|Intro||Chinese educator, Esperantist and the president of Peking University|
|Was||Politician Esperantist Professor Philosopher|
|Type||Academia Literature Philosophy Politics|
|Birth||11 January 1868, Shaoxing|
|Death||5 March 1940, Hong Kong (aged 72 years)|
Cai Yuanpei (Chinese: 蔡元培; January 11, 1868 – March 5, 1940) was a Chinese educator, Esperantist, president of Peking University, and founder of the Academia Sinica. He was known for his critical evaluation of Chinese culture and synthesis of Chinese and Western thinking, including anarchism. At Peking University he assembled influential figures in the New Culture and May Fourth Movements.
Born in Shānyīn County, Shaoxing prefecture, Zhejiang, Cai was appointed to the Hanlin Imperial Academy at 26. In 1898, he became involved in administering institutes and became:
- Superintendent of Shaoxing Chinese-Western School (紹興中西學堂監督)
- Head of Sheng District Shanshan College (嵊縣剡山書院院長)
- Director-Teacher of the Special Class (特班總教習) of Nanyang Public School (predecessor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University)
He established Guangfuhui in 1904 and joined Tongmenghui in Paris the next year, and became a member of the Chinese anarchist group led by Wu Zhihui, and Li Shizeng. After studying philosophy, psychology, and art history in the Universität Leipzig of Germany in 1907 under Karl Lamprecht and Wilhelm Wundt, he served as the provisional Republic's Minister of Education in January 1912, but later resigned during Yuan Shikai's presidency. Subsequently, he returned to Germany, and then went to France.
Cai returned to China in 1916 and served as the President of Peking University the following year. There he resumed his support, begun in his Paris years with Li Shizeng, for the Diligent Work-Frugal Study Movement, which sent worker-students to France. It was during his tenure at Peking University that he recruited such famous thinkers (and future Chinese Communist Party leaders) to the school as Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao, as well as quite different thinkers as Hu Shih, a close friend, Liang Shuming and the painter Xu Beihong.
In 1919, after the student leaders of the May Fourth demonstrators were jailed, Cai resigned in protest (returning to office in September). Meanwhile, he and Xu Beihong wrote regularly for the Daily University of Peking University that dealt with wider issues then just campus politics. Xu addressed issues of Art and Art History and in 1920 a university art journal called Painting Miscellany was published. After resigning again in 1922, he spent a period of withdrawal in France. Returning in 1926, he supported his fellow-provincial Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang Party's efforts to unite the country. Along with Wu Zhihui, Li Shizeng, and Zhang Renjie, he was known as one of the "Four Elders" of the Party, and a staunch anti-communist. He was appointed president of the Control Yuan, but soon resigned.
Cai was frustrated in his efforts to remodel the national system of education to resemble the French system, but in 1927, he co-founded the National College of Music, which later became the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and in April 1928, he helped to found and became the first president of the Academia Sinica. He and a wide circle of colleagues founded the China League for Civil Rights which criticized the national government and Chiang Kai-shek for abuse of power. The situation worsened, however; the League could not attain the release from jail of Chen Duxiu, Cai's former dean at Peking University, for instance. In June 1933, the Academia Sinica's academic administrator and co-founder of the League, Yang Quan, was shot and killed in the street in front of the League's Shanghai offices. After a period of shock and reflection, Cai retired from public view in a statement denouncing the political repression of the Nanjing government.
After the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, partly because of declining health, instead of accompanying the national government to Sichuan, Cai moved to Hong Kong. He lived there in seclusion until his death in March 1940 at the age of 72.
Cai advocated the equal importance of five ways of life — "Virtue, Wisdom, Health, Collective, and Beauty" (德、智、體、群、美) — core values that are still taught in schools today in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. He was also a proponent of women's right to divorce and remarry, and strongly opposed foot binding and concubinage that were widely practiced in China at the time.