Hu Suh (Hu Shi) 胡適

This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.

Hu Shuh

Dr. Hu Suh was born in Shanghai, December 17, 1891. His father was a scholar of high attainment, known for his geographical researches in Northern Manchuria, where he travelled extensively. His father died, when he was very young, and he was brought up by his mother; of whom he often tells his friends that though she could not read a single line he wrote, it is to her alone that he owes his achievements. He lived with her at their home in Chih-ki-hsien, southern Anhui, until 1904, when he returned to Shanghai.

Dr. Hu began his study of Chinese, when he was scarcely three years old, at his uncle’s school. After nine years of village school life, he was sent to Shanghai to seek a modern education. During his six years stay at Shanghai, he studied at the Mei-chi School, the Ching Chung School, and the Chinese National Institute, founded by students, who in 1907, left Japan, in a body, as a protest against Japanese policies. Financial difficulty compelled him to support himself by teaching, and by editing a revolutionary paper, which was issued every ten days. In 1910, he passed the government examination for Indemnity Scholarships, and was sent to America, where he entered Cornell University as a freshman in the College of Agriculture.

Dr. Hu soon realized that he was not fitted for agricultural work, and that China needed literature and philosophy just as badly as scientific farming. Therefore, after studying a year and a half in the Cornell College of Agriculture, he was transferred to the College of Arts and Science, where he devoted himself to the study of English literature, political science, and philosophy. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Fraternity in 1913, and was therein awarded the Hiram Corson Prize for his essay on Robert Browning. After his graduation, in 1914, he continued his advanced studies in philosophy, and was given a graduate scholarship at the Sage School of Philosophy, at Cornell. In 1915, Dr. Hu entered Columbia University, where he spent two years. His doctorate dissertation was on “The Development of Logical Methods in Ancient China”. It was during these two years that he gradually developed his ideas of a radical reform in Chinese literature. These ideas were afterwards formulated into an article entitled “Suggestions for the Reform of Chinese Literature”, which was simultaneously published in “La Jeunesse”, and “The Chinese Students’ Quarterly” (January 1917).

This article formed the first manifesto of the “literary revolution” and its historical place was only superseded by another article entitled “A Constructive Revolution in Chinese Literature” (“La Jeunesse”, April 1918), which embodies the results of mature reflection and fruitful experimentation.

Dr. Hu is the first Chinese poet to devote himself to writing poetry exclusively in the spoken language. He has published over a hundred poems in the vulgate, which he calls “experimental poetry”. He began this poetry experiment in 1916. Since then a school of Vulgate Poets has been established, whose contributions appear in a number of periodicals. Since 1917, Dr. Hu has been Professor of Philosophy at the Government University, and in 1922 he became Dean of the Department of English Literature. “Philosophy”, as he is fond of saying, “is my life work, and literature is my hobby”. In 1918, he published a course of lectures on the Philosophy of the Mo School. In 1919, he published another work, “Ancient History of China”. In January 1922, Dr. Hu organized and edited a weekly in Peking, called “The Endeavor”. He spent the year 1923 at Hangchow to recuperate his ill health. In 1924, he returned to Peking, and again joined the Government University.

Hu Shuh text


A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925), 87.