Ma Youzhi — the First Metropolitan Graduate in Luzhi Town
In a period of ancient China, civil service officials were recruited by examinations in four phases. The first one was county-level examinations, with about 30 qualified students being titled as Cultivated Talents in each county. Cultivated Talents would then take provincial examinations, which was the second phase. About 100 people would stand out in each province and be called designated Provincial Graduates, who would enter into the third phase — metropolitan examination in the capital. 300 people around would pass the examination and became Tribute Students, who soon reassembled for a palace examination, the last phase. The palace examination ranked the students by merit into three groups (3 in the highest group were esteemed as Metropolitan Graduates with Honors; dozens of the students listed in the middle group were Regular Metropolitan Graduates; more than 100 in the lowest group were Associate Metropolitan Graduates). Those who had experienced all the four phases could be proud and elated in official circles. However, in the “grand competition” of examinations conducted every three years, only some 300 could be selected as Metropolitan Graduates, which was much more difficult than today’s civil servant examinations.
In accordance with local records like Record of Wu Prefecture , Record of Gusu, Kunshan County Annals, Record of Fuli in Wu Prefecture and Investigations of Personages in Puli of Wu Prefecture, there were 62 Metropolitan Graduates from Song dynasty to Qing dynasty in Luzhi County. Ma Youzhi was the first one as a Facilitated Candidate in the second year of Jianyan in Southern Song (1128). Native to the Liuzhili Village in Kunshan Town (today’s Luzhi Town in Wuzhong District of Suzhou), Ma received his success almost in his declining years.
Ma Youzhi has a style name called Bozhong. His ancestor Sze-ma Qiu had been Palace Aide to the Censor-in-chief in Wu Yue (907-978). Later he was transferred to Kunshan Town (appointed as an official equivalent to today’s Minister of the People's Armed Forces in Kunshan County) and moved his family there. Sze-ma Qiu’s descendants were not interested in government affairs and content with a simple but virtuous life. After a period of time, they even changed their family name “Sze-ma” into “Ma”, hence the name Ma Youzhi with style Bozhong. Sze-ma Qiu’s descendants relocated in Liuzhili and were famous for filial piety and righteousness locally.
Ma Youzhi, though all his six brothers engaged in farming, persisted in reading and studying. Due to his great performance in the county-level examination, he was enrolled by the Imperial College, the highest educational institution and educational administrative department in feudal China. In the second year of Yuanfu (1099), after being recommended to be the head of the Ministry of Rites, he partnered Li Zhi in distributing New Year pictures, couplets and other goods to people praying for a good new year. Li Zhi (1059-1109), a famous literate, was highly appreciated by Su Shi and became one of the “Su Shi’s six disciples”. Valuing the personality of Ma Youzhi, Li betrothed the daughter of his elder brother to him.
In the period of Xuanhe in North Song Dynasty (1119-1125), a flood heavily hit Lake Tai area. The low-lying Quanwu Village near Wusong River witnessed its fertile land and crops being flooded. The brothers of Ma were busy repairing their houses, erecting field ridges and taking care of their wives and children — only the aged mother was neglected. At that time, Ma went back to his hometown on the occasion of Jin’s invasion where people were suffering and the North Song Dynasty was shaking. Arriving at home, a lump came into his throat at the sight of his mother.
He never blamed his brothers as looking after the aged mother was beyond their capacity in the chaos. He quietly took, however, his mother to Kunshan County and rent a room, in which he wholeheartedly served her.
The Jingkang Incident (1126-1127) broke out later and brought the Northern Song Dynasty to its end. The provisional government of Song, historically known as the Southern Song Dynasty, was established with its capital set in Lin’an (present-day Hangzhou) and the crown succeeded by Zhao Gou. In the second year of Jianyan (1128), the imperial civil examination system was reintroduced by the new government to reinvigorate the country. Ma Youzhi, as if receiving his “good man reward”, was included in the government’s special recruitment program, which covered graduates of Prefectural Examinations who, despite at least 5-time efforts, reached 50 without having passed a Metropolitan Examination, so he was designated as Assistant Magistrate of Wukang County, Huzhou Prefecture (rank 9 lower class). (Those who had entered service through regular recruitment examinations were Regularly Presented Graduates, while those who earned the qualification as Ma Youzhi did were listed by the Ministry of Rites as Facilitated Candidates). Although the posts opened to Facilitated Candidates were only low-ranking ones, he was still lucky enough to be one of the “civil servants”, as his life was at least secured with his salary.
Before long, Ma was transferred to Nanyue Temple, Tanzhou Prefecture as its Director. His diligence later won him a promotion to Court Gentleman for Instruction along with approvals from Tang Hui the Vice Director in the Secretariat, Wang Bao the Censor and Fan Yu (Fan Chengda’s father who once served as Court Gentleman Consultant of the Left and Assistant in the Palace Library). Ma passed away at the age of 76. His status as a Presented Graduate may not be decent, but his grandson Ma Xianjue was admitted as one of the Regular Metropolitan Graduates in 1160. Ma’s family brought up two Presented Graduates in three generation, which exemplifies Fuli people’s devotion to study and positive influence a good family tradition can exert on education.
Luzhi Town has always been straddling the Jiepu River, the Kunshan (to the east)-Changzhou (to the west) border. As Luzhi (Fuli) claims as much as 80% of the ancient town area, it is known as the “great Luzhi” despite the fact that the area is shared with Nangang Village, Kunshan County. Since it took less time for students in Luzhi to go to Kunshan than to Suzhou in the past, most of them chose to attend schools in Kunshan and they reported Kunshan as their registered place accordingly when they entered the Examination. This is why Ma Youzhi, a Suzhou native, was listed among personages in the Kunshan County Annals. The site of Ma’s residence is today’s “Gangdao Garden” community in Beigang Village, Luzhi Town. The Sze-ma family in the town is a branch of Ma family as the original family name was resumed by some earlier.
Hu Shuyi (A Famous Children Educationist)
Hu Shuyi, with a given name Changcai and a style name Shuyi, is a native of Kunshan, Jiangsu province. His father Hu Yun, with a style name Jiesheng and a courtesy name Shi Yu, won a reputation in the South Society for his poems and articles. After graduation from the Education College of Southeast University, Hu Shuyi followed his father, who had taught in Suzhou Provincial No.2 Middle School (now Suzhou No.1 High School in Jiangsu province) for more than 20 years, and became a teacher in the primary school affiliated to the university. Soon after, he went to Shanghai to serve as the principal of Shanggong Primary School affiliated to the Commercial Press and the editorial director of the Press’s primary school textbooks. Since 1927, he has served successively as Director of the normal department of Suzhou High School, Principal of the primary school affiliated to No.1 Normal School of Jiangsu province, Chief of the third section and Commissioner of the Education Bureau of Shanghai, and Professor of Jinan university. Later, he worked as a newspaper editor and was once the editor of education column of News and Shanghai News (Shun Pao). In 1935, he founded a private school, Guohua High School, and acted as the chairman. After the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, he served as Principal of Provincial Kunhua Experimental Primary School and Head of the Department of Children Education of the Ministry of Education. In 1945, he went to the United States to study education and obtained a master's degree in Columbia University. After returning to China, he served as a member of the special committee of Education Bureau of Shanghai and President of Shanghai Xinlu Normal School. After 1949, he taught in Shanghai Jingye High School and Shanghai Normal University and devoted himself to education experiment.
Hu Shuyi, a student of Chen Heqin, devoted all his life to the researches on children’s education. In 1929, Hu, together with Chen Heqin and Zhang Zonglin, started Children's Education Association of China in Hangzhou, of which Chen Heqing was the chairman. The goal of the association is to make researches on children education, improve the welfare of children and enhance the professional skills of Chinese teachers. In 1937, the association had developed into the largest academic group of education at that time, with over 60 branches across China and more than 4,000 members. In 1933, Hu Shuyi, together with Pan Gongzhan and Wang Guanyi, proposed to start the Children’s Welfare Committee of Shanghai with the goal of improving children’s social status, developing the cause of children and striving for the happiness for children across Shanghai. The head of the committee was Wu Tiecheng, also the mayor of Shanghai at that time; the Standing Committee comprised Pan Gongzhan, Li Ting’an, Chen Heqing, Hu Shuyi, Wang Guanyi and Liuwang Liming. The committee also included the department of children’s protection, of children’s health, of research on children, and of the cause of children. Also, 1934 was set as the year of children by the committee.
Hu Shuyi also served as the chief editor of children’s magazines and textbooks for primary school students. He published a number of papers on education and authored New Life of Children and other books. What’s more, he travelled all the way to Japan and western countries to experience and study the education modes there, and wrote Observation of Foreign Education and Children’s Education in England, America, Germany and Japan. Hu Shuyi especially valued games designed for children, which can be seen in his book Primary School Game Teaching Method in which he wrote that “children love nothing more than playing games”.
Song Wenzhi: The Pioneer of Chinese Modern Painting Innovation
Song Wenzhi(1919-1999), pen named Song Hao, was born in Taicang, Jiangsu Province. Given the poor family conditions, he became a disciple in the Advertisement Agency of Shanghai, learning sketch in Suzhou Institute of Fine Arts Shanghai School for six months at the same time. Then he worked as an Art Teacher in Taicang Middle School, Anting Normal University, and Zhenchuan Middle School. Since the 1930s, he started to learn the techniques of landscape painting from “four Wangs” (Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Wang Hui, and Wang Yuanqi) of Qing Dynasty. Later, he learned a lot of techniques from famous painters of Tang, Song, and Yuan Dynasties. He then improved comprehensively through learning from Zhang Shiyuan and Wu Hufan, prestigious landscape painters from Shanghai, and through patient guidance from Zhu Qizhan and Lu Yanshao. He was appointed as vice painter of Painting Institute of Jiangsu Province. He then gave classes in Nanjing Institute of Art, Nanjing Normal University and Nanjing University. He was once appointed as the painter and vice dean of Painting Institute of Jiangsu Province, member of China Artists Association, vice president of Jiangsu Artists Association, standing Member of CPPCC Jiangsu Provincial Committee, and vice director-general of Jiangsu International Culture Exchange Center.
Mr. Song has devoted himself to Chinese painting for many years, especially expert in painting landscapes. His works are powerful and magnificent with profound artistic conception as well as unique style, which include Jinggangshan, Lushan Waterfall, Great Changes of Mountains and Rivers, Jiangnan Spring Tide, My Boat has Left Ten Thought Mountains Far Away, The Eternal Spring of Meiyuan , Plum flowers Spring Rain and Jiangnan, Shujiang, Mount Hua and Mount Huang and many other outstanding ones. He has held art exhibitions and lectures at National Art Museum of China, Jiangsu Art Museum, Anhui Museum, Taicang City Cultural Center, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Germany. Some of his works have either been recommended by China Artists Association to be displayed in important art exhibitions of the United States, the Soviet Union, Italy, France and so like or have been collected by National Art Museum of China, Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution, Shenyang Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Fukoka Art Museum of Japan, and galleries of domestic and foreign art colleges. He was introduced as one of the pioneers of Chinese modern painting innovation in the large album of Chinese Painting in the 1960s published in Hong Kong, and was listed in the Who's Who in the World 1987 by Oxford University Press, as well as Who's Who in the Asia-Pacific Region by Cambridge University Press.
Jin Jingfen: Contemporary Su Embroidery Educator
Jin Jingfen (Chinese: 金静芬, 1885-1970), originally named Caixian, a Hui minority, was a native of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. She began to learn the craft of embroidery at the age of nine and studied Chinses classics such as the Text of a Thousand Words, Book of China’s Family Names and Classic of Filial Piety under the guidance of her mother. In 1905, Jin cooperated with Shen Shou (1874–1921, a master of Su Embroidery) and created eight pieces of needlework depicting each of the Eight Chinese Immortals to be presented to Empress Dowager Cixi as her 70th birthday gift. Later, she created the Amitayus alone and became famous at one stroke. In 1906, she was invited by Shen Shou, director of in the Section of Embroidery Workers in the Ministry of Agriculture, Crafts, and Commerce to work there as an instructor for several years, during which time her embroidery skill was gradually perfected. Jin once served as the teacher or director in departments concerning embroidery in Suzhou Wuling Women’s College, Shanghai Chengdong Women’s College (located in the east of Shanghai), ChuangSheng Women’s College, the Institute for the Instruction of Women’s Needlework in Nantong, Suzhou Women’s Vocational College and Women’s College of Jiang Su Province. Since 1955, she was pointed as director of Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute. In 1964, she was elected deputy to the National People's Congress.
Jin trained more than 3000 students during her teaching career of more than half a century. She told her students earnestly that embroiders should be equipped with four pivotal qualities. First, embroiders should be scrupulous, with quiet personality and carefulness. There must not be even a single sloppy stitch; second, embroiders should be patient with the numerous stitches and threads needed in every single embroidery; third, embroiders should be confident. They should believe in their potential of becoming excellent embroiders and should never to give up halfway; forth, embroiders should be ambitious. They should work hard to perfect their crafts so as to surpass teachers and processors. Her plain words have deeply influenced several generations.
Jin Jingfen spent her whole life in Suzhou embroidery art and produced plenty of masterpieces in a short period of time. Her creations feature in two aspects. She inherited the realistic style of Shen Shou who she was apprenticed to. In order to complete the exquisite artwork of Golden Pheasant, Jin Jingfen often went to Wanshengyuan(current Beijing Zoo) to observe the golden pheasant. She had always kept this habit until she rounded into her eighth decade. She persevered in observing the postures and finger movements of girls of camellias when they were plucking tea leaves in the tea plantation in East Mountain of Suzhou in order to embroider her work of Tea Plucking in East Mountain. Innovation is another feature of Jin Jingfen’s creations. She emphasized the research and innovation of the traditional embroidery techniques. Jin Jingfen was expert in presenting different figures by diverse needle methods and enriched the expression techniques of Suzhou embroidery. She embroidered 40 samples covering flowers, trees, insects, fishes, thatched cottages and other elements and added her notes and descriptions to present the traditional needle methods. These samples are treasures of the traditional Suzhou embroidery.
Jin Jingfen was good at absorbing the essence of folk art. Hence her works breathed an atmosphere of folk life and were highly decorative. Jin Jingfen’s masterpieces include Golden Pheasant, Tea Plucking in East Mountain, Ink Green Pines, Sporting Cats, Amitayus, The Four Great Beauties, Portrait of Avalokitesvara, Old Lady Qi, Portrait of Qu Yuan, Portrait of Lu Xun, and Twelve Beauties of Jinling from A Dream of Red Mansions. Ink Green Pines won the Excellence Award in the Southern Seas Industries Association in the second year of Emperor Xuantong(1910). Old Lady Qi was granted with the Bronze Medal in Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915.
Guo Shaoyu (A Renowned Literary Theorist)
Guo Shaoyu (Chinese:郭绍虞，1893-1984), originally named Xifen and also called Zhaoyu,, with a style name Shaoyu, was a native of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. In his early years, he studied civil engineering at Suzhou University of Technology (today’s Suzhou Vocational Institute of Industrial Technology). Due to the lack of tuition fees, he had to leave the university and found a job as a journalist writing for Su Journal/News Press, which founded in 1896 in Shanghai and be forced out in 1903. In 1914, he served as a teacher in many schools in Shanghai, among which Shang’gong Experimental Primary School was founded by The Commercial Press. During his teaching period there, he completed and published The History of Sport in China, which was the first book about the history of sports of ancient China. In 1921, Guo, together with Maodun, Zheng Zhenduo, Ye Shengtao and other scholars, established The Literature Research Union. Three years later, he taught in Zhongzhou University in Kaifeng (today’s Henan University) and Zhongshan University in Wuchang (today’s Wuhan University). In 1927, he turned to Yanjing University (today’s Peking University) serving as Professor, Head and one of supervisors for postgraduate students of Department of the Chinese Language. Following the family’s relocation to Shanghai in 1943, he taught and worked as Professor and Head of Department of the Chinese Language in Daxia University, St-John’s University, Guanghua University and Fudan University. (Among them, Daxia University merged with Guanghua University into one university in 1951, that is today’s East China Normal University while St. John's University was closed in 1952 and most of its faculty members, students and library collections were also transferred to the East China Normal University) After the founding of the People's Republic of China, he was Dean of School of Humanities and Law of Tongji University and Professor and Head of School of Chinese Language of Fudan University. Afterwards, he was appointed as one of deputies of Shanghai People's Congress, Vice-Chairman of Shanghai Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Vice-Chairman of Shanghai Author Association, one of counsellors of the planning section of ancient books of the State Council and Chairman of the society of Theoretical Criticism in Ancient Chinese Literature.
Guo Shaoyu dedicated his life to the instruction and research of Chinese Literature and Language. He once taught at several colleges and universities and students who learned from him have proved to be talents. The book A History of Chinese Literary Criticism he authored served as a distinguished textbook for Chinese college students. Guo Shaoyu used to admonish the scholars of younger generation: To engage in scholarship is like to lay the foundations of a tower. If the foundation is weak, work on building the tower will never be complete. Likewise, if the young scholars seek for instant success without a strengthened foundation of knowledge, these scholars will end up eating their bitter fruit. Guo Shaoyu did many researches in the field of Chinese grammar rhetoric as well. He held the opinion that scholars who conduct research of Chinese grammar should break the conventions and combine the Chinese characteristics with the practical application of Chinese language. His opinion can be summarized as ‘Making the past serve the present and adapting foreign academic views for China use.’ Guo Shaoyu stressed that the research of Chinese grammar must be combined with rhetoric and logic for practical significance. With no outstanding backgrounds, Guo Shaoyu was a self-taught student. He has been learning the sea for 70 spring and autumn. Through his 70 years’ academic career, Guo Shaoyu was well-known for his academic achievements and the epitome of a hardworking scholar for the following scholars.
Guo Shaoyu authored many books during his lifetime including A History of Chinese Literary Criticism, A History of Chinese Classic Literary Theory, Chinese Language in General, A Collection of Song Poetry, A New Approach to Chinese Grammar and Rhetoric, A Compilation of Classic Literary Articles of Zhao Yu, Collected Works of Guo Shaoyu and so on. He also edited Chinese Selected Works Through the Ages.