A native of Chuansha County in Shanghai, Huang Yanpei
(October 1, 1878--December 21, 1965), character Renzhi, was one of the greatest patriots and democratic educationalists in modern China and the founder of China League of Democratic Political Groups (now renamed as China Democratic League). Huang’s parents died when he was young and he lived with his grandfather till he grew up. Huang studied at Nanyang Public School (now Shanghai Jiaotong University) in 1901 and Cai Yuanpei, the well-known educationalist, was one of his teachers.
Influenced by Cai Yuanpei’s educational conception and methodology, Huang firmly believed that education is the only way for the rejuvenation of Chinese nation and advocated that education should be practical and society-oriented. As the founder of vocational education in China, Huang spent his entire life in the reform of traditional education, which was no longer suitable for the development of Chinese educational system. He established vocational schools in Chongqing, Shanghai and Nanjing in succession and they were so successful that many famous figures received education there, including Hua Luogeng, the well-known mathematician and Hu Yepin, one of the “Five Martyrs of the Left-wing League”. Even Chiang Kai-shek, leader of Kuomintang, sent his two sons Chiang Ching-kuo and Chiang Wei-kuo there.
Huang Yanpei was a good public speaker. He once delivered a speech on Pragmatic Education with American educationalist John Dewey and their enthusiastic speech inspired the audience, among which was Mao Zedong who later became the first chairman of People’s Republic of China (PRC). When he was in the liberation area, Huang Yanpei offered his recommendation to Mao Zedong that Communist Party of China (CPC) should be an exception in Chinese history and govern the country for long. Their deep friendship lasted for more than twenty years. After the founding of PRC, Huang served as vice-premier of the Administrative Council and concurrently minister of light industry.
Huang has never forgotten his hometown. In 1908, he established Pudong Electric Joint Stock Company, the first to offer power supply equipment in Pudong area. In 1921, he initiated a plan to build a railway between Chuansha and Shanghai. Shang-Chuan railway sped up the rapid economic development of Pudong area until it was demolished in November, 1975. Huang Yanpei’s old house in Shanghai is well reserved, dedicated to the memory of this great man.