Tianjin and Nankai University

Monday 19 May, we traveled from Beijing to Tianjin 天津 by high-speed rail. The 120 kilometer journey took us only 40 minutes, as the G-2017 reached speeds of nearly 300/kph. Total price: $9 US.

While in Tianjin, China’s fourth-largest city (and one of four municipalities not under any provincial control) we were treated most hospitably by Nankai University 南开大学 (est. 1919), which is one of the top schools in China. Students from the translation program gave us a campus tour, which included a sharing of songs by the lake. We enjoyed two songs sung in Chinese by one of our guides, Sofia, a number is Spanish by Monica Echeverria (Alvernia), a song in English by Ericka Robinson, one in Arabic by Hanan Salim, and a Punjabi song and dance routine by Harjot Sangha. Wow. We have some talented students musically and linguistically.

Because my dissertation research was on wartime Chinese literature (1937-1949), I was especially interested in the Nankai bell, which was cast to commemorate the destruction of the campus by the Japanese in 1937, and the Southwest United University 西南联合大学 stele. Southwest United was made up of three top-tier schools (Peking University 北京大学, Tsinghua University 清华大学, and Nankai University) that had to relocate during the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945). SWU finally settled in Kunming 昆明, Yunnan Province 云南 in the far southwest of the country. According to writer WANG Zengqi 汪曾祺 (1920-1997), the environment there was vibrant intellectually and offered opportunities for scholarly and artistic undertakings that probably would not have been possible had the three schools remained separate back in Beijing and Tianjin.

After a delicious lunch with an abundance of dishes, Professor LIU Ming delivered a lecture on globalization and the current world economic situation. Later in the afternoon, we visited “Old Culture Street,” which is a 1980s reconstruction of an old hutong (alleys) area of the city. It is now a commercial district selling souvenirs from contemporary edifices built in a mock style of late-imperial architecture. Tim shared with me our former Fulbright FLTA, Helen Feng’s, story about growing up in this area. Upon returning to her old neighborhood, which had been razed to make way for this Disnified “Main Street” with Chinese characteristics, the only vestige of Helen’s home was an old tree that she used to climb as a child.

The day concluded with a evening stroll around the old Italian district. In the 19th century, Tianjin was also a treaty port city. After the second Opium war and ratification of the Treaty of Tianjin (1860), the city was opened to foreign trade. The Italians came late to the imperialist party, around the end of the 19th century. They did not miss the Boxer Rebellion, however. The Boxers controlled much of the city around the beginning of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, the Japanese concession area was the refuge of Puyi, the last Chinese emperor. Today, the Italy concession is one of the best preserved of all the former concession areas in the city.

From Tianjin, we took an overnight sleeper train to Dalian, where we are now enjoying some cooler weather. Tomorrow, we’re off on a tour of the port, the Jinshitan campus of Dalian Nationalities University, our host in Dalian, and an American joint venture company here. Douglas (GUO Jiulin 郭九林) will be our guide for the day. We look forward to having Douglas on campus this fall as a visiting professor and artist in residence (calligraphy). As always, Mark (ZHANG Zhigang 张志刚) has been most helpful in arranging things for Benedictine University.



2 Responses to “Tianjin and Nankai University”

  1. 1 Martin Tracey
    May 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Such a wonderful itinerary, and such interesting commentary!

    Thinking of the destruction of the campus of Nankai University in WWII brings to mind for me some commentary I’ve read, in connection with the recent release of a new U.S. “Godzilla”-film, about the 1950s Japanese Godzilla movies and their adaptations and sequels in the U.S.

    Call me culturally illiterate, but I had never before realized that the Japanese Godzilla was a mutant generated (and later enraged) by nuclear detonations, and that the original Godzilla film had such a strong anti-war message–somehow that central element of the films had never registered with me.

    I’m now wondering whether Japanese Godzilla films were ever screened in China, and if so, how they may have been received. Here’s why the question interests me: For Americans, and not discounting Pearl Harbor, I would think that if the Godzilla films led to any reflection at all about the morality of massively-destructive bombing, that reflection would have included some measure of misgiving or shame about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the Chinese, by contrast, I suspect any “preaching” by the Japanese about the morality of bombing would likely have been much harder to hear, given their own suffering from Japanese bombs in WWII …

  2. May 27, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    You are too kind, Martin.

    Not sure if the original Godzilla films have been screened here. But bootleg copies are most likely available on the street. Last night, the most recent American version of _Godzilla_ was on TV, however.

    As to the genre, there is much interesting work on the cinematic history of the horror or monster film and its connection to the prevalent anxieties of the times.

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