Peking University in 1921

This year marks the 115th anniversary of the founding of Peking University, one of China’s top universities. Today it is affectionately known as “Bei Da,” short for Beijing Daxue (Beijing University).

Such is the esteem in which this university is held among Chinese that when I recently introduced a Chinese friend to a bunch of other Chinese at a gathering in Minnesota and she told them (upon their asking, of course) that she was an alum and now a professor at BEI DA, they all swooned!

To commemorate the founding, Peking University News recently published a special edition, titled “”Yenching University, 1021: A Peking Perspective.” (It was originally called Yenching University).

This is what the campus looked like in 1921:


Here are some interesting excerpts from a booklet about the university published in 1921:

JOHN KELMAN, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, in China in 1921.

“Peking University will have no rival in the whole Republic. Its influence will be most powerful in connection with the present intellectual movement among students, and it will stand for all that promises a great future for the magnificent national genius of China.”

HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, First Presbyterian Church, New York, who visited China in 1921.

“The biggest need of China is a thoroughly trained Christian leadership developed from its own sons.”   “Never before in my life have I seen a more strategic opportunity than the one before Peking University.”

Over the ever-narrowing Pacific, the traveler from Vancouver in fourteen days reaches Shanghai, and in thirty-four hours a train with modern equipment carries him from Shanghai to Peking. In normal times fourteen days will bring him from Peking to London via Mukden, Harbin, Chita, Moscow, and Berlin.

Its Aim. The University has been founded by Christian leaders of the West to furnish the best quality of intellectual and religious leadership for China. The hope of China lies in the training of a new type of young manhood and womanhood who have the education and the character to bring about a better political and social order in China and who can lead their people to share in a similar task for the world.

I find the openness with which the university acknowledges its Christian heritage to be quite interesting.