The origin of Nankai
There was a vast tableland named Balitai in the south of the old city of Tianjin. In the early 20th century, it was a barren land in the suburbs with lots of low-lying lands and reed ponds. However, such a deserted land has become famous as the birthplace of Nankai University whose establishment is now considered legendary in the modern history of Chinese education.
the old East Gate of Nankai University
The earliest Nankai school was derived from Mr. Yan Fansun’s homeschool. In 1898, Mr. Yan Fansun, a renowned academic in Tianjin, invited Mr. Zhang Boling to teach the sons of Yan’s family about Western civilization. After Mr. Zhang Boling became the instructor of the homeschool, social attention was gradually fixed on the innovative teaching methods he used and the practical knowledge he imparted.
In May 1904, Mr. Yan Fansun and Mr. Zhang Boling went to Japan twice for an educational experience. After they came back，they united Yan’s homeschool with Wang Yisun’s homeschool. The new school started to enroll students and was officially established as a middle school on October 17m 1904. At the end of 1905, the school changed its name to the First Private Middle School.
the early Nankai University
In 1906, Mr. Zheng Juru donated a piece of land beside the Tianjin Trams Company to the First Private Middle School. It was a broad low-lying land in the southwest of Tianjin, called Nankaiwa. In the autumn of 1907, a new campus was built in Nankaiwa, and then the First Private Middle School moved to the new campus with the new name of Nankai Private Middle School which was changed into Nankai Private School later. From then on, Nankai became the name of this school and the immortal spirit in the heart of teachers and students. In 1907, Nankai Private School had more than 1000 students and entered a stage of development.
In 1918, Mr. Yan Fansun, together with Mr. Fan Jingsheng, went to America to learn about college education. When he came back, Mr. Yan Fansun started to raise funds to build a university. In the spring of 1919, a teaching building of Nankai University was built in the south of Nankai Private School and completed in the autumn. On the principles of art to regulate the country, science to strengthen the country, and business to enrich the country, Nankai University initially had three disciplines (changed into colleges later): Arts, Sciences and Business. In March 1922, the public land of Balitai was rented to build more teaching buildings, dormitories for students and teachers and other school facilities. In the 1930s, Nankai University had become not only a destination in the south of Tianjin, but a well-known school in China.
Mati Lake (the buildings in the front are Siyuan Temple on the left and Xiushang Temple on the right)
The growth of Nankai University was extraordinary: from Mr. Yan Fansun’s homeschool in 1898 to the famous Nankai schools in 1948 consisting of Nankai University, Nankai Middle School, Nankai Girls’ School, Nankai Primary School and Chongqing Nankai School; from 6 students to over 4000 students. It is really a legendary story.