A gate to history

Walking along Zhonghua Avenue in Nanjing, I paused at this imposing European style gate to take a photo. It is unusual to find architecture like this in China. Even though the lock on the gate was executed in a Chinese style, the whole appearance screamed Europe. A little plaque on the wall next to the gate gave a brief time line of this school established by American missionaries at the very end of the 19th century.

Christianity has been present in Nanjing since the 14th century, and even seems to have influenced the Taiping revolution in a small way. But the presence of American missionaries between the mid-19th century and the Rape of Nanjing is now an obscure chapter in the history of Nanjing. Their arrival in the wake of the shameful Treaty of Nanjing causes official Chinese histories to ignore them. At the same time, their help, meager through it was, during the Rape of Nanjing is acknowledged. The result is a parsimonious acknowledgement as in this plaque, or the recently installed bust of Pearl Buck in the grounds of the university. I did not have time to explore Nanjing very well, but I can imagine myself tracing such histories in future.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. A bust of Pearl Buck at the university? I’m so glad. That woman loved China with all her heart, missed it every day of her life, and wrote passionately on its behalf all during WW II. She lived and worked and taught in Nanking. When Chairman Mao refused to let her return for a visit, it broke her heart. At her house in Pennsylvania, the windows of her office look out over a garden that — if you didn’t know better — you’d think was in China. In so many ways she was a woman of two worlds, and more China than the US. Her translation of the Water Margin (All Men are Brothers) is extremely readable and, judging from the official translation into English, faithful. ❤


    1. Pearl Buck, among many others, fall outside the norm of behaviour of the western imperial powers in Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries. As we move away from that terrible period of history, I suppose some of them will eventually be remembered for their individuality.

      Liked by 2 people

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