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Scholar Chen Haowu: the Mile-Stone Meaning of Shimenkan Mode in Rural Construction

Scholar Chen Haowu: the Mile-Stone Meaning of Shimenkan Mode in Rural Construction

Chen Haowu gives his speech during the 3rd Samuel Pollard's Theory Seminar Chen Haowu gives his speech during the 3rd Samuel Pollard's Theory Seminar
ByRuth Wang November 01, 2016
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A person lives through yesterday, today and tomorrow, while human beings live through history, present, and future. Looking back at yesterday and learning from history will help us make the best of now and build a better future.

Thankfully, history gives us plenty of living samples worth studying, comparing and learning from. In southwestern Yungui Plateau, a small place called Shimenkan embraced its remarkable change after the coming of Missionary Samuel Pollard over 100 years ago, which still is a great example to think on and to learn from.

During the 3rd Samuel Pollard's Theory Seminar in October 22th-23th, many scholars and specialists spoke on the topic "Shimenkan and Rural Construction" from different angles and brought out discussions. Director of Shenzhen Shimenkan Education Fund and researcher of Guanghua Research Institute Chen Haowu shared his thoughts and ideas with the speech .

Chen Haowu wished to "bring Pollard and Shimenkan Mode to their supposed historical position" through events like Samuel Pollard's Theory Seminar. In his opinion, Pollard's theory and Shimenkan Mode could offer many thinkable angles. For example, rural construction is a very realistic topic, because rural destitution is a pressing conundrum in China nowadays. Rural areas face a lot of challenges and crises like environment pollution, which he raised the example that his homeland Hubei has emerged many "cancer villages" because of the polluted water; another problem is losing talents, considering many college graduates refuse to return to rural area and labor forces choose to leave home for better payment at big cities, so elderly and children are major residents in many villages; also traditional beliefs and rural spirits have experienced serious  crush down, leading to spiritual desolation; besides, rural grass-roots unit turning into criminal syndicates becomes a heating phenomenon, and some villages have been controlled by force.

About these social scenes, Chen Haowu believes that the cause is "involute colonization", which means many financially developed capitalist countries used the whole world as their reservoir to collect capital, labor forces and resources in the past to help their financial bloom, so when China met its financial bloom we didn't have the reservoir, and we then used a colonial mode in our rural areas for urban modernization, an urban-rural dual structure in another word, leading to the phenomenon that rural labor forces and resources pour into urban areas, while environment pollution and resource destitution were pumped into rural areas. "We can see a deprivation towards rural areas from urban parts." This urban-rural dual structure has brought up many social conflicts, and he put up some examples of tragedies of Yang Gailan in Gansu.

Later on, Chen Haowu pointed out that rural construction isn't a new topic in China, and there was a large-scale rural construction movement back in the 1930s, when many modes, like Liang Shumin Mode, Yan Yangchu Mode, and Lu Zuofu Mode, are often brought up these days. But he believes that there was a unique rural construction movement before them usually neglected by our nation, even in the 1930s, which is what Pollard has tried in Shimenkan.

"Why does it get neglected all the time? Because during the 1920s and 1930s, there was a huge "Anti-Christian Movement". After the New Culture Movement, China went against Christianity culturally and academically, when Hu Shi, Li Dazhao, Cai Yuanpei and other familiar names took parts in. So, rural construction in Shimenkan won't be introduced to our nation." Chen Haowu also said, "But when we compare these modes now, we would find the specific meaning of Shimenkan rural construction."

Then, he compared Shimenkan Mode with Liang Shumin Mode and Yan Yangchu Mode separately:

Liang Shumin Mode:

Its slogan "Create new culture, save old country"

Chen Haowu pointed out that the "create new culture" mentioned above actually means to create a new culture on the base of Chinese traditional Confucian culture, so a new social structure would be born from the revival of Confucian culture but the established cultural values and modes won't be changed.

Yan Yangchu Mode:

Focused on rural construction and national reestablishment

It brought up 4 aspects on education and 3 ways. Yan Yangchu believes that despite the complex status of conundrums in Chinese rural areas, it could be concluded in 4 words, "foolish", "weak", "poor" and "selfish", based on which he brought up the famous "4 aspects of education" theory, including literature and art, livelihood, health, and citizenship. The specific educational methods will be practiced in 3 steps: the first one is to enlighten people through basic reading education; second is to nurture good virtues in people through citizenship education; third is to improve people's material life through livelihood education. To make this theory go to practice 3 ways are requested, the school way, the family way, and the society way. The school way is to open public schools; the society way is to radiate from school graduates to host reading meetings, agricultural products exhibitions and competitions among other events to society; the family way is also to radiate from educated students to their parents.

Yan Yangchu pointed out that if the goal is to educate rural residents, then we need to educate ourselves the rural way or to say the educated should blend in rural life.

Chen Haowu emphasized the fact that even though Yan Yangchu was a Christian, he did not try to reestablish rural areas with Christianity.

Pollard's Shimenkan Mode:

Chen Haowu pointed out 3 distinguishing features:

1. The core is spiritual belief-Devitalization.

This is a very important feature in Shimenkan Mode, which separates this mode from the other two.

2. Invent literature to preach Christianity.

By translating bible and inventing literature to make Christian values dominate as mainstream values, this is the most important key to the great change in Shimenkan, through which the spiritual and soulful construction were supported.

3. Bring in a complete modern education system.

The complete British modern education system at that time was imported into Shimenkan through bible translating, literature inventing and school education.

Spiritual belief is the core of Shimenkan Rural Construction Mode, on which Chen Haowu analyzed 3 aspects:


--Pivot civilization replaced multi-gods religions

--Christian civilization offered stable social order

Chen Haowu said: all civilizations were influenced by witchcraft culture, but if this influence can't be broken through, then the civilization won't last for long, so it's very important to take it out by pivot civilization; Shimenkan appears a typical Zamia cultural phenomenon, which has two special features, fragmented geographic structure and evasive attitude towards mainstream culture. Shimenkan, in Yungui Plateau, certainly fits the description of its fragmented geographic structure and evasive attitude since Chi You time. This situation lasted for 2000 years, without Confucian education and influence, and the reason comes from both sides, for its evasive attitude and the Confucianists refused to educate. If this Zamia culture was not broken through, Shimenkan civilization wouldn't raise a level, so a new civilization was needed to replace the multi-gods religions. The method Pollard used was to trade multi-gods religions with Christian civilization and provided a new social order.

After awhile, he spoke about the well-established rural autonomy mode. Autonomy requires order, like when "empire's power can't reach rural areas" in ancient China, squires would make decisions on some specific rural matters by Confucian ethics. There are two essential aspects in Shimenkan Mode: social autonomy centering round church community and education culture system pivoting schools. We can also see the importance of belief and education in rural autonomy.

Except for spiritual beliefs and rural autonomy, Shimenkan education system stands out the same. Chen Haowu talked about the outstanding part of rural education and elite culture of Shimenkan Mode. In 1906, the same year Late Qing government abolished the imperial examination system, Shimenkan Primary School opened, which was a big part in Shimenkan rural education. Excellent students would be recommended to a church-directed high school in Zhaotong, and their education fees would be raised and offered by the church. If students were accepted to a college, they would be recommended to West China Medical University or Wuhan Theology Seminary.

The spectacular part is that "Did all of them leave after graduation? No, everyone came back to Shimenkan." Chen Haowu concluded it as a "cyclical education mode"-from Shimenkan primary school to high school in Zhaotong, then to West China Medical University or Wuhan Theology Seminary, finally back to Shimenkan. "I think this education system is very outstanding, which starts from Shimenkan then circles back to it. Especially the educated elites chose to return home and make a contribution."

He gave out examples of Wu Xingchun and Zhu Huanzhang. Wu Xingchun is the first M.D. in Miao people, and he returned home to start the first Miao People's Hospital. Zhu Huanzhang was highly appreciated by Jiang Jieshi, who invited him to work in Presidential Palace, but he refused, saying the tradition was that educated Miao people would return home, which touch Jiang Jieshi deeply. This cyclical mode makes it possible to reserve these outstanding social elites, who come to be the successive force for rural construction.

In Chen Haowu's opinion, it is a spiritual belief, rural autonomy and education system that allowed Shimenkan to become the cultural highway for over a decade under the management of Samuel Pollard, which also can give us some insights about rural construction today. He noticed that some rural areas only put in money and focus on material construction, but neglected the important parts, which is worth some second thoughts.

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