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To commemorate WHU’s late president Zhou Gengsheng on his 130th anniversary
Author:Qin Zehao  Date:2019-05-09  Clicks:

On March 31, a commemorative event of Zhou Gengsheng’s 130th anniversary was held at the Old Library of Wuhan University, which was sponsored by Wuhan University and the Chinese Society of International Law and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs. Participants in the symposium included Wan Exiang (Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress), Mr. Zhou’s family, scholars of international law as well as students and alumni.

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A glimpse of the symposium

Zhou Gengsheng was born in Changsha, Hunan Province in 1889. He was a prodigy who, at the age of 13, passed the imperial examination at county level in the Qing Dynasty and became a Xiucai (a scholar who has passed the imperial examination at the county level in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Four years later, he was sent to study in Waseda University (Japan) with public financial support.  Having earned PhDs from both the University of Edinburgh and the University of Paris, Zhou returned to China in 1921, where he worked for the Commercial Press, Peking University and Southeast University successively.

In 1928, Zhou initiated the establishment of Wuhan University together with Li Siguang and Wang Shijie. From 1945 to 1949, he served as the president of Wuhan University and devoted great efforts to its development. During his tenure, Wuhan University improved the colleges of liberal arts, law, sciences and engineering, restored the agricultural college and founded the medical college. As a result, the university became a comprehensive national university with six colleges.

Zhou himself also went to the United States to attract talents to return to China and join Wuhan University. Han Depei (jurist), Wu Yujin (historian) and Zhang Peigang (economist), named as the Three Swordsmen from Harvard, were three of these talents who devoted themselves to the university thereafter.

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The Statue of Zhou Gengsheng in WHU

Zhou Gengsheng was renowned as a scholar of international law who focused on teaching and research. His lectures consisted of international law, international relations, international politics and diplomacy. With carefully prepared lectures and teaching skills, he emphasized key points, gave careful consideration to pressing issues and, different opinions and expressed his ideas in ways that fostered students’ knowledge and research abilities to allow them broaden their horizons. Utilizing notes taken in Zhou’s class helped them in their own quest for writing excellent articles.

In addition to teaching, Zhou made great achievements in scientific research. Many of his articles and book reviews were published in top journals at home and abroad. His book Winning the Peace in the Pacific was published in New York and gained much attention from Westerners. In old age, Zhou finished his masterpiece International Law, which is China’s first magisterial professional work in the field of international law and which promotes, for the first time, the five principles of peaceful coexistence as the basic principles of modern international law.

Not only was Zhou Gengsheng a scholar of extraordinary accomplishments in the theory of international law, but he also put his theory into practice. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, he became an advisor to Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thinking highly of his advice and taking into consideration some of his suggestions, Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai approved and released several important diplomatic documents. He also he fought for restoring New China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations by publishing influential articles.

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Zhou Gengsheng in 1944

Throughout his whole life, Zhou Gengsheng fostered abundant merits like unique teaching and research skills and dedicated himself to China’s international law and diplomacy cause. In memory of Zhou, Wuhan University established a scholarship, which is named after him. His statue, located in front of Wuhan University School of Law, along with his spirit and accomplishments, will continuously inspire his successors.

Photo by Jin Xin, Qin Zehao & the New York Times

Edited by Zhou Siyan, Geng Jinwei, Zheng Yayun, Shi Weiya & Hu Sijia

 

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