Disclaimer: This post contains images of historical documents, some of which include perspectives and language reflecting the time in which they were written. The Claremont Colleges Library does not endorse all the views expressed in these documents.
This week I input some correspondences between Ch’en and his family members. In the past weeks we have introduced Ch’en Shou-yi’s academic contributions and social relationships. This week I would like to briefly introduce part of Ch’en’s family. Ch’en’s brothers like Stanley H. Chan (陳受康) were also famous scholars and left works in Ch’en’s collections of academic offprints. In order to study Chen Li (or Chan Lai, 陳澧), the brother of Ch’en Shou-yi’s great grandfather as well as the leader of Lingnan intellectuals, Ch’en studied his clan and left some family trees. Thanks to Ch’en’s research and correspondence, we are able to realize his family and glimpse their life in the chaotic modern Chinese history.
Tak-yi (德儀) was Ch’en’s elder sister who was married to Shuchong (or Shuzhong, 叔重). Ch’en’s collection preserves her family’s letters to Ch’en. Although those letters don’t have a date, they were likely written in 1937, when Ch’en and his wife were stuck in Shanghai due to the Japanese invasion. In a letter from Tak-yi to Ch’en, Tak-yi described her frightening experience during a Japanese airstrike in Canton. Her husband, Shu Chong, a law consultant, wrote to Ch’en to express his despair over the endless war. Thanks to Ch’en’s help from the United States, Tak-yi and her family were able to move to Hong Kong in 1937. They were safe temporarily, but had to struggle for survival. Although Tak-yi and Shu Chong accepted higher education, they did not have good job opportunities, and thereby relied on Ch’en’s financial assistance. Their children, Ch’en’s niece and nephew, were grateful to Ch’en, and felt worried about Ch’en’s situation in Shanghai. The children suffered through Japanese airstrikes and skin disease, but luckily survived in Hong Kong. According to other governmental documents in Ch’en’s collections, Ch’en went back to China to accept his professor position in Peiping (now Beijing). However, due to the breakout of the Japanese invasion, Ch’en and his wife were stuck in Shanghai, and they had to return to the United States while searching for a job on an American campus. The war changed Ch’en and his family completely.
Lau Tai-chi (劉體志) is Ch’en’s elder cousin as well as a famous photographer and dentist. Lau’s father contributed to the founding of Lingnan University, where Ch’en’s family and Lau’s family completed their undergraduate programs. Lau’s two daughters had different destinies according to Lau’s letters to Ch’en. In 1963, Lau’s elder daughter, Hei-lun (希麟) after a long and difficult affection experience, became engaged for marriage with a man. Although Lau complained of this sudden engagement, he chose to respect his daughter’s choice. In 1972, Lau wrote to Ch’en and Ch’en’s younger brother for suggestions on his young daughter Hei-yin (希賢), who was suspected of having a mental disorder because she always insisted that she had been besieged and suppressed by communists in Hong Kong. Lau even considered severing all ties with her.
There are no more files in Ch’en’s collection to disclose the final destiny of Ch’en’s family members. The fortunate and misfortunate life of Ch’en’s family was the epitome of a chaotic Chinese modern history full of warfare and political movements.