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From the Archives

Helen Clark D’31 on Soochow University
Helen Clark D’31, who served as dean of women at Soochow University in China’s Jiangsu Province, filed a report (excerpted here) for the February 1937 edition of The Duke School of Religion Bulletin.

China MapOur charming old city of Soochow, the Venice of Asia, has for centuries been famous for learning; and today the boys and girls ... are fitting successors to the ancient tradition of scholarship in Soochow.

The courses which they have studied—and they really study—are very different, however, from the rigid memorization of the Confucian Classics which was the main preparation for the old imperial examinations.

…In some subjects you may find that the Chinese college student has a poorer background than the American one—personally I believe that this is true in Western history (but what American college student knows anything about the history of the Far East?) and in geography; but in other subjects, … I’ll be surprised if you don’t find our students far ahead of American college students. You may even find them ahead in English!

But where does the missionary work come in? … I can’t pretend that our students are rushing to get into the church; the process of Christian nurture among sophisticated university students who are definitely committed to a philosophy of atheistic humanism or ma  terialism is as slow and as disheartening in China as in America. But in individuals of deep consecration and in small groups who are earnestly seeking to make real the Kingdom of God in their own lives and in the life of their nation one finds an abiding satisfaction, and in the desperate quest for something that will save China among all of the students of that troubled nation there is a challenge that cannot but be heeded.

Ed. Note: Soochow (now spelled Suzhou) was founded in 1900 by Methodist missionaries from the United States and began admitting female students in 1928. Following the Communist takeover in 1949, Soochow University closed. Alumni in Taiwan reestablished the school two years later in Taipei, where it is still located.