Qiu Zongyue: A lecture that equals a building

Qiu Zongyue: A lecture that equals a building

In Nankaiers’ hearts, Si Yuan Hall is not only a building of long history, but also the symbol of patriotism and unyielding willpower.

Si Yuan Hall is the only significant building left from the time of Mr. Zhang Boling. It started to rise in 1923. In 1925, the construction was completed and then the building came into use. Having witnessed more than 90 years of Nankai University, this building – whose name came from the Chinese idiom ‘When drinking water, never forget about its source’ – was designed to be the Hall of Science (teaching hall for science). At that time, it was the most exquisite building of the whole campus. With Western classical architecture style, it has three stories. A half of the first level is embedded under the ground, serving as the basement. Upon the platform, there are six pillars of Ionic. The gate is surrounded by two sets of European-style lamps on both sides. The delicate cover and copper chandelier glistens, making the whole building magnificent. Going inside, there is a short corridor, with the ‘Responsibility and Ability’slogan on the wall.

Si Yuan Hall

There is an interesting story about the origin of Si Yuan Hall. Professor Qiu Zongyue (1890-1975), who was the director of the Department of Chemistry, played a key role in the story. In 1920, Qiu went back to China after finishing his academic degree. He was influenced by the president Mr. Zhang Boling. Mr. Zhang believed that the essence of education was to save the courtry. In 1921, Qiu went to Nankai University – a private university which had been founded for just two years and offered a low salary. Qiu founded the Department of Chemistry. He was also the director. After Peking University had founded one, this was the second department of chemistry nationwide.

At the beginning of December, 1922, Gee went to visit Nankai University on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation. The group attended Professor Qiu’s lecture in English and were shocked by his teaching level. They believed that the teaching quality of Nankai University was abnormal. Also, teaches were good at doing researching and teaching students. So they donated 125,000 yuan to the university, supporting it to build a Hall of Science and purchase equipment. It caused a sensation throughout the campus as everyone spread the news excitedly. They said, “Mr. Qiu used one lesson to get one building.” In fact, in addition to the donation from the Rockefeller Foundation, the completion of Si Yuan Hall was due to other people’s donations, like Yuan Shuzhi. This history was carved on the stone in front of the hall.


                                                                 Professor Qiu Zongyue in his youth

During the private period of Nankai University, almost all halls were built from donations – President Zhang Boling liked to call himself  “a mendicant old monk”.

As its name came from the Chinese idiom ‘When drinking water, never forget about its source’, it has another meaning of ‘missing Yuan’ because they have the same pronunciation ’Si Yuan’. Why miss Yuan? At that time, Yuan Shuzhi’s donation was at his mother’s suggestion. People wanted to thank and commemorate Yuan and his mother, so they gave the name ‘Si Yuan’.

The old look of Si Yuan Hall

In the center of its stairs, there is a marble stone on which the history of constructing Si Yuan Hall was carved. This hall was built from April, 1923 AD to the autumn of 1925. Donated by the Rockefeller Foundation and the industrialist Yuan Shuzhi, this hall covers an area of 3925 square meters. It has three stories for the purpose of teaching science. Its name is ‘Hall of Science’ or ‘Si Yuan Hall’. In 1937, it suffered from the Japanese Army’s bombing in the Sino-Japanese War and was occupied. Then it became the schoolhouse of Tianjin Japanese Middle School. After the victory, this hall was regained. After 1952, it was name ‘the Second Teaching Building’. In the earthquake of 1976, it was ruined and then restored. In 2003 and 2004, to preserve and regain the original appearance of the historic building, this hall was repaired and maintained from inside to outside.


In terms of Qiu Zongyue, he was more than the person who used one lecture to get one building. He was versatile, especially in the area of construction. The construction of Si Yuan Hall was all designed and monitored by him. The first floor was designed to be the Physics Lab, the second was the Biology Lab and the top, the Chemistry Lab. His design considered the utility, duration and elegance of the hall.

Si Yuan Hall is a cradle of talents. For example, Chemist Kang Tiejuan, Botanist Yin Hongzhang, Physicist Wu Dayou, Mathematician Liu Jinnian, Mathematician Jiang Zehan and Mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern are all students who studied at Si Yuan Hall in their youth.

In July 1937, the Japanese army bombarded Nankai University and Si Yuan Hall was the only building left among other relics. Although broken, it still stood in the campus. After the victory, Nankai was reclaimed. After the repair, Si Yuan Hall was used as the building for science. After the founding of the Republic of China, it became the teaching building of the Department of Chemistry. Now it is the teaching building for the School of Medicine. In 1998, it was enlisted into the Directory of Historical and Cultural Relics in Tianjin. In 2004, to welcome the 85th anniversary of the university, the faculty made every effort to clean and restore the hall to its former glory under the principle of ‘repair the old as before’.

Nankai University

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

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