Finding My Mother: The Red Box
Chapter Three: “$1 Passport to the Celestial Regions”
If I were the editor of one of the elaborate travel brochures that regularly fill my mailbox, I would hire my mother as a writer in an instant. She could lure any reader by extolling the marvels of travel.
In fact, just yesterday the National Geographic’s Travel Catalog 2018 arrived in the mail. The phrases used in that Catalog reminded me of the kinds of phrases my mother would have used to entice a potential traveler: “If you want to experience the world authentically” and “If you want to immerse yourself in new places.” “Every trip is a celebration of a remarkable destination and a genuine interaction with a culture.”
In her Window in China, my mother recommended that visitors to China travel to Chungking by riverboat for a three-night voyage on the Yangtze so that they could witness “the majestic mystery and might of the Three Gorges where the wind whistles and its echoes are thrown from cliff to cliff. It seems to echo and re-echo into eternity; the wail of a soul in anguish.”
That is the trip that she took in October 1923, when her time in Tientsin and her furlough were both completed. She wrote that “To fully describe one of the most beautiful trips I have ever had is absolutely impossible. Yet as I sit on the observation deck of the ‘Alice Dollar’ [boat] and look out across the hills, I see one lone pagoda towering high on the highest hill to guard the city near; across and just beyond is the last high peak of Wind Box Gorge. I realize it is high time to start to write about it all.
“To take you along with me on this Gorge trip [to Chungking], we must begin at Ichang, at the foot of the Gorges, a thousand miles from the sea. For fifteen miles we are to see the powerful Yangtze wind through a chain of hills and stupendous cliffs. We are to have shadows and colorings on land and water ne’er seen before. We are to see heights and depths of enormous rocks ne’er before dreamed possible. We are to be on a ‘power’ boat that is 3,000 horsepower strong and in comparison of our boat’s size with some of the Pacific ocean liners we are to use three times their power. Because of the close steering of this ‘Alice Dollar’ boat, we can almost touch the sides of the cliffs. Farther along, we draw our breath watching the seventeen trackers (Chinese coolies towing the up-river junks as they slowly walk along the narrow track cut high in the projecting rock). We fear they’ll fall into the whirling powerful Yangtze below. They tug away quite slowly, singing as they pull.
“Leaving Ichang, we pass 3 pyramids of green templed hills; on lower levels terraced farmlets. But a shrill whistle startles! It is our boat announcing the sharp curve into the Gorge. Its echo sounds and resounds and then is lost in the rugged hills beyond. The scenery is not unlike the Canadian Rockies as seen from the Kicking Horse River. But we are on the Yangtze at the foot of the Gorges. We are conscious of such heights on both sides; we are conscious of many little boats along the shore and venturesome junks as well. Our kind and most efficient Captain walks the bridge constantly watching for the safest course and the one farthest away from the Chinese craft which all too overpoweringly feel the currents caused by such a boat.
“But look ahead! What of the huge fierce rock direct-ahead? Are we to run plumb into it? Can we help but hit it? The sharp whistle of our boat gives the answer as we speed around a bend that has just come into view. Perhaps the pure white goat on the green mountain side heard that call too, for just as we spotted him, he seemed to spot us too. Though we might have imagined he looked up because we wanted him to. His background of green was dotted only here and there with an autumn tint. Beyond, an occasional apple and pear tree peeped up.
“Won’t you too, with us, choose which of the following pictures you’d call your own? Is it the whirlpools at foot of templed hills? Is it the fisher boats tied along the shore with the day’s work o’er? Perhaps it is the unique shore with its small, young bamboo groves. Or is it the nests of green and quilt-like farmland and farmers’ huts in which the evening meal is prepared?
“Now we hit and hurry through the rapids apparently easily. Some boats take five or six hours but the ‘Alice Dollar’ plows victoriously tho’ rockingly ahead.
“Passing through the Yellow Cow Cliffs, not unlike the Cliffs of Dover, the grand spirals of the Niu-kan-ma-fei Gorge appear. This ‘Ox-liver-horse-lungs’ Gorge is oh so narrow; the mountains are so huge; so high above, so heavenly with reflected glare of the sun upon the Yangtze below. Towards evening, there is a misty enchantment about it all. The canopy of clear blue is being pierced with the new moon. The moon has come to steal a silent look at this Ox-liver Rock and its twin Horse-lungs rock projecting both so stately-like. Mist and sunset are ahead. The sail boats hurry to hug the shore. One chooses a shore cave in the path of the glaring sunset glow. Then a shadow comes, and brightness is subdued. We turn our heads almost entirely back to see the shadow-casting rock. On the peak of the rock, 2,000 feet high, one lone tree stands. On for a short sail and we passed the next war-like rapids. The next curve brought us to cozy, hospitable bays. The Upper Yangtze boats can never sail on in darkness of night. This bay has a new anchorage, a relief. Our leaving Ichang at noon prevented our reaching the accustomed anchorage by nightfall. It was due to passengers arriving from Peking that we did not start at dawn.
“All was quiet and still till at dinner, until the Captain and Chief Engineer both quickly left our table. We had felt no move. Why did they hurry off? Our Captain had been conscious of a slight move in the boat. Even a slight move was unwelcome. Another anchor was put down. The anchor seemed to be firmly put and was each time for a short time; but all too soon the swing of the rapid current beating up against the shore had swung our boat a tiny bit. It is a long story – that night the Captain and Chief Officer slept very little if at all. It was fun for us in the early night hour to watch the searchlight play along the shore to light the way of the Chinese sailor boys who plodded up the hill trying to tie a line firmly along the shore, so we’d be more secure. Through the night one, then two of the lines were gone; only one seemed to firmly hold and assist the anchor. All of this we did not know until the next day. But the Captain knows what was done each moment. He had not anchored there before. It was new ground, but his keen knowledge told him no harm could come to us. Our boat could only have touched the sandy back and even this he prevented.
“Up at 5 a.m. and none too soon if we want to see the anchor and out-reaching line taken in. Once out beyond the reach of bays, countless currents, eddies, and whirlpools appear. These passed, the quaint and picturesque little walled hamlet of Kuei-chou appeared. On farms beyond, there are handsome white Swiss goats having their early meal near the moss-covered huts in the cool of dawn. At 7 a.m., the fishing boats and junks begin to stir. In one dry dock we see 20 or 30 men pull together to push their huge new junk down to the water’s edge and start tracking it up stream. The Yeh-tan, ‘Running Rapid,’ was ahead. A few more curves brought us to green grass stretches where five cows and five crows were. Across the bank, there were soldiers drilling in front of a lovely temple shaded by a huge oak. Niu-Kou T’an, the ‘Ox-Mouth Rapid,’ is our next landmark. Here are turbulent waters and violent whirlpools. Our boat easily sails through and on to ‘Pagoda Point.’ A junk of northern soldiers passes. They are in gray uniforms and have red bands on their sleeves. Autumn foliage completes the scene. At the village of Patung five new missionaries leave our steamer group and take their bags and baggage on up the hills – up and up-over and up again to their station five days overland.
“Our next treat is the Wu-Shan Gorge, ‘Witch-Mountain’ Gorge, the longest of all the Gorges. What beauty along this great stretch of twenty-five miles. First, there are caves and red flowers high on huge rocks! The narrow river winds below! It is awesome and silent and shrouded in gloom. Through the whole Gorge, the precipitous cliffs rise almost perpendicular in places as a thousand feet. Here and there are humble huts where bound-footed women live. One mother clad in blue runs down to catch the sail boat tied too loosely at the shore. She runs with remarkable headway too. She has to run on down the rocks else our strong ‘Alice Dollar’ might by only one of her strong waves loosen the mooring and down the roaring Yangtze would go the rest. Half way through the Gorge is the hamlet of Pei-shih. The boundary mark between Hupeh and Szechuan provinces greets us. But the Gorge itself – what of the Gorge? Such majestic heights. There is so much so very beautiful. In the year 818 an ancient Chinese poet wrote of the Yangtze Gorges:
“Above, a mountain ten thousand feet high;
“Below, a river a thousand fathoms deep.
“A strip of green, walled by cliffs of stone:
“Wide enough for the passage of a single reed.
“Another stretch of rapids comes but we are still almost gasping for breath! The narrow passage has widened. The narrow passage way between the rock walls has widened. We take one deep, deep breath – many deep breaths. But they tell us there is one more Gorge, the ‘Wind Box’ Gorge. Perhaps it is the most picturesque Gorge of all. It is only four and a half miles long. However, judging by all that we have seen so far, think of superlatives: 10,000 times 10,000 superlatives. You too will have part of the feeling. Then keep these superlatives for all of the four and a half miles. Here the wind whistles. Its echoes are thrown from cliff to cliff. It seems to echo and re-echo on into eternity: the wail of a soul in anguish. Perhaps it is the soul of the Yangtze long ago that rushed so rapidly and ruthlessly but most triumphantly through the other Gorges! With a victorious wail, it now flings itself against an even harder mountain. Oh, how humble we are! Oh, the absolute futility of anything man makes!
“At day break of the second day we leave Kwei-chou-fu, the Venice of the Yangtze, at the western extremity of ‘Wind Box’ Gorge. We leave this little manufacturing colony with its salt boileries and coal piles along the shore. This morning we have more pictures for you to choose. Which will it be? Not one, but twelve white goats were climbing on the first steep hill, and at the river bank below, a junk headed mid-stream and rowed by Szechuanese sailors wearing their peculiar turban? There were two real horses a few farms away from two farmers plowing with real primitive plows pulled by water buffaloes. Then there was Yun-Yang, ‘The Town of the Clouded Sun,’ with its beautiful ‘Temple of the Ethereal Bell of a Thousand Ages’ just across the river.
“Nor can we forget Wan-shien, the city where cypress-wood junks are built. Wan-shien, the Myriad City, is built in a semi-circle bend of the Yangtze with a background of forests of pine and cypress trees from which Buddhist temples peep out at you. Here the Military General Chang-Ya Kwang comes to call on us. His call was most important, and costly too, for he took away with him the military tax of $1,500. This gives protection for the river trip. It assures a safe trip and courtesy at each port. It is assured anew on each trip. Each trip each boat must pay this $1,500. We asked why pay it? We were informed that during these days in China, if a boat does not pay this tax, as a Japanese boat refused to pay first of the year, then that boat, like the Japanese, would receive no passengers and no baggage. So thorough would be the boycott that not even the coolies would dare carry the bundles of passengers. There would be no cargo, no coal, no nothing for the return trip.
“Next there is Fong-tu, a famous place of pilgrimage. Here on the summit of a wooded hill, Sien-tze-shan, ‘Mount of Heaven,’ is a Temple dedicated to the God of Hades. It is from Tien-tze-shan that passports to heaven are issued. And guess how much they cost? For only $1.00 the bearer can be admitted to the celestial regions without inquiry into his past life, that is if the document bears the seals of the archpriest and the local mandarin and also the imprint of the seven stars of the ‘Great Bear.’
“Just before we sight Chungking, we are startled by firecrackers. It is the Chinese comprador who is offering thanks for all the Chinese passengers in appreciation of the successful river trip. The fire-crackers are set off in front of the pavilion of Ta-fou-shi, ‘The Great Buddha,’ up there high on the river bank. The gilded Buddha statue is enormous. We are told the Chinese passengers from large and small boats always keep this custom.”
My mother disembarked in Chungking en route to Chengtu, her new YWCA assignment. I have searched several institutional archives and Googled many websites to try to find out what Chengtu was like one hundred years ago. But aside from a few stray facts, my mother’s two years in Chengtu remain mostly a mystery to me.
I do know that, early in 1925, she was medically evacuated to East Rochester after a relapse from a deadly typhus attack. When and where was the first deadly attack? When and where was the relapse? I am sure her spirits remained ebullient no matter what. I am sure she was buoyed by her own maxim, “Don’t Shoot Butterflies with Rifles.”
She starts out her October 1924 letter describing her trip to Chengtu with an entrancing “selfie”: “It is ten o’clock, Saturday, October 7, when at last enough chairmen and baggage carriers arrive at the Chungking Union High School compound for our party of five.” Chungking was an outpost of the recently-established Syracuse-in-Asia program, with which my mother would later become intimately involved.
“In my sedan chair,” she continued, “carried by four mighty fine chairmen, I have first the big, but light, box containing a Pekingese lamp shade for our Chengtu family. This box goes under the seat of the chair. Then at my feet is Miss Smith’s Corona typewriter. A lovely, big, non-breakable thermos bottle is tied to the back of the chair. It rests in a big white granite pail which just won’t pack anywhere else. I’m leaning on a good old quilt and have a pillow. Over my head on top of the chair are my parasol, walking stick, and my ukulele. Oh, yes, my cosmos flowers and writing case and brown bag with all necessary articles, knife, purse, handkerchiefs, Robinson Reminder, and ink bottle all help to make up my overland outfit.”
Reading this, I race back to my faithful Linquist, where I remembered a page titled “What Shall I Bring: Shall I take this to China, or shall I leave it behind? If this question arrives in your mind – and it will, many times, our practically unanimous advice is ‘Take It.’ Bring everything you have and can induce your friends to give you’ is an excellent motto. The time has passed, however, when one needed to bring a seven-year supply of clothing and household articles, for nowadays it is possible to secure almost all kinds of foreign merchandise in the larger cities such as Shanghai and Peking. We attempt at a digest of our sundry experiences for those expecting to come to central and northern China.”
Women are told to bring: “Woolen stockings (Chinese stone floors are cold); Heavy underwear; Dress hats; All your old clothes; A dress pattern that fits; Knit cotton underwear; Wool bloomers or knickers; Hairpins, safety pins, common pins, and dress accessories. For Your House, you should be sure to bring blankets and bed linen, bed springs and mattress; glass fruit jars; pictures – either framed or unframed; if unframed they can be finished in most large cities here more cheaply than at home. Miscellaneous: A camera and a tennis racket. Hiking shoes; A Victrola with as many records as you can bring. Chinese children in particular love this music – especially jazz.”
Out of curiosity, I examined the advertisements in The Linguist for products available in the big commercial port cities of Nanking and Shanghai. I see Remington Portable writing machines; Nestle’s Milk Food; Gee Shibg fruit shop, Shanghai; Dah Yih and Co. Iron Merchants and General Hardware Dealers; The Nanking Store & Co. – groceries, stationery, toilet, and piece goods; The Blackstone Oil Engines; Texaco Roofing; Chinese Optical Co. – Better Vision Through Scientific Optometry; Brownie Photo Co.; Hong Kong Company-Gentleman’s Tailor; Zee Van Shang-Boot, Shoe, and Arms Weapons Maker.
Putting aside The Linguist, I returned to my mother’s letter, and its astonishing accumulation of rich detail: “It is 10:00 Saturday morning and our group of five winds off across the hills from a height overlooking the cool river where we spy a small junk slowly flowing down stream. Small bamboo groves flutter gently in the fall breezes. Right along our path are red peppers growing, cucumbers blossoming, and blue-like violets growing up from the rice paddies. We pass between these all the way to the Big Road. More of these water-violets and lavender flowers, and suddenly a yellow butterfly blows by. We climb up and through a cemetery where half a dozen goats graze. Just over a pace, two ducks in a pond greet us and nearby is a spreading chestnut tree said to be a banyan tree. Under this nice shade tree, a group of school children play apart from the larger group in the school athletic field beyond. But very soon we almost bump into a hut guarded by a hungry and half asleep dog. He peeps at us and then at the school boys buying new oranges near a wayside shrine. The school bell brings an end to this lovely recess. Our five sedan chairs continue cross country. It is 10:30 as we strike the Big Road.
“Just what is the Big Road? Nothing more than stone slabs about 6 feet wide. This stone walk winds between bamboo groves, over hill and dale, and surely promises to keep us interested in life and activities ne’er seen before in China. The Big Road winds past huts where hand looms weave native towels. We pass under four pillars at the city gate. Ahead is the Road. At the sides, bamboos flutter flirtingly. Ahead, the clear blue sky. The next to pass us is a pony on which a soldier rides. Then 8 pack horses – yes, horses, so we must be on the Big Road. Oh how we yearn to help the blind beggars, 4 here and 4 there near the archway.
“All is so calm and comfortable elsewhere. First it is the lovely farms peeping out between stone walls. Do look there in that hut where a little white kitten is asleep on a pig – both under the family table asleep. Our Chinese chairmen stop for their bowls of rice and tea at a wayside stop. Stop for a second anywhere along the Big Road and a crowd gathers to see us and what we are doing. I give my flowers, cosmos, one by one to the kiddies who peep in toward my chair. At the village edge are two more wayside shrines with neglected gilded gods.
“Now whence the Road? Ahead it leads through twin arches. In all there are six stone arches – six paces apart at least. The last is trimmed with elephant tusks and carved dragons peaks. The arches are put there by some family member as a memorial tribute to some departed member. Just beyond a blue clad woman washes at the edge of a muddy rice field. Hardly is she finished with her Saturday wash before it begins to pour such a heavy hard rain. We stop under a big shady tree for the shower to pass. Ahead are terraced circular rice fields. We put up our straw umbrellas or put on pith hats and walk a way to give the chairmen a rest. A blue kingfisher bird sings as it saunters along from one rice field to another. The tinkle of a tired donkey is heard. A tiny pack horse greets us at the next curve. The horse stops to let us by. The Big Road is narrow here. The bell tinkles on down the road, and a long-tailed black bird in the shrubs above a lotus pond answers the call. Tropical palm trees and banana trees are just across on one side where two water buffaloes are plowing rice fields.
“For a change of color, we note the radishes and a red umbrella – really red – that a ragged ragamuffin carries as he tries to balance his loads of radishes tied to the end of the bamboo pole propped up on his shoulders. He almost bumps into a bound-footed Chinese lady who walks along the Big Road too. Her chair follows. Perhaps she is tired of the swaying seats. A black pig grunts at the wayside. It is almost stepped upon. A bird sings from its telegraph pole perching place (first telegraph lines sighted in Szechuan province so far). The cricket chorus answers the bird’s call. Not a sound disturbs the dog asleep on the manger at the foot of misty hills. A few ferns crawl out through the cracks of stone vaults – even a fern seems to thrive well on the edge of a moss-covered, straw-thatched hut. We reach a hill top and feast on the sight below in the promised land.
“It was promised to us yesterday. But a day late only enhances the high heavenly view. Everywhere are circular terraced rice fields. Almost the very next moment we see a cat asleep on an earthen stove. I simply have to walk a good deal on this stretch. There is so much to see. Rice fields in all colors and shades of green and brown, touching each other in patch quilt-like regularity. The trees are so stately. Down at the foot of the valley and almost too soon we stop. But we are 60 li on the Big Road, and the cook who went ahead has our first meal overland prepared for us. Now at night we fairly shout with joy to see a Christian chapel and school room so clean and inviting. We are to sleep here for the first night. Our cots are all prepared for us – our bedding loads and the cook having gone ahead. Opposite the church is a closed Temple.
“Next morning we rise at 5 a.m. All the villagers are here to see us start. Such a crowd of nine Americans does not pass every day. It is a nine-year-old bound-footed tot holding her tiny brother that interests me most. All the women and children gather round to see our funny ways. There are ten on one side of my chair looking at this strange foreign lady writing with a foreign pen. The shopkeepers open up their shops early too, and oh! what curious little one-story shops they are. One street must be a ‘chicken ally’ for so many on each side are cleaning chickens. We pass over a bridge where the rushing waters flow down past a wayside shrine. Nearby are lotus ponds and farmer friends with their spades splashing up mud walls to divide their rice paddies. Then a mountain stretch. Such a wealth of bamboo trees and firs with their cones. Nearer the foot of the mountain, on the other side, red peppers and more sweet potatoes. More cricket chorus too. It is such fun to walk up and over and up and over again. And what do you suppose we see? A mountain stream so clean and secluded. Can I really be in China? Surely such parts as these I’ve never seen before. Such a wealth and wealth of green bamboo trees and firs with their cones. We are half way down the mountain when the mist and rain all disappear.
“I must tell you about Tuesday, October 10th, China’s Independence Day. We have stopped at Yun Ch’uan. Since there are no hotels and no foreigners living here, we do consider ourselves to be fortunate to be permitted to sleep in a clean native church and school compound rather than in a native Chinese inn.
“On this Independence Day, we are invited to attend the special celebrations in the Government Middle School just across the way. The men were taken into the main honor room, and all the ladies of our party were given a separate room. Bishop Keeney would not stand for this very long. Soon Mrs. Keeney and all of us were invited into the main room where the generals and officials were. But I was so glad for the room at the side, for it was there that a Chinese guest was also welcomed first. She was a Mrs. Yang, whom I at first didn’t recognize. But she picked me out from all the others and said in Chinese, ‘Oh, I recognize Miss March. I knew her in Tientsin.’
“And true enough, Mrs. Yang proved to be a young girl from the Tientsin Government Normal School. She often came to our Association but seemed happy and joyous then. Now she seems so much older. She is married to an official and has a wee baby too, but, oh, how she longs for some educated friends. There seems to be no one with whom she can visit.
“The band started to play. School boys of different ages march into and through the front courtyard. One hundred and one shots are fired for the new President of the Republic, President Li Yuan-hung, formerly of Tientsin [the father of Ms. Li, whom my mother visited in the current President’s lovely Tientsin garden]. The whole ceremony is interesting, but somehow I just can’t forget the little Tientsin friend, now wife of an official and, oh, so unhappy here in this very city.
“The performance over, we return to our Mission compound. I am wondering and wondering if there isn’t some way I can find Mrs. Yang and visit further with her when suddenly the gate opens and a visitor’s sedan enters. It is my former Tientsin friend who has found out where I am and come to see me. We have an hour’s visit. She tells me all about her family. She does of course love her baby, but if only there were an Association in this city. If only there was a chance for such a girl far-away from her former friends. We think of how she might herself help teach in the Mission School, for surely she will be happier if she thinks more of helping others and less of her own solitude. My whole overland trip is made such a real privilege now since unexpectedly I have brought joy to one who yearned so for a wee bit of friendship. How glad I am that Tientsin YWCA did have that touch with the government school for girls.
“The next night we spend again in a church school room. But for Thursday night we sleep in a Chinese inn. It is not half bad. Putting our cots high up on their regular beds we felt clean and quite comfortable. Our supper is prepared for us in the center court under the open sky, out in God’s free, fresh air. We get more fresh air than I think possible in this inn. Up early and back on the Big Road. This day offers a boat ride for fifteen li up river and at its end a ten-story pagoda welcomes us as we leave the calm river and continue westward to Chengtu.
“At Nei Liang, where we stop in another church compound for the night, letters await us. The native pastor serves us lovely candied fruit. We are now in the district of sugar cane and peanuts. In the next station there are orange groves galore. Honey orange, too. We spend Sunday at Zechow. Monday night, we sleep in a Buddhist temple, fairly clean, too, though the twenty gods in this temple surely have never been dusted this season. Tuesday night, there is not an inn to be found anywhere, no church, no temple, and so we sleep out on the open second-story of a theater. Our last night of this overland trip is spent in another Buddhist temple. This temple is clean, reasonably clean, in fact even the gods in this temple seem clean.
“At eleven o’clock the next day, behold! Five foreigners they seem to be. I give the Association circular wave with my handkerchief, and, hooray, there are two circular waves in response. I know then that both Miss Harriet Smith, General Secretary, and Miss Edith Forbes, student secretary, have come to meet me. In fact, we soon see that our very wonderful Chinese Executive Secretary, Mrs. Feng, is also there. (I know that one of the rare privileges of my life is to be working with such a remarkable and brave little lady.) These three Association workers and Misses MacDonald and Richardson of the Syracuse Unit have left Chengtu at six o’clock in the morning and have come all this way in the rain and mud to welcome us. Is it even necessary to even mention what that welcome does for us? I know you can guess, and I know you can feel with us that if on our way here, so many miles interior from Shanghai, people care that much about having another worker in their midst, surely that person can hardly but weep with joy.”
I still had no idea when, where, or how my mother contracted her dangerous case of typhus. I had to look up typhus to learn just how dangerous. Epidemic typhus is an acute infectious disease. Lice are one of its transmitters. High fever can last for almost two weeks, with bouts of chills and a nasty rash. If left untreated, typhus can cause major damage. My mother’s relapse certainly added to the damage. I doubt if modern tetracycline and chloramphenicol were available in Chengtu in 1924. I knew she was evacuated to East Rochester in early 1925 and had a “miraculous” recovery. Certainly she received better medicine and medical treatment.
It was at this point that the Syracuse University Archives and Records Management came to my rescue. I learned that the co-founder of Syracuse-in-China, Dr. Gordon Hoople, was in the group that set out from the Chungking Union High School compound to Chengtu on October 7. Mr. Hoople was the man who had changed his major at Syracuse from geology to medicine at the urging of fellow classmate Leon Sutton so that they could become medical missionaries in China. By 1920, the missionary movement had come to realize that, even if the primary goal was evangelization, the most effective strategy was to provide potential converts with medicine and education.
While they were nearing the end of their internships at the Brooklyn Hospital, both Drs. Hoople and Sutton contacted their colleagues attached to medical units heading to China, who, in turn, urged them to contact Church Mission Boards. Dr. Hoople writes that the “Methodist Board had just what we were looking for – a hospital that had been vacant for seven years plus a high school and church which needed a transfusion.” They went back to the Syracuse campus to form the nucleus of an organization to help raise money for that transfusion. The Methodist Board had told them that if they could raise $30,000 in the next three weeks, the Chungking property was theirs. Dr. Hoople went to Boston and Dr. Sutton to Saint Louis. They raised $33,000 in pledges. Syracuse-in-China received enough serious pledges by 1921 to be organized and recognized by the university.
Their Syracuse unit arrived in Chungking in the fall of 1922. Its primary goal, wherever possible, was to provide assistance in the fields of medicine, education, and athletics in West China.
By the summer of 1925, my mother had made a “miraculous recovery from a severe case of deadly typhus fever” and, on June 12, 1925, she was appointed Executive Secretary of Syracuse-in-China. In a special meeting that was held to offer her the appointment, she “made several very helpful suggestions relative to the development of the field work. She mentioned a number of people in various cities whom she thought would be happy to become interested in knowing about the work of the Syracuse Unit.”
Syracuse-in-China, I learned, was not the first institution of its kind. When the Syracuse organization was founded in 1921, Yale-in-China and Harvard-in-China already had a long history of trying to develop closer understanding and warmer relations with China through the study of language and culture. Harvard emphasized the humanities; Yale, humanitarianism. Of the two, Yale had the longer relationship with China. It was the Yale graduate, Peter Parker, a doctor, who opened the first Ophthalmic Infirmary in Guangzhou in 1835. Nineteen years later, Yung Wing graduated from Yale University, making him the first person from China to earn a degree at an American college or university.
Yale-in-China was founded in 1901, as the Yale Foreign Missionary Society, by a group of Yale graduates and faculty committed to establishing a Christian missionary presence overseas. The timing was perfect. China had come to realize that the Celestial Empire needed to adapt to the modern world. By 1920, the Yale group had made its headquarters in Changsha and had begun to prepare Chinese individuals for leadership positions in medicine and education.
Harvard-in-China placed more emphasis on education than on medicine in its ties to China. In 1879, it established the first American Chair in Chinese Instruction. By 1928 it formalized a relationship with a Chinese university – Yenching – and emphasized that its purpose was “to conduct and provide research, instruction and publications in the culture of China.”
In 1986, John Hopkins was added to the list of American universities affiliated with universities in China – in this case, Nanking University. Former Hopkins President Steven Muller and former Nanking University President Kuang Yaming partnered to create the Center, “recognizing the importance of improved understanding and relations between their respective countries.” Muller believed China to be “the country of the future.”
The Center boasted that its mission was “to develop and train professionals to provide leadership in managing successful bilateral and multilateral relationships involving China and the West in an increasingly complex international environment. ... [offering] an opportunity for students to appreciate how Western and Chinese societies view themselves and how they interact with other cultures.”
My parents graduated from the Nanking University Language School in 1918 in Nanking. I graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C. in 1950 – without realizing how closely tied I was to my mother’s path, and my father’s, three decades earlier.