John Leighton Stuart
John Leighton Stuart, the former US Ambassador to China, finally got his last wish fulfilled 46 years later after his death. On November, 17th, 2008, his ash was re-interred in Hangzhou, China, his birthplace. The epitaph reads: John Leighton Stuart, 1876-1962, the first president of Yanching University. Stuart was a Christian, a missionary, and an educator.
John Leighton Stuart was born in 1876 in Hangzhou, China. His parents were missionaries coming from the US. When he was 11 years old, he went to Virginia for study. In 1904, he came back to Hangzhou as a missionary of the American Presbyterian Mission. In 1919, he was appointed the first president of Yanching University. He made great contribution to the development of the university. He advocated academic freedom and encouraged the students to be both Chinese and internationalized. He was appointed the US Ambassador to China between 1946 and 1949. John Leighton Stuart declared himself to be more Chinese than American. He lived more than half of his life in Hangzhou, China. He can speak fluent Hangzhou dialect. As the political situation between the Chinese Communist and the Chinese Nationalist tightened, he declared that he was saddened by the split that would lead to the ongoing conflict between Mianland of China and Taiwan, and as a diplomat, he had tried to stop it. He once wrote: “The Chinese knew of my love for their country, my concern for their welfare ... but I failed them.” He left China and went back to the US in August, 1949 before the establishment of People’s Republic of China. Stuart died on Sep. 19th, 1962 in Washington. In his will, he asked to be buried in Hangzhou. But the request was not accepted because of the sensitive political situation. As the China-US ties strengthen day after day, now 46 years later after his death, John Leighton Stuart finally made his wish come true. Officials of China and the US attended the funeral. Clark T. Randt, Jr., the present US Ambassador to China watched the re-interment. He remarked that Stuart would feel heartily happy in heaven if he learned that nowadays China and the US were in such a good relationship.
Hangzhou as his hometown in China means a lot to him. He thought himself to be a native of China more than an American. He established Yanching University in Beijing, which was a rare but famous modern university in China during the unrest time. Later this university became the current base of Peking University, which was thought to be the cradle of Chinese modernization and liberation. Many gray-haired students also remember him although they never saw him. Currently Hangzhou local government has admitted and awarded him the honorary citizenship of Hangzhou, and his former residence has been well preserved to be a themed museum for showing his life in Hangzhou of China.
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