Premier Li Keqiang visited the National Southwest Associated University (NSAU) campus in Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan province, on Jan 24 and praised the university as a miracle in the history of Chinese and world education.
Founded in 1938, the university was established by teachers and students from Peking University, Tsinghua University and Nankai University after they left the war-stricken North China to Kunming.
Although the university doesn’t exist anymore, its former site, located at Yunnan Normal University, still reminds Chinese of the hard work of its teachers and students.
Premier Li visited the original “National Southwest Associated University” gate plaque and the bronze busts of three presidents of the university as he recalled the university’s history. The Premier praised the efforts made by NSAU teachers and students to establish the university and to preserve Chinese culture and knowledge.
During World War II, staff members, professors and students had to survive and operate in makeshift quarters that were constantly subjected to sporadic bombing by Japanese forces. Despite shortages in food, equipment, books, clothing and other essential items during the eight-year war (1937-1945), staff members and students managed to continue running a modern university, which later became known for cultivating many prominent intellectuals.
After listening to NSAU ’s school anthem, which recorded the hard journey the professors and students had gone through, Premier Li noted that the lyrics also reflected the unyielding spirit of the Chinese nation.
The Premier also visited a classroom designed by Liang Sicheng, known as the “Father of Modern Chinese Architecture”, walked by the desks once used by Yang Zhenning, the 94-year-old Chinese-American physicist and Nobel laureate, and recalled some anecdotes and interesting stories from educationist Chen Daisun’s classes.
“This classroom has great historical value and bears the cultural spirit of our nation,” the Premier said.
Reading the names of teachers and students displayed at the National Southwest Associated University museum, Premier Li said, “Many of them are my teachers.”
The Premier also visited the National Southwest Associated University Monument, which NSAU built at its original address in 1946, when the three universities went back north and prepared to reopen. He praised the university for making great efforts through extreme difficulties and hardships and preserved the seeds of the nation’s culture, knowledge and civilization.
“This was not only a miracle in the history of Chinese education, but also in the history of world education,” said the Premier.
The Premier also met NSAU’s old alumni, now all in their 90s, and spoke highly of their integrity and contribution to educational undertakings during a critical moment in the history of China. He thanked the alumni for carrying on the NSAU spirit.
“Education is the foundation of a nation, which cannot be compromised at any cost,” said Premier Li, and he stressed that the government should give priority to the development of education.
The Premier posed for a group photo with students who stayed back during the winter vacation and asked them to carry forward the spirit of NSAU.