Upon the arrival of Zhang Boling’s 140th birthday and the 70th anniversary of the success of the Chinese Anti-Japanese War, The Complete Works of Zhang Boling, which contains the most works of this educationalist, has been published. Looking back at the great changes in history and looking forward to the magnificent prospects of Nankai schools, Chinese education and national development, we will commemorate Zhang Boling deeply, just like one of ZHANG’s students, Huang Yusheng, did at Zhang Boling’s funeral in 1951:

“We will remember that strong, articulate and frank man, who was contradicted inside while solving the contradiction in work. He could find happiness out of hard work, success out of failure, humor out of strictness, and he was ambitious while realistic. We will remember the man who urged us to work together, work hard and work surefooted in order to prepare for devotion to the country. We will remember the man who was pursued and admired by youngsters around the nation, who loved and was beloved by the young generation. The master, educationalist, torchbearer, teacher, Mr. Zhang Boling.”

At the end, I would like to cite some words of Zhang Boling, which were delivered during the last days of the Anti-Japanese War: “Looking back at the achievements and looking forward to the university restoration, the future is promising. Nankai’s development is limitless and vast, thus our colleagues and students should unite firmly and toughly to drive our business forward, in order to be level with worldly known institutes, such as Oxbridge in Britain and Harvard in America. And this is not only the glory of Nankai University, but also of the Chinese.” (40 Years’ Review of Nankai Schools by Zhang Boling, Oct. 17th, 1944)

(Preface to The Complete Works of Zhang Boling, written by Gong Ke and abridged when published. The original title is “Learn and inherit Zhang Boling’s patriotism”, and subtitles are added by editors.)     http://epaper.jwb.com.cn/jwb/html/2015-10/30/content_16_1.htm

Nankai University

No.38 Tongyan Road, Jinnan District, Tianjin , P.R. China 300350

No.94 Weijin Road,  Nankai District, Tianjin, P.R.China  300071



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