Nankai East Gate: Witnessing the Inheritance of History

Nankai University is located in Balitai area, all the way south of Weijin Road. Walking across the Dazhong Bridge to the east gate, there are four golden characters above the gate: Nan Kai Da Xue (南开大学), which means Nankai University in English.  It is the two Chinese characters “南开” that stimulates generations of Nankai alumnus’ lifelong adoration and persistence for their alma mater. To Nankai University, the east gate has been the main entrance since established.

In 1919, with the ideal of “govern the country with arts, strengthen the country with science and enrich the country with business” the patriotic educators Zhang Boling and Yan Fansun established Nankai University on an empty land in the south of Nankai Middle School.

In 1922, Nankai University, which had been established for three years, finally relieved from the situation of limited school buildings, and the new school building was built in Balitai in the south of the city. When selecting Balitai as the campus of Nankai University, the east gate was simple and crude. Cao Yu, a Nankai alumnus, recalled the situation of that time,“Here, neither can you see high walls nor wire mesh as a barrier, not to mention intensive complex”, recalled by Caoyu, Nankai alumni and famous Chinese dramatist. Qiangzi River flew across the campus, and there was a modern arch bridge set up on the river. That was the symbol of Nankai University.”

In the early 1930s, Nankai University has become an elegant, peaceful and famous tourist spot in the south of Tianjin. In 1934, the poet Liu Yazi arrived in Tianjin from Shanghai to visit his son Liu Wuji, which was the Director of Department of English of Nankai University at that time. When he visited Nankai University, he wrote a poem and  apprasing Nankai’s beauty and peaceful environment.

A wall separated the campus and the outside world. Outside was a noisy world; inside was a new paradise.
There was a small river in front of the gate. On the river stood a steel and concrete bridge, on the west end of which was the west gate. A more-than-one-meter white wooden board stood in front of the iron gate, reading: “Nankai University” in purple. These words were written in ink by a student of Department of Mechanism and Electricity from Shanghai.

Old Gate of Nankai University

With the vicissitudes of time, the gate of Nankai University has been rebuilt for several times.  When the Republic of China was founded in 1950, Nankai University was in a devastating point. After Nankai’s returning to Tianjin from Kunming Southwest Sssociated University, Nankai people determined to rebuild a beautiful Nankai campus. Thus Student Council of Nankai University wrote an enthusiastic letter to Chairman Mao Zedong and hoped he could draw a logo for Nankai University.

Chairman Maoreplied itsoon. In the letter, he wrote: I received your letter and wrote the characters for you. In addition to the letter, students also received a large writing sheet, on which Chairman Mao wrote four styles of “Nan Kai Da Xue (南开大学)” with writing brush, horizontally and vertically. He also ticked one of the horizontal writings which satisfied him the most. Students of the Student Council considered the letter  the most precious treasure and immediately handed Chairman Mao’s letter and writings to Huang Yusheng, General Secretary of Nankai University. They also found a logo factory with school office to make two styles of logo for students (white background and red letters) and faculties (red background and white letters) respectively. Now, the gold and magnificent “Nan Kai Da Xue (南开大学)” above the east gate is exactly the words written by Chairman Mao himself at that time.

Writings for Nankai University by Mao Zedong

At the turn of the century,  when the university was celebrating its 80th anniversary, the university inscribed the words written by Chairman Mao himself onto arch orange gate of the east gate, which was donated and constructed by alumni. Four dignified white stone pillars of the gate divided the east gate for sidewalks and a road, ensuring the traffic order for entering the campus. The gate of the university looks like a mirror, reflecting the destiny of the university. Nankai University expanded from a peaceful paradise to absorbing all kinds of nutrients, upgrading with the heartbeat of the world and developing along with the international road. Nankai University is brightly shining with the east rising sun.

Translated by Shi Yuchen

Proofread by Ada Yan

Nankai University

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

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