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September 16, 2009

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Tongji - a German doctor's vision of health

IT was not just Anglo-Saxon missionaries who founded schools and universities in old Shanghai. In fact, one of Shanghai's leading universities, Tongji, was founded by Germans - a less well-known foreign presence at the turn of the century.

A small, well-preserved campus on downtown Fuxing Road in Xuhui District tells the story in red-brick Prussian-style architecture.

Founded in 1907 by German naval medical officer Erich Paulun, the school taught German medical science to Chinese students.

The first word of the foreign name Deutzche Medizinschule was the origin of the Chinese name, as Tongji was a phonetic approximation in Shanghainese.

Today Tongji University is one of the biggest universities in Shanghai, and the tradition of specialization in science and engineering has been continued from the old medical school - modern Tongji is particularly well known for its architecture and civil engineering courses.

The school's history took many twists and turns. Today, though in spirit the Fuxing Road campus was the forerunner of Tongji, the original architecture and campus grounds now belong to the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST).

At the centenary of the school two years ago, Wu Yuanpiao, a teacher at USST, compiled a book on the campus' history.

According to Wu, the school was very popular with Chinese students but because it was situated inside the former French concession during the war years, it was closed in 1917. However at the request of students, lessons continued in a rented area near Wusong, Baoshan District. Later the school was officially reopened on Siping Road, Yangpu District.

However the architecture, including clock tower, teaching halls and dormitories were used for other schools, such as the Sino-French Technology College, and today's USST after the 1952 reorganization of higher education.

The small campus today covers more than 36 hectares and most of the old buildings are intact. There are eight old buildings left in the red-bricked, Prussian style.

USST's Yangpu campus incorporates the architecture of the old University of Shanghai, founded by American Baptists in 1906 (see Shanghai Daily article "Anglo-Gothic Gem" on September 2).

But due to its more central location, the Fuxing Road campus has been revived as a center of China's international cooperation in education.

It is now home to the Sino-British College, a joint program between USST and nine Northern English universities teaching engineering and finance. Recently 90 Chinese students from the college translated historical materials relating to USST's Printing Museum on Shuifeng Road in Yangpu District.

It is ranked second in China for printing artifacts, and as Chinese printing technology predates that of Europe, the museum displays date back thousands of years to carvings on bone and bamboo. But until now texts have remained in Chinese and inaccessible to foreigners. Of 10,000 visitors last year only 1,000 were foreign.

Thanks to six months of hard work from students in events management major, English leaflets and a CD will be available by this December.

The Fuxing Road campus also contains a Mandarin Chinese school that serves the many foreigners who have again come to live in the surrounding areas.

When the enterprising German doctor, Erich Paulun, first came to China there was little such cooperation.

In the late 1890s, Paulun was struck by how much China needed doctors and medical facilities. Returning to China a few years later, he founded the German hospital on today's Fengyang Road in 1900 with sponsorship from the German government and German expats and businesses.

Serving only foreign patients at first, the hospital soon expanded to include Chinese patients. Most of the doctors at the hospital were members of the German Doctors Assn, and as demand outpaced supply, a medical school component was added to the hospital to train local doctors.

By 1907 Paulun had greater ambitions for the school and raised more money from both the Chinese and Germans to build more teaching halls across the road from the hospital.

The medical school officially opened in October of that year with just three teachers from Germany, and 30 students. Courses were designed to last eight years, including three years of German-language study.

Today the hospital is the modern Changzheng Hospital, and nothing much of the old buildings remain. Later expansions have fared better.

With the number of applications rising rapidly, by 1908 the medical school grew to 82 students - only half the number of applicants.

Paulun acquired another 4.5 hectares of land to build new schools on the corner of the old Fahwah Road (today's Fuxing Road M.) and Avenue Paulun (today's Shaanxi Road S.) - a road that came to be named after him.

In 1909 he built a German-language teaching hall, dormitory and clock tower - symbolizing the school spirit that "time waits for no man."

Later, at the request of their commercial sponsors, an engineering school was added with a factory on the school grounds for practical courses. The factory helped introduce German industrial products to the Chinese, and at one point it even supplied the local area with electricity.

Today the engineering school is the most complete and valuable building left on campus. It was built to replicate a Prussian college that was bombed during the war. Since the original in Germany was destroyed, this copy in China often attracts German tourists.

It is now a modern library, but the original floor patterns, wrought iron staircase and glass bay windows are still visible. Many details, however, have been obscured by a fresh layer of paint - a disfigurement that has befallen almost all USST historical architecture.

The large science teaching rooms on the ground floor have been converted into reading rooms; the original equipment has been lost.

During its heyday in 1914, the school contained three dorms, two clock towers (one attached to factory, one to the engineering school), a factory, pharmacy, German-language school, math hall and sports tracks. Old alumni remember how the sound of the clocks striking the hour defined their student lives.

Today the sports hall and factory have been completely rebuilt, and a dormitory was dismantled. But the rest remain and are municipally listed as protected buildings.


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