HUSTers Talk

The revolutionary road of Zhu Jiusi, Father of Huazhong Institute of Technology

Nov 26, 2021

With a working experience in Huazhong Institute of Technology (HIT) for 31 years, Zhu Jiusi (1916-2015), former President and Chair of the Party Committee of HIT, is a well-reputed educator in China. With his “ambition for revolution”, “insight on journalism and “passion for education”, Zhu has made a fundamental contribution to transforming the once small-scale engineering college into today’s high-level comprehensive Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST). Thats why he is deemed asthe Father of HIT. His school-running ideal can be summarized as The foundation of a university lies in its faculty, the road of development for a university lies in its comprehensiveness, the root of a university is in its scientific research, and the soul of a university echoes in its academic freedom. This ideal has profoundly influenced his successors until today, making HUST “the epitome of Chinas development in higher education since the founding of the PRC”.

In 1916, Zhu Jiusi was born in a merchant’s family who ran a cloth shop. In 1929, he was admitted to Yangzhou High School, a renowned provincial high school with a team of outstanding teachers and advanced teaching equipment. After the September 18 Incident in 1931, the whole Chinese nation was in grave danger. It is in those troubled times that Zhu Jiusi spent his teenage years. At that time, he was very fond of literature and read many modern literary works, from which he gradually absorbed some progressive revolutionary ideas. In addition, he also found his interest in foreign languages. He started to learn English from primary school, which laid a solid foundation for his later learning. In high school, Zhu also learned Japanese and Esperanto. In May 1935, just before graduating from high school, he was detained by a County Division of Kuomintang for participating in an activity organized by the Suzhou Esperanto Association, which was charged to be related to the Communist Party of China. In fact, he hadnt joined the Party at that time. Although he was released only three days later, the young man was emotionally disturbed by the detention, which further increased his antipathy towards Kuomintang.

After graduating from high school in 1935, Zhu’s elder brother persuaded his family to fund Zhus college education, and for this, Zhu held his infinite gratitude to him. Nanjing, the capital city at that time, was not far from Yangzhou, and it took only six hours from Nanjing to Yangzhou by boat along the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal. Therefore, Zhus father suggested he study at National Central University in Nanjing. However, Zhu had a mind of his own and chose Wuhan University and applied for a study program with a major in philosophy education and a minor in English.

As the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression was approaching, the whole nation entered a critical moment for its survival. Zhu’s worries for his homeland began in 1931, when the Japanese began its invasion of China in the September 18 Incident. He had read a great number of translated works of western progressive literature and socialist thoughts. In this way, he realized that China’s struggle for freedom and liberation was gradually unfolding. During his freshman year, he wrote an essay on ideological progress but it was criticized several times by Su Xuelin, a conservative and traditional Chinese teacher, as “a common stereotyped writing”, or a proletarian “stereotyped writing”. However, he was introduced by a classmate to a progressive student group, Wuhan University Revolutionary Salvation League, the members of which would meet in secret to discuss state affairs and consider how to save the country from risks. This organization also was closely related to other progressive groups in China.

In October 1937, when Zhu was a sophomore, he received the last letter from his family, along with 70 yuan. The letter said that the Japanese had attacked Shanghai and would soon attack Yangzhou. Despite the impending disaster, his elder brother still encouraged him to finish his studies and follow the instruction of the school if a transfer was needed at any time. For Zhu, receiving the letter signaled an end of his college life. He joined the Party and decided to apply for continuing his studies in Yanan Revolutionary Base Area. The Party asked Zhu to strictly keep confidential and he could not even tell his family about this. He knew that his family would never agree with it, but he felt strongly that they would somehow understand and support him. In December, the Japanese troops invaded Nanjing and stationed in Yangzhou a few days later. At this critical time, Zhu Jiusi had already left Wuhan for Yan’an.

At the end of December, 1937, Zhu arrived in Yan’an, where he studied for six months at the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese Military and Political College and later became a teacher there for 3 months. During this period, many of his close friends and colleagues sacrificed their lives in the war. In December 1938, the Party decided to establish two branches of the college in the anti-Japanese base areas behind the enemy lines, one in southeast Shanxi Province and the other in the mountainous area of Hebei Province. The latter is only a few hundred kilometers away from the south of Beijing. Many revolutionary base areas would pass through this area whether one travels from south Beijing to Hebei or from west Tianjin to Datong. He clearly remembered that Luo Ruiqing, the then Vice President of the college, read out their names one by one, and Zhu Jiusi was assigned to the latter campus. Due to the rugged terrain, they spent a month on the way to the campus, which was located in a small village of 100 families. They began working as instructors guiding a team of students, and later teaching them political courses, which were about the history of the Chinese revolution and social development. There were too many students, but no room was large enough in the village to accommodate their study. As a result, more than 100 students had to sit on the floor. In addition, without any textbooks, teachers could only prepare for classes by memory.

In 1942, Zhu Jiusi began to serve as the Chief of Publicity of the three military divisions at the Jin-Cha-Ji Base Area. The place was not far from the famous Ding County where Yan Yangchu (Y. C. James Yen) conducted his famous experiment on rural civilization education. Thats why the farmers there had generally high literacy levels. At this time, Zhu wrote a letter to his family, telling his elder brother that he was working as a teacher in a rural school in Hebei Province, and later learned that his parents had passed away in that year.

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Zhu Jiusi left the army, went to Rehe and became the Deputy Editor (later Chief Editor) of Hebei-Rehe-Liaoning Daily. When the then Chief Editor Li Rui invited him at the very beginning, Zhu thought he had to be loyal to the army. Therefore, Li Rui visited relevant leaders and claimed that the publicity work was just as important as being on a battleground. Thats how the army finally agreed Zhus transfer to the publicity career. Later, he was sent to Harbin to purchase paper, where he met his wife Wang Jing. The couple returned to Rehe in the fall of 1947 and got married next January.

In 1949, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stationed in Beijing. Back then, Zhu Jiusi served as the Chief Editor of Tianjin Daily. In August, Zhu successively served as the Deputy Editor and the Chief Editor of New Hunan News, which was under the leadership of the Party. Experience in journalism broadened his horizons, enabling him to observe and understand the world from new perspectives. He covered political, economic, cultural, military and agricultural hot news from both domestic and international perspectives. He worked at this post for more than 3 years until he was designated as the Executive Deputy Director of the Education Department of Hunan Province in January 1953.

In June 1953, he was informed by his superiors that he would be transferred to Wuhan, where a new engineering university, namely HIT, was to be built. A career that could give a full play to his outstanding leadership and education skills was waiting. It is precisely because of his revolutionary experience over a decade that Zhu was able to be forward-looking, enterprising and capable when he later took the lead in his work at HIT. He played an important role in the future transformation of HIT from a science and engineering school to a comprehensive university.

The greatest contribution made by Zhu Jiusi to HIT was changing its discipline structure from a single engineering college to a comprehensive university that integrates science, engineering, literature and management. In addition, he made great efforts in building up a talent group by finding many intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution and providing them with suitable platforms. Thats how HIT attracted a group of excellent teachers back then. Zhu claimed that, “When I served as the President of HIT, I mainly did two and a half creative works: the first was to put forward new ideas for development, namely to ‘build a comprehensive university’ and ‘scientific research plays a dominant role in higher education’; the second was to take an unconventional approach to gather a large number of talents; and the last half I did was planting trees for afforestation.” With its well-defined structure and clear directions, Zhu’s groundbreaking contributions have laid a foundation for the future development of the institute.

Zhu Jiusi, with his vision, mind and profound thoughts, stands as an everlasting monument in the history of HUST.

Edited by:Gou Bingbing, Peng Yumeng

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