China in Transition
    Pictures of life in China during the transition from the last dynasty to the modern world.
Stan Neumann's Home Page
In 1908, George Bradford Neumann travelled to Chengdu, China to help with the establishment of West China Union University (WCUU). They started during the final years of the Qing dynasty, the last of the Chinese Dynasties. When the revolution broke out in 1911, the westerners were evacuated to the Jiansu province on the coast, where George helped to organize relief for the famine underway in that region. With the advent of the Republic of China, and some small degree of stability, they returned to Chengdu in 1912, and stayed until 1924 (except for a year sabbatical in the US from 1915-1916). One of the valuable things that George brought back was a collection of hand-colored glass slide photographs capturing a cross section of life in China during a particularly momentous period - the transition from the classical world of the dynasties to the modern world.

Pictures of Daily Life      Portaits and Group Pictures     Images of the Campus     Images of the Region     Family-oriented pictures     

West China Union University
West China Union University (WCUU; Huaxi Daxue; ????) was founded in 1911 by Wesleyan alumnus Joseph Beech as the central institution of an organization of Christian schools in western China that went from grade school through college. The university's campus lay south of Chengdu's city walls and played an important role in Chengdu's intellectual life right up to the present day. "That which is of tremendous encouragement is that many of her young men realize all that I have said and are themselves doing their utmost to clean up instead of whitewash her beautiful marble but as nearly as I can see it is the Christians who are doing it." GN, 2/19/20

Early Republicanism in Chengdu: Chengdu was closely involved in the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, but hopes for a better society dissolved in the political chaos that followed with warlordism and depredations of their soldiers. ".a discussion of China's parasite [the soldiers] but they are such an awful pest and to my mind they and the men who govern them and are connected with them together form the biggest hindrance to China's progress." GN, 3/8/20
Students were some of the most active in favor of modernization, and those at WCUU were no exception. "The students have of late been realizing anew that instead of a republic they had a militaristic government, and have been considering anew means of doing away with the present government and getting a really representative one." GN, 12/1/10

Click on the thumbnail images for a full-size image.

An entrance to the school campus This photo records a meeting of some of the schools at WCUU. The group in the foreground's banner reads Association Middle School. You can see how large the campus was in this picture. At that time it was outside the city walls, but today that site lies just outside the downtown center of Chengdu.
New Construction The same building as in the picture above - a bit later (the bushes are taller)
Possibly a later picture of the building under construction above. Hall at WCUU in Sino-Western Style
Much of WCUU's campus was designed by British architects to include Chinese design elements. Joseph Beech was a charming but unassuming man who was able to raise capital for university projects and then organize their completion despite complicated local problems.
More of the campus More of the campus
Troops Drilling on Campus
West China Union University supported the reformist movements of the Republicans under Sun Yatsen, and these leaders recognized the need for a strong, modern, politically aware military.
This and the picture below go together and depict a religious gathering with an old foot-pump organ, students and distinguished guests including the four gentlemen in robes and the uniformed cadets on the hillside.
A Chapel The religious gathering (notice the pump organ).
The same chapel, before the service Entering one of the school buildings
Western children presenting a very western story!

Much of the commentary is courtesy Patrick Dowdey, of the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University and was prepared for an exhibition of these pictures at the Center in 2010.

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