Destruction of Chinese Centres of Learning


    AFTER the great Japanese earthquake of September 1, 1923, when three hundred thousand persons lost their lives, and the buildings of the Imperial University in Tokyo were destroyed, including the loss of about seven hundred thousand volumes in the library, an influential British committee was formed to replace the English section of the library, not only as a token of British sympathy but also as a tribute to the intellectual life of Japan. The calamity which evoked this appeal was a natural one, and unavoidable, but it is ironical now to have to record that Japan itself has destroyed many schools, colleges and universities in China by air raids. We express no opinion upon the causes of the conflict, but we do deplore the barbaric methods of modern warfare which seem to permit no discrimination between combatants and the civilian population, and bring desolation to seats of learning as brutally as to fortified places or other military centres. We are therefore in complete sympathy with the righteous indignation expressed in a telegram organized by "For Intellectual Liberty", and signed in their individual capacity by more than one hundred members of twenty-two British universities, which was sent to the Minister of Education, Nanking, early last month. The replies received from the Shanghai Association of Universities and Colleges, and from representatives in Hankow of ten universities, show deep appreciation of the sympathetic message from England. "In name of world civilization," say the Hankow colleagues, "we thank you for your noble sentiment and moral support. We request you will give unswerving attention to prevent Far Eastern crisis and lend us further support in mobilising all British intellectual and humanitarian forces to the side of our common cause of international justice, which if humanity would exist must prevail."

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    Destruction of Chinese Centres of Learning. Nature 140, 925 (1937).

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