U.S. sinologist donates precious family letters to Tang Prize

American scholar William Theodore de Bary has donated to the Tang Prize Foundation two of his precious family letters, which described the prominent sinologist's first ever visit to China in 1948, the foundation said Friday.

De Bary, a leading scholar in the field of Confucian intellectual history, won the second Tang Prize in Sinology in June "for his pioneering contributions in Confucian studies."

He was one of the earliest Western scholars of Chinese language, history and culture. He was also one of the few foreigners to visit China at the time when the country was immersed in a bitter civil war.

The two letters, which are currently being displayed as part of an exhibition at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, were sent by de Bary to his mother in the United States, to tell her about his life in China at the time.

The sinologist, who was 29 at the time, had received a scholarship to study at Yenching University in Beijing, Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern Jenn-chuan (???) said.

In the first letter, which was sent in August that year, de Bary described how he traveled from Shanghai to Tianjin before arriving in Beijing, as well as his observations of the weather and the people in Beijing.

"The people of the city, especially the kids, enjoy the summertime tremendously...In a few more months it will be freezing cold again and most of these people are short of warm clothing," the letter reads.

The second letter, which was sent the following month, described him settling down in Beijing and a memorable trip to the Great Wall of China, which was on the frontline of the war between the Chinese Nationalist and Communist forces at the time.

"After lunch we pushed on up to the next tower, the highest in the area. There the soldiers of the tiny garrison were getting their heads shaved. They told us we could go no further; land mines were planted along the wall from that point out to where the Communists were, about 8 miles away," the letter reads.

"We climbed the tower, together with some Swiss missionary fathers we met, who sang a rousing Swiss mountain song at the top. It seemed to inspire one of the men in the garrison, whom we could see as we descended the Wall, leaping around the crenelated edge of the tower and singing a high-pitched Chinese song..."

In addition to the two letters, de Bary also donated to the foundation a painting of Confucius made by ink rubbing and a collection of the Four Books, which are Chinese classic texts, according to the foundation.

The letters, books and painting will be on display at the "Glory of the Tang Prize: Laureate Exhibition" in Taipei until Oct. 2. The exhibition will then be held in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung City from Oct. 7 to Nov. 6.

The Tang Prize was founded by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin (???) to complement the Nobel Prize and honor people who have made significant contributions in the fields of sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and rule of law. The first Tang Prize was awarded in 2014.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel