Education: Young Sage

When a storm swamped a rowboat on Cayuga Lake in 1916, a young Cornell man named Hu Shih got a ducking. To memorialize the immersion, a soaking compatriot composed a poem in literary Chinese. Its mannered, delicate style seemed so ill-suited to the topic that young Hu dashed off some lustier lines of his own. They were written in Pai Hua (the living speech) instead of Wen Li (the literary language), and they were good. Until Hu did it, no one believed that serious literature could be made from, Pai Hua, as Dante had from Italian.

Returning to China, a Peking University...

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