Ecns wire

(W.E. Talk) How Did the Kuliang International Community Form a Century Ago?

2024-07-07 Editor : Liu Yimeng ECNS App Download

An Interview with Dr. & AP. Lin Yinan, Dean of Landscape Architecture Department of East China University of Science and Technology

By Long Min from CNS

On June 24, 2024, the "Bond with Kuliang: 2024 China-U.S. Youth Festival" opened in Fuzhou, Fujian. A group of friends of Kuliang, including descendants of Americans who once lived in Kuliang and experts studying Kuliang culture, gathered in Fuzhou to revisit the historical memories of a century ago and to trace the stories of friendship between China and the United States.

Lin Yinan, the dean of the Landscape Architecture Department, East China University of Science and Technology, was interviewed by China News Service to explain how the Kuliang international community was formed and what memories of Sino-foreign friendly exchanges it left behind.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

CNS: How Kuliang became an international community?

Lin Yinan: In ancient times, Kuliang (Drum Ridge) was called "Guling" (Ancient Ridge). People with different surnames like Guo and Liang lived there. In the summer of 1885, a congregational missionary named S. F. Woodin passed through Kuliang on his way to Lienkong (Lianjiang). He noticed that it was cool in Kuliang, so he rented some rooms from the villagers to stay during the hot season. This was the start of Kuliang becoming a popular place for people to escape the heat.

Kuliang provided foreigners with a much-needed escape from the sweltering heat and humidity of Fuzhou during summer. Being accustomed to milder temperatures, they struggled with the extreme weather conditions, which also posed risks to mothers and newborns. They initially tried Sharp Peak (ChuanShi Island) near the mouth of Min River, but found it too remote and inconvenient. In contrast, Kuliang offered cooler temperatures, was located close to the city, and had easy access to supplies and transportation. It quickly gained popularity as a sought-after summer retreat along the southeast coast.

Kuliang was not just a summer retreat; it was also a hub for work and socializing. Many important decisions for the six missions in Fujian were made here, including the founding of the Foochow Christian Union Hospital. It was also where many single missionaries met their partners, like Dr. Edward Bliss and Rev. H. R. Caldwell. The Kuliang Sanatorium even welcomed the birth of many children to the residents who came to consider Kuliang and Fuzhou as their home. These stories have come to be known as the heartwarming "Kuliang Story".

CNS: What are the precious memories of friendly exchanges between China and foreign countries left by the Kuliang International Community?

Lin Yinan: During the past hundred years, the Kuliang International Community has left behind many precious memories of friendly exchanges between Chinese and foreigners. Among the residents were doctors and nurses like Dr. Edward Bliss, Dr. H. N. Brewster, and Dr. Mary E. Carleton, who dedicated their lives to saving countless individuals and advancing modern medicine in Fujian;

Meanwhile, educators such as A. W. Billing, H. R. Caldwell, J. B. Eyestone, Lydia A. Trimble, and Donald E. MacInnis, in collaboration with their Chinese peers, established or worked for famous institutions like the Union High School, Tienlu School of Minqing, and the Hwa Nan College. These institutions have played a pivotal role in enhancing modern education in Fujian.

Despite the challenges posed by the Japanese invasion, Donald E. MacInnis courageously ventured to Yongkau (Yangkou), a small town of Nanping, to teach at the Anglo Chinese College. The school has been moved from Fuzhou because of the war. He also demonstrated his commitment to the Chinese people by joining the Flying Tigers and actively participating in the war of resistance. In his later years, he returned to Fujian to continue his teaching career in Wuyi College, ultimately choosing to have his ashes scattered in the Min River upon his passing. Remarkably, even though Donald E. MacInnis' family only spent a summer in Kuliang, their family's bond with China transcended time, spanning over a century.

When descendants return to China to uncover their ancestors' stories, "Kuliang" frequently comes up as a special place. Its serene, cool and peaceful atmosphere leaves a lasting impression.

The famous "Kuliang Story" began with Mrs. Gardner's search for Kuliang. With the help of Xi Jinping, then Secretary of the Fuzhou Municipal Committee, Mrs. Gardner eventually found Kuliang, fulfilling her husband's wish to return to his childhood home.

In 2015, Peter and Elyn MacInnis traveled to Kuliang to locate "Skye", a cottage named after their family's Scottish roots that Donald MacInnis had bought. Elyn fell in love with Kuliang and teamed up with me to help other family members uncover their own "Kuliang stories". We sorted out who owned which cottages and helped descendants like Gail Harris, Dean Billing, and Len Billing rediscover their memories.

Finding the MacInnis family's cottage was a seven-year journey. Only last summer, with the help of Guo Qing, a local Kuliang villager, did we locate cottage No. 184. Working together, Elyn and I formed a strong bond and became both partners and friends, carrying on the legacy of the "Kuliang Story".

CNS: What historical memories are still preserved by the Guling International Community today?

Lin Yinan: Kuliang has retained much of its historical charm, with over half of its original roads still intact. Important public buildings and amenities like the Kuliang Club, Tennis Courts, Swimming Pool, and Kuliang Sanatorium (Yixia Villa) have been well-preserved. As for residential cottages, several notable ones have been adaptively reused, including A. W. Billing's, H. V. Lacy's (also known as "The Castle"), R. Scott's (now the Gardner Exhibition Hall), E. P. Hayes' (Mountain Life Museum), F. F. G. Donaldson's, and John Hind's.

Kuliang's old buildings are being carefully fixed up, one step at a time, without tearing them down and rebuilding. I led a group of students from the "FZCUO Cultural Heritage Renewal LAB" at East China University of Science and Technology. We helped collect and display history about places like the Gardner Memorial Hall, the Kuliang Club, the Post, and E. P. Hayes' cottage. We also wrote explanation boards for the historic buildings in Kuliang. The Kuliang Club, which was once the heart of the community, is now a museum that tells the story of "Kuliang Stories". E. P. Hayes' cottage has been transformed into a museum showcasing all the items foreigners used when they lived there during the summer.

On June 22nd, two new exhibition halls opened: the Kuliang Family Story Museum and the Kuliang Historical Building Museum. The Family Story museum uses the concept of storytelling to showcase the stories of eight foreign families in Kuliang. Many of the exhibits were donated by descendants of the families and are presented through interactive displays, projections, and immersive experiences.

The Historical Building Museum, which was once a mill, tells the story of Kuliang's "discovery" and the entire process of renting land, signing contracts, and building houses. It features a large collection of historical photographs, land deeds, and artifacts. Additionally, students from the East China University of Science and Technology created 3D printed models of five historical buildings.

In the future, it's important to continue protecting Kuliang's tangible heritage while enhancing its overall appearance and environmental quality. At the same time, efforts should be made to uncover more historical stories and turn them into engaging experiences. By creatively designing these programs, the historical fragments can be transformed into content that young people will enjoy, keeping the "Kuliang story" alive and vibrant.

CNS: What enlightenment does the "Kuliang story" bring to us?

Lin Yinan: In the Kuliang Family Stories Museum, I put a photo album cover from Dr. Edward L. Bliss's family. It's beautifully crafted with Fuzhou lacquer techniques, and it carries a special message. It says, "Confucius said, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself,' and Jesus said, ‘Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.'" These wise words come from two important books: the Analects of Confucius and the Bible. Both Confucianism and Christianity teach us to be kind and fair to others.

So, in the "Kuliang Story", the key themes are equality and mutual respect. Even though we may differ in our lifestyles, languages, and beliefs, if we understand and respect each other, those differences won't divide us. In fact, only by doing so can we forge lasting friendships that transcend time and are passed down from one generation to the next.

CNS: How does the "Kuliang story" help people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States?

Lin Yinan: When helping the foreigners trace their roots, we noticed they cared not just about where their ancestors lived but also about connecting with friends or descendants. That's why in 2022, we created the "Kuliang Genealogy" platform. It helps recognize faces in old photos. We first showed it at the "Bond with Kuliang" China-US People-to-people Friendship Symposium in 2023.

Since we launched the "Kuliang Genealogy" project, we've found many "friends" in the overseas family photos and connected them. For instance, we linked people from the Gardner family to the A. W. Billing family. We also found a young Donald E. MacInnis in a photo of Bertha Allen, who was the principle of Uk-ing girls' school. When we told Mr. and Mrs. MacInnis, they were excited because they'd never seen a clear picture of Donald teaching in Yongkau (Yangkou). The platform even helped me find my own family's story. Two months ago, the system recognized my grandmother from a set of photos at Yale University. She was moving internally to Nanping with the Hwa Nan College and finished her studies there. My mother and her siblings, too, had never seen this photo.

This platform even helped me discover my own family history. Two months ago, it matched my grandmother's face to a Yale University photo. She moved to Nanping with the South China Women's College of Arts and Sciences. My mom and her siblings had never seen this photo before.

In just one year, the "Kuliang Genealogy" data grew nine times. Now, the database has over 15,000 faces, covering almost 8,700 people. By linking to open sources like the U.S. National Archives, we've added images of American missionaries and businessmen who came to Fuzhou before 1949.

The "Kuliang Story" is about both China and the United States. We'll keep helping descendants of foreigners find their ancestors' traces, so "Kuliang" can once again bridge China, the U.S., and the world.

Dr. Lin Yinan serves as the dean of the landscape architecture department at the Art and Media Design College of East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai. He holds the titles of associate professor, master's degree supervisor, and national registered planner. Dr. Lin earned his doctoral degree in landscape architecture from Tongji University and has also been a visiting scholar at the Melbourne University in Australia. His expertise lies in the fields of cultural heritage conservation, tourism planning, and landscape design.


Most popular in 24h

MoreTop news


Back to top About Us | Jobs | Contact Us | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©1999-2024 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
[网上传播视听节目许可证(0106168)] [京ICP证040655号]
[京公网安备 11010202009201号] [京ICP备05004340号-1]