Wartime Thoughts and Academic Figures

A Study of the History of the Humanities at Xinan Lianda

by Yang Shaojun (Author)
©2023 Monographs X, 348 Pages


This book studies the academic history of the humanities of Southwestern Associated University from the following aspects: the general situation of academic research, research institutions and academic journals, philosophical research, historical research, literary research, linguistic research, ethnological and anthropological research, academic tradition, reputation and enlightenment. It comprehensively and systematically studies the academic history of Southwestern Associated University.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • I. The Aim and Meaning of the Historical Study of Humanities Scholarship at Lianda
  • II. The Contents and Scope of the Historical Study of Scholarship in the Humanities at Lianda
  • Chapter One A Survey of the Academic Research in Humanities at Lianda
  • I. The Characteristics of Humanities Scholars at Lianda as a Group
  • II. The Academic Achievements in Humanities at Lianda
  • III. Causes for the Development of Academic Research in Humanities at Lianda
  • Chapter Two Research Institutions and Academic Journals for Humanities at Lianda
  • I. Research Institutes in Humanities at Lianda
  • II. Lianda Humanities Disciplines Academic Journals
  • Chapter Three Philosophical Studies at Lianda
  • I. Philosophical Research Institutes and Representative Scholars at Lianda
  • II. Research Achievements of the Philosophical Research Institutions at Lianda
  • III. The Principal Philosophical Research Achievements at Lianda and Their Contributions
  • IV. The Significance of the History of Philosophical Research at Lianda
  • Chapter Four Historical Study at Lianda
  • I. Historical Research Institutes and Representative Scholars at Lianda
  • II. The Achievements of the Institutes for Historical Studies at Lianda
  • III. The Major Achievements and Contributions of Historical Study at Lianda
  • IV. The Significance of the History of Historical Study at Lianda
  • Chapter Five A Study of Academic Thought of the School of “Intrigues of the Warring States”
  • I. Core Members of the School of “Intrigues of the Warring States”
  • II. Academic Thought of the School of “Intrigues of the Warring States” and Its Achievements
  • III. The Substance of the “Intrigues of the Warring States” School and Its Significance for the History of Scholarship
  • Chapter Six Literature Study at Lianda
  • I. Literature Research Institutes and Representative Scholars at Lianda
  • II. Research Achievements at the Literature Research Institutions at Lianda
  • III. The Principal Achievements and Contributions of the Literature Researchers at Lianda
  • IV. The Significance of the History of Literature Research at Lianda
  • Chapter Seven Philological Study at Lianda
  • I. Philological Study Institutions at Lianda and Representative Scholars.
  • II. The Research Achievements of the Language Research Institutions at Lianda
  • III. Main Achievements and Contributions of the Language Study at Lianda
  • IV. The Significance of the History of Linguistics Study at Lianda
  • Chapter Eight The Study of Ethnology and Anthropology at Lianda
  • I. Ethnology and Anthropology Research Institutes at Lianda and Representative Scholars
  • II. The Research Achievements of the Institutes on Ethnology and Anthropology at Lianda
  • III. The Main Achievements and Contributions of the Ethnologists and Anthropologists at Lianda
  • IV. The Significance of the Study of Ethnology and Anthropology at Lianda for the History of Scholarship
  • Chapter Nine Lianda’s Academic Tradition, Status and Its Implications
  • I. Lianda’s Academic Tradition
  • II. The Position of Academic Research at Lianda
  • III. The Implications of the Academic Research at Lianda
  • Appendix: Bios of Some Lianda Scholars


Tian Liang, the historian, observes that there are two orientations in the approach to the development of historical study. One is the orientation of the history of scholarship, which focuses on the evolution of academic study of history, such as conception of history, historical teleology, methodology for historical studies, historiography. The other is sociological orientation, which focuses on the characteristics of historical study and its interactive relationship with the society in a particular era. The purpose of the former study is to sum up the academic study of history. Its intended audience generally is restricted to professional historians. The purpose of the latter study is on one hand to consider historical study as a reflection on social thought of a particular period and to examine how politics, economy, culture of a particular society influence the historians’ approach to the purpose, attitude, methodology and conception of history. On the other hand, the latter study focuses on how as a branch of knowledge historical study influences politics, economy and culture of a particular society (Tian 2005, 1).

In a similar vein, Geert Hofstede, a researcher on culture, argues that culture is a collective phenomenon. It is studied and shared by the people in the same environment, who then form a shared mental framework. As a result, members of a certain group often separate themselves from other groups. Culture is the spiritual constitution of a community, not its intrinsic part. It is a dynamic entity that is acquired rather than inborn. Because individuals usually belong to different levels or statuses such as nation, region, ethnicity, faith, language, generation, class, organization or occupation, we cannot possibly talk about “definitive” status of the group members. All that we can do is to highlight their cultural characteristics and commonalities on the basis of “comparisons”. In the meantime, Hofstede considers culture and status as a structure with a set of interlocking relationships on the basis of three factors: (1) Time-space: The superficial features related to the group at a certain historical time, including some facts and statistical data; (2) psychology: on the bases of special community, cultural status is formed internally, which further forms the “psychological make-up” of the special community, that is, the values that affect behaviors; (3) Exterior image: the ways that outsiders select, interpret and evaluate the characteristics of the group (Yue and Zhang 1999, 327–340).

Professor Sang Bing observes that there is a clear distinction between the history of scholarship and the history of academicians. The former has a restricted interest in a special branch of historical study. The latter strives to transcend disciplinary boundaries and all the attending systemic biases. As the object of study is part of the whole history, from academic persons to academic undertaking, we will see their activities and connections as general social members. The history of scholarship proceeds from historians’ own contemporary understanding to speculate about words, behavior and related matters of the persons in the past. The history of academic persons strives to avoid the constraints of the assumptions shaped by modern education and knowledge transformation. It strives to return to the historical scene in specific time and space, grasping the ways of thought and action of the specific historical figures. It takes a diachronic attitude towards the positions of the persons in the past and relationships. Therefore, Professor Sang proposes that the study of academic persons and the study of the history of scholarship proceed from three aspects. First, understanding what the people in the past already knew, how they knew it and why they knew it in this way to avoid pretensions to know; secondly, understanding the learning through the persons; thirdly, considering academic persons and their interactions as part of the whole history rather than a specialized discipline of the history of scholarship itself (Sang 2008, 1–8).

Admittedly, in terms of viewpoints and methodology, Tian Liang, Geert Hofstede and Sang Bing have provided several pathways for thought and experiment in the process of my research. This writer hopes to draw on these and other researchers in the methods of the study of the history of scholarship and the method of cultural study. On the basis of core issues in the study of the history of scholarship, namely, academic works (works of cultural creation), I will conduct a thorough and systematic study of the academic development of humanities within the specific time and specific group of Xinan Lianda “Southwestern Associated University” (Lianda hereafter). I will also offer an understanding and interpretation of the activities of the scholars and their relationships. Besides conducting a specific study of the special time and place of Lianda and its special community, I will attempt to relate the academic thought, academic goal, academic attitude, academic methods, teaching and social influence of Lianda scholars (alternatively called Lianda Intellectual Group or Lianda Scholars’ Group)1 to the special reality of the Anti-Japanese War and post-war academic development in China. An exploration of these issues goes beyond purely abstract, dogmatic and mechanic interest. The purpose is to understand the persons and enhance learning.

I. The Aim and Meaning of the Historical Study of Humanities Scholarship at Lianda

On July 7th of 1937, the July 7th Incident (also known as the Lugou Bridge Incident) changed the history of China and the fate of Chinese intellectuals as well. As the Chinese nation was in an mass exodus, the Chinese intellectuals migrated and moved in a large scale as well. They moved from the centers of politics, economy and culture such as Beijing (formerly Peiping), Shanghai and Tianjin and other coastal cities to the inland and remote regions. In the special background of the Anti-Japanese War, Lianda was established through the merge of National Peking University, National Tsinghua University and Nankai University in Kunming, Yunnan. It became one of the most important universities during the war2 (Yi and Zhou 2008, 248).

Just as Yao Dan said, “In the time of national crisis, Lianda as the highest level of educational institution in China consciously took on the great task of preserving the national spirit. Its community made unremitted efforts to immerse themselves in cultural creations (e.g. literature), to continue the bloodline of the national culture and maintain the vitality of national cultural creativity”. In the spiritual tradition of Lianda, the perspectives on life, culture and nationality were intertwined (Yao 2000, 27). Lianda scholars immersed themselves in academic research and teaching and made a great contribution to the war effort and the revival and transformation of Chinese culture. They are regarded by John Israel, a scholar specialized in the study of Lianda as a cultural heritage worthy of remembrance by the whole world. It does not go too far to say that Lianda was not only a war time center for the study of Chinese academic culture, but also a shaper and promoter of the development of Chinese modern academic thought.

In recent years, the research on the history of scholarship in modern China has received much attention in the academic circle. A situation emerges in which “thinkers are phased out, while academicians stand out” (Zuo 2005, 2). The focuses of attention in the academic circle are questions such as the modern trend of the traditional academic thought and the establishment of modern academic systems. The researchers approach these questions generally in the following three ways. Firstly, a case study of the academic thought of some eminent scholars in the late Qing and the Republican Era, such as Chen Yinke, Qian Mu, Wu Mi, Qian Zhongshu and Tang Yongtong. Some representative works include A Collection of Biographers of Famous Scholars in the 20th Century China 二十世纪中国著名学者传记丛书 edited by Dai Yi, A History of Thought in the Republican Era 民国学案 edited by Zhang Qizhi, The Stories about the Scholars 学林往事 edited by Zhang Shilin. Liu Mengxi’s Academic Thoughts and Persons 学术思想与人物, Yu Ying-shih’s Modern Intellectual and Scholarship 现代学人与学术 and Xia Zhongyi’s Nine Homages to the Past Thinkers 九谒先哲书 also have exerted some influence on the academic circle at home and abroad.

Secondly, studies of the history of scholarship and academic schools in the late Qing and Republican Era as well as investigations of the evolution of, foreign influences on, and the transition, and national cultural heritage of Chinese scholarship during this period. The representative works include History of Chinese Scholarship 中国学术史 edited by Li Xueqin, An Outline of Modern Scholarship in China 中国现代学术要略 by Liu Mengxi, A History of Scholarship in Modern China 中国近代学术史 by Ma Tianxiang, The Establishment of Modern Chinese Scholarshipwith a Focus on Zhang Taiyan and Hu Shih 中国现代学术之建立——以章太炎、 胡适之为中心 by Chen Pingyuan, Talks on the History of Scholarship in China 中国学术史讲话 by Yang Dongchun, The Power TransitionThought, Society and Academics in Modern China 权势转移——近代中国的思想、社会与学术 by Luo Zhitian, Scholars and Academic Studies in the Late Qing Dynasty and the Period of the Republic of China 晚清民国的学人与学术 by Sang Bing, From Imitation to Creation and from Destruction to Construction: A Study of Modern Chinese Academic Schools 先因后创与不破不立近代中国学术流派研究 edited by Song Bing and Guan Xiaohong, The Emergence of Modern China’s Academic InstitutionsA Study with a Focus on the Discipline of Guoxue at Peking University 中国现代学术研究机构的兴起——以北京大学研究所国学门为中心的探讨 by Chen Yiai and Academics and InstitutionDisciplinary System and the Establishment of Modern China’s Historical Studies 学术与制度——学科体制与近代中国史学的建立 by Liu Longxi.

Thirdly, macro studies of the formation and development of the history of scholarship in modern China and collection of literature of the research findings. Representative works include Chinese Social Sciences in the 20th Century 二十世纪的中国社会科学 edited by Shanghai Federation of Social Sciences, Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences in Modernization Process 现代化进程中的中国人文社会科学 edited by Wang Side and Tong Shijun, A Collection of Chinese Modern Academic Classics 中国现代学术经典丛书 edited by Liu Mengxi. However, the evolution of the Chinese modern academic thought takes place mainly on two levels: one, an evolution of the intellectual level; two, the development on the institutional level. When we talk about academic level, it is manifested not only on the academic thought, but also on the academic institution upon which academic thought relies for origination and development. Most works mentioned earlier are concerned about the intellectual level. They focus on the evolution of Chinese academic thought, doing detailed case studies of the thought of eminent scholars. However, they have not paid due attention to the academic institution upon which academic thought relies for origination, development and evolution. For examples, they fail to pay attention to the questions such as group characteristics of the academic research, the purpose of scholarship, research institution, academic journals, teaching and innovation. This is a lacuna in the study of Chinese modern academic thought.

As the center of research for Chinese modern academic thought, Lianda assembled the most famous humanities scholars in China at the time. In the time of great difficulty due to the Anti-Japanese War, they took on the historical mission for the country and nation to engage in academic research. With endless devotion and painful effort, they produced a number of impactful and influential academic works. Therefore, the academic research at Lianda played a very important role in the history of Chinese modern academic thought. It inherited the scholarship from the past and passed on its own scholarship to later generations. It shaped the development of Chinese academic thought in the 20th century and laid great foundation for modern humanities research in China. Its impact is still felt today.

Similarly, the literature on the study of Lianda could also be divided into three types: The first type is historical sources. The main examples are Eight Years at Lianda 联大八年, Historical Records on National Southwest Associated University 国立西南联合大学史料, The History of National Southwest Associated University—Peking University, Tsinghua University and Nankai University from 1937 to 1946 国立西南联合大学校史——一九三七至一九四六年的北大、清华、南开, A Pictorial History of Lianda 国立西南联合大学图史. In addition, there are numerous memoirs on Lianda. For example, we have: “Days in Spring City 笳吹弦诵在春城”, “National Southwest Associated University 50th Anniversary Anthology 笳吹弦诵情弥切”, and Jiang Menglin’s Tides from the West and the Renaissance, Feng Youlan’s “Author’s Own Preface from the Hall of Three Pines 三松堂自序”, Qian Mu’s “Remembering My Parents at the Age of 80: Miscellaneous Recollection of My Teachers and Friends” 八十忆双亲·师友杂忆, Pu Xuefeng’s “A Dust Is Traveling in the Great Void—Essays on Eight Years’ Life During the Anti-Japanese War 太虚空里一尘游——抗战八年生涯随笔”, Chen Da’s Wandering for Ten Years 浪迹十年, Feng Zhi’s Standing in the Setting Sun 立斜阳集, He Bingdi’s Reflections on History and the World Over Sixty Years 读史阅世六十年, He Zhaowu’s My Schooling 上学记, Zhao Ruihong’s Play Music on Exile and Remember Old Places 离乱弦歌忆旧游, Ruo Rongqu’s Years at Peking University 北大岁月, Xu Yuanchong’s Remembering the Years of the Past 追忆逝水年华, Zhang Shiying’s Returning HomeMy Life as a Philosopher 归途——我的哲学生涯, Li Funing’s My Life Journey to Studying English and Working as an English Professional 学习英语与从事英语工作的人生历程, and Ma Shitu’s The life of Wind and Rain 风雨人生.

The second type concerns the works written by the faculty and students at Lianda on culture, education and academics. For example, we have: A Selection of Mei Yiqi’s Essays on Education 梅贻琦教育论著选, A Selection of Jiang Menglin’s Essays on Education 蒋梦麟教育论著选, Feng Youlan’s The Complete Works of the Master of the Three Pine House 三松堂全集, Wu Mi’s Diaries 吴宓日记, Complete Works of Wen Yiduo 闻一多全集 and Chen Yinke’s Collected Essays from the Hall of Jinming 金明馆丛稿.

The third type is the works of research on Lianda. They include: Xie Yong’s Lianda and China’s Modern Intellectuals (Collected Essays) 西南联大与中国现代知识分子, which discusses construction of Lianda’s academic tradition and the formation of modern academic community; Yang Lide’s The History of Education at Xinan Lianda 西南联大教育史, which discusses administrative system and organizations, mission statement and teaching at Lianda; Zhao Xinlin and Zhang Guolong’s Lianda: Baptism in the Fire of War 西南联大战火中的洗礼, which describes eminent people produced by Lianda and their outstanding academic achievements; Yao Dan’s Literary Activities in the Historical Context of Lianda 西南联大历史情景中的文学活动, which narrates the literary activities at Lianda in a comprehensive and lively way; Wang Xiwang’s Interaction between Academics and Education: View of Lianda within the Time and Space of History 学术与教育互动西南联大历史时空中的观照, which explores the deep influence of Lianda’s academics on education. This book also analyzes how the interaction of academics and education influences Chinese academics and education in the 20th century. Feng Haiqing’s Lianda’s Cultural Choice and Cultural Spirit 西南联大的文化选择与文化精神 illustrates how Lianda took on Chinese culture as the mainstay and assimilated what was the best in the Chinese past and in the Western culture and scored a great success in its practice and exploration on rebuilding modern Chinese culture.

My work, Literary Creation During the Period of Lianda And External Influence 西南联大时期的文学创作及其外来影响, analyzes and explores the creative works of the group of the writers and poets at Lianda and the influences on them from the foreign lands. Wen Liminng’s The War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and Chinese IntellectualsThe Role of National Southwest Associated University 抗日战争与中国知识分子——西南联合大学的抗战轨迹, talks about the catastrophe experienced by the three universities in the fire of the war, the establishment of the wartime university, opposing the attempt to compromise and capitulation, and using various tactics to join the war effort and make sacrifices. the US scholar John Israel’s Lianda: A Chinese University in War and Revolution conducted research and exploration on the formation of Lianda, its teaching and research as well as the spirit of Lianda. Xie Hui’s Lianda and the Constitutional Movement in the Time of the Anti-Japanese War 西南联大与抗战时期的宪政运动, conducted a comprehensive and deep exploration on the Lianda’s role in the constitutional movement. However, the above researches largely confine themselves to the discussion, recollection and research on Lianda. They have not gone beyond the view of Lianda to conduct specialized, deep and systematic study of the academic development in humanities using new methods and new angles.

Currently, a systematic sorting out, summarizing and interpretation of academic thought in humanities will have great realistic and historical significance on the promotion of the research on humanities and social sciences and development of higher education in China in the new century. Firstly, the research on the history of scholarship in humanities at Lianda is conducive to deepening the study of the history of scholarship in modern China. Secondly, the research on the history of scholarship in the humanities at Lianda is conducive to the deepened study of China’s modern thought and culture. As Chinese intellectuals, the scholars at Lianda in the time of national crisis not only made a call of action, which boosted national spirit and morale, but also left precious spiritual and cultural legacy for posterity. Thirdly, the research on the history of scholarship in the humanities is conducive to a deepened understanding of the role of intellectual in the time of social transformation. As a group of persons in society most concerned with the fate of the nation, the scholars conducted academic research at Lianda and had a strong consciousness of their role and displayed unique character. Through the research on them, we will be helped in our understanding of the important role that the intellectual as a group played in the war-time China.

II. The Contents and Scope of the Historical Study of Scholarship in the Humanities at Lianda

During the Anti-Japanese War, Lianda, as one of the highest institutions of learning in China, not only served as the center of China’s academic thought and culture, but also became the important base for the development of the academic study of China’ s modern humanities. Here academic luminaries were gathered such as Wen Yiduo, Zhu Ziqing, Chen Yinke, Feng Youlan, Tang Yongtong, Jin Yuelin, Lei Haizong, Luo Changpei (Lo Ch’ang-p’ei), Wang Li, Xiang Da, Feng Zhi, Zhang Yinlin, You Guoen, Fei Xiaotong and Tao Yunkui, etc. For a time, Kunming became the mecca for humanities scholars. Though these scholars at Lianda did not necessarily share thoughts, doctrines or academic style, they could be marked out by some indicators as a special group of humanities scholars.


X, 348
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (October)
Respresentative Scholars Research Institutions at Lianda Research Achievements and Contributions at Lianda
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2023. X, 348 pp., 14 tables.

Biographical notes

Yang Shaojun (Author)

Yang Shaojun, Doctor of Literature, is a doctoral supervisor at the School of Chinese Language and Literature of Yunnan University. He has been recognized as the "Famous Cultural Artist" (2019) of the Yunnan Ten Thousand Talents Program and the academic and technical leader of young and middle-aged people in Yunnan Province (2015). He is currently the director of the Social and Humanities Science Research Affairs Office of Yunnan University, and he chairs two general projects of the National Social Science Foundation and thirteen major bidding projects of philosophy and social sciences in Yunnan Province. He has published five books, including Remembrance and Imagination: The Literary Writing on Southwest Associated University. He has published more than 120 papers in Guangming Daily, Academic Research and other journals, and his papers have been reprinted in full texts by Xinhua Digest and other media. He has won the first, second and third prizes of "Outstanding Works of Yunnan Philosophical and Social Science."


Title: Wartime Thoughts and Academic Figures