The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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Ethnicity, Culture, and Nation: Three Generations of the Ying Family in Transition

Principal Investigator

LEUNG Yuen Sang

Total Fund Awarded


Funding Source

RGC General Research Fund

Abstract of Project

        This project examines the transition of a Chinese family from the late nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth, covering three generations of the family saga with emphasis on how the family adapted to the political and cultural changes of the time on the one hand while trying hard to maintain their family identity and traditions on the other. The three generations of this family are represented here by Grandfather Ying Lianzhi(英斂之1867-1926), Father Ying Qianli (英千里1900-1969), and Son Ying Ruocheng (英若誠1929-2003). The family history of the Yings will be analyzed against the larger background of political and cultural change in China from the last days of the Manchu dynasty (of which the Yings were part of the Machu ruling clan) to the founding of the Republic and building of a new state (during which the Yings were instrumental in social and educational reform) and through wars and revolutions to the “new China” created by the Communists (the last Ying, Ying Ruocheng was a committed socialist who became vice minister of culture from 1986-1990).

        Grandfather Ying Lianzhi, originally from the Hega clan of the Manchu tribe and tied to the Manchu royalty by marriage, became a liberal reformer in the late Qing period. He was a Confucian scholar but later converted to Catholicism, and he founded the influential newspaper in Tianjin, the “Ta Kung Pao” (Dagong Bao大公報) and the Furen Daxue (輔仁大學, the first Catholic University in China. This project will analyze his consciousness of Manchu ethnicity and his changing identity from a Confucian scholar to become a Catholic. His son, born in the year of Boxer uprising, was raised a devout Catholic with a solid western education. He went to the United Kingdom and the Vatican for higher education and returned to China to take charge of the Catholic University teaching English language and literature. He rose to become a high-official in the Guomindang government and fled with the Nationalists to Taiwan in 1949, leaving his son, Ying Ruocheng, in China to pursuit a socialist path. Ying Ruocheng had gone through many struggles in the wake of cultural confrontations and political campaigns in the PRC, but survived to become a leader of culture particularly in drama and cinema in the Reform era. This project will anlyze both Ying Qianli and Ying Ruocheng’s fate and choice in the context of the turbulent political drama of the time.

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