Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China  

Fu Ssu-Nien (1896-1950)
Fu Ssu-Nien and the Origin of the Chinese

Fu Ssu-Nien was born on March 26, 1896 in Liaocheng, Shandong province. His father was dead when Fu was a child. Fu was brought up by his mother and grandfather. When Fu studied in Peking University, he was one of the student leaders in the May Fourth Movement. In 1920, Fu went to Europe for study. After studying for three and half years in University of London, Fu transferred to Humboldt University of Berlin. In most of his studying in six and half years, Fu read up many subjects of natural science, including experimental psychology. He studied comparative linguistics and oriental languages in his late Berlin years.

On October 1926, Fu was retained as a professor, department chairs of Chinese literature and history, and dean of the college of Liberal Arts by Sun Yat-sen University. He also set up the Institute of Philology and History in Sun Yat-sen University and was its first director.

When Academia Sinica was established in 1928, Fu was one of the researchers of the Institute of Psychology. Next year he persuaded Tsai Yuan-Pei, the president of Academia Sinica, to establish the Institute of History and Philology. Hu Shi had jokingly said that Fu had two places to hide. Although the two institutes are established by the same person, had similar names and directions, their spirits are definitely different. Broadly speaking, one is Chinese, the other is foreign. They can be called the twins.

It just took half a year to arrange the establishment of the Institute of History and Philology. In the very beginning, there were only three sections; they were history, philology, and archaeology. The first three leaders of these sections were Chen Yin-Ke, Zhao Yuan-Ren, and Li Ji. The first important event after Fu directed the IHP was arranging the archaeological excavation of the Ruins of Yin in Anyang. At that time, there were still many unfavorable factors in this excavation. First, an archaeological excavation could be seen as an unrighteous thing by ordinary people because disentombing was not accepted in China; Second, local gentry would think the purpose of this excavation was a treasure hunt; Third, The Government of Henan Province did not allow outsiders to meddle with its own business. They blame the archaeological group of the IHP that local newspapers rifted with the news about their job, even some people distributed handbills about their job everywhere; Fourth, some antiquaries tended to take advantage of the researchers of the IHP in order to make some money. All the unfavorable factors made this excavation hard to conduct. Even though Fu received much censure and pressure, he still tried hard to explain their job to protesters. To abandon old epigraphic approach, Fu organized a top scientific workgroup in a short time to conduct the excavation of the Ruins of Yin in Anyang. It is a landmark in archaeology. It needs extraordinary daring combined with superior judgment, outstanding leadership, and insightful ideas to accomplish this great achievement. “If archaeological excavations are only to find some evidence of written language,” Fu had said, “What you lose will be much more than what you find.” He had also said that not only should researchers of ancient studies be concerned with evidence of written language, but they should be also concerned with objects without inscriptions. Although Fu was an outsider of history circle at first, he became a famous historian at last. Fu had ever called Gu Jie-Gang “king of history.” However, he utilized archaeology, harmless to Gu, to escape Gu’s tradition. He followed Gu’s approach which is to reconsider Sinology and then utilized archaeology to construct the ancient sciences of ancient China. The attitude of emphasizing archaeological theories and evidence and getting rid of burdens of written sources shows an image of knowledge inquirer in the new era.

The grand secretariat archives of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are first hand material for Ming-Qing studies. After Li Sheng-Duo bought the archives from Luo Zhen-Yu, he would like to resell them. After some discussions, Fu, Hu Shi, and Chen Ying-Ke had decided to buy the grand secretariat archives and collated them. So, Fu asked Tsai Yuan-Pei to make the Academia Sinica buy them, transmitted them to the Institute of History and Philology, and appointed a researcher to collate them. This decision makes a breakthrough in the Ming-Qing Studies. The grand secretariat archives of the Ming and Qing Dynasties become an important complement of extant archives of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in China.

When Fu was fifty, he was appointed to be adjunct principal of Peking University. After the Kuomintang Government evacuated to Taipei, Fu was nominated as the principal of National Taiwan University. When Fu was the principal of NTU, he retained many eminent professors, built many schoolhouses, purchased a lot books for libraries, promoted researches. He established the academic ground and traditions of freedom in Taiwan. One day, Fu strolled by a laboratory of biology and saw some students observing paramecium. He told the students that he had also observed paramecium when he was in London. “Blower!” one of the students said. Fu laughed loudly and went away.

When Fu was interrogating about issues of education administration by representatives of the Taiwan Provincial Council on May 20, 1950, he died of a hemorrhage in the brain at age 55.

If you go to National Taiwan University, please do not forget to listen to the sound of the Fu’s Bell.

Source: Study of Literati, Museum of the Institute of History and Philology
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