“Human” is the Yardstick of Engineering -— Hua nangui, President of College of Advanced Research and Business



Hua Nangui, whose courtesy name is Tongzhai, was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province in April 1876. Under the background of Westernization Movement, his way of study was tinged with a distinctive color of the times. In the early years, he studied French at Canglangting Chinese and Western School. In 1896, he passed the imperial exam at the provincial level and in 1902, he was enrolled in the Department of Education of Imperial University of Peking. In the same year, he translated and published History of Rome with an ardent love of history. In 1904, he studied abroad in France with fees paid by the government and completed ten-year courses only in four years. In 1908, he graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering of Ecole Spéciale des Travaux Publics, Paris with an engineer’s degree. He later interned in the French railway system for two years, during which he married a Polish lady, Hua Luochen. In 1910, he returned to China and took part in the international student examination held by the Imperial Educational Ministry to obtain a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations in engineering. In 1911, he acquired the first class in the final imperial examination and then was conferred the title of Editor of the Hanlin Academy. From 1933 to 1937, he served as President of of Institut des Hautes Etudes et Commerciales. (Note: Tianjin Industrial and Commercial University, founded in 1921, is the predecessor of Hebei University. In 1933, it was approved to change its name to “College of Advanced Research and Business” and Hua Nangui served as President. In 1960, its name has been changed into Hebei University.)

Overseas Study and Road Administration: Once the Integrity is Lost, Corruption Appears

The influence of western culture on Hua Nangui in his early years lies not only in technical knowledge. His granddaughter, Ms. Hua Xinmin, the famous protector of the folk ancient city, recalled: “He not only acquires a deep knowledge of Chinese traditional culture, but also is affected by the western liberal culture. He studied at the school which was one of the most advanced ones in Europe at that time: his school advocated outdoor activities, internships and running school journals. For example, he founded the journal Science and Literature of Esperanto when in Paris, to express his desire to realize advanced technology and cultural exchange. ”

In 1912, Hua Nangui, who had just returned from France, translated a compact book French Civic Education. The book introduced that there was a post of “guide” in the municipal construction of France, whose job was to “indicate that some road should be built somewhere and some bridge should be built otherwhere”. In the next half of his life, Hua Nangui has been serving as the “guide” for Chinese cities — devoted to construction on the scale of “people”.

After returning the motherland, Hua Nangui has been carefully limiting the boundary of public power and strictly preventing the abuse of power. From 1911 to 1913, he served as the engineer and section chief of the Beijing-Hankow railway; From 1913 to 1919, he held the post of the chief engineer of the Ministry of Transport; in the 1920s, he served twice as chief engineer of the Beijing-Hankow railway. It can be seen that he has a deep relationship with the railway. As far as the word incorruptibility is concerned, the railway has the largest volume with most employees. However, Hua Nangui “has not accepted each single one bribe for seventeen years, so he is always confident that he will never fall dishonest. Once the integrity is lost, corruption appears”.

During this period, he also served as the registrar of the Institute of the Ministry of Transport of the Beijing government (the predecessor of Beijing Jiaotong University). In the course of teaching, he compiled a set of Chinese teaching materials, which is one of the earliest Chinese modern civil engineering teaching materials in China. Among them, the railway engineering teaching material is the first Chinese material in China. He also served as the curator of the Museum of Transport established by him in the Institute, which is one of the earliest modern museums in China. Besides, He helped Zhu Qiqian build the Central Park (today’s Zhongshan Park) in the State Altar — the first park in Beijing and then participated in the construction and layout design of the park. In 1913, he helped Zhan Tianyou establish and preside over the Chung Hwa Institute of Engineers. After Zhan Tianyou’s expiration in 1919, Hua Nangui continued to preside over the institute and successively served as vice president, director general and conference director until it merged with other institutes into the Chinese Institute of Engineers in 1931.

Political Career and Scholarship: My Principle is Embodied in Only One Word: People, i.e. People Oriented

In June 1928, the National Government changed Beijing’s name to Peiping Special City. In July, Hua Nangui officially assumed the post of director of the Public Works Bureau of Peiping Special City. In the Declaration on the Establishment of Public Works Bureau of Peiping Special City issued on September 13, he said: “My principle is embodied in only one word: people, i.e. people oriented. With love and esteem by the people, each obstacle is sure to be conquered; while without the people’s respect and support, what the country and the people confront is only calamity even if there are magic bullets to get out of the dilemma. ” Afterwards, he put forward seven primary tasks after taking office: 1. Historical sites need to be strenuously renovated; 2. The whole city should be covered with beautiful driveways and footpaths without a trace of dust; 3. The water volume of the whole city must be sufficient; 4. The underground ditches of large and small trunk branches need to be expanded; 5. Power must be expanded; 6. Dredging river and building sluice need to be put on the agenda; 7. Public places of entertainment need to be set up. All these are closely related to the people’s livelihood. During his transient one-year tenure, he presided over a systematic investigation of water sources in the suburbs of Beijing, and formulated in person the Outline Plan for the Status and Arrangement of the Source of the Jade Spring. In addition to measures such as constructing sluices, digging ditches and draining the Yongding River, he also proposed a unified management organization to do fine in clearing the acre area of paddy land and sorting out the methods of paddy land expropriation, so as to avoid the predicament of “water scarcity with the astronomical water demands, which means caring for this but losing that”.

In 1928, as the director of the Public Works Bureau of Peiping Special City, Hua Nangui successively approved the visits to the Summer Palace and the Coal Hill in Peiping, and first wrote to He Qigong, mayor of Peiping City, requesting the protection of Zhongnanhai, the residential compound housing top leaders. In December of the same year, the board of directors of Zhongnanhai was officially established. In May 1929, the once royal forbidden court was officially opened to the public. Hua Nangui, as the director, organized to get through the tree lined east-west road from the Coal Hill to the Forbidden City — the Front Street of the Coal Hill. So far, the Front Street of the Coal Hill is still the most gorgeous street in Beijing.

Since 1930, Hua Nangui has served as a reviewer in the Society for the Study of Chinese Architecture founded by Zhu Qiqian, and then as an officer. In 1931, as an inspector of the Ministry of education, he inspected the filing of Tianjin Industrial and Commercial University and conducted many lectures such as masonry bridge, railway and highway, railway mixed pure land, etc. In August 1933, by order of the Ministry of Education, Tianjin Industrial and Commercial University was renamed College of Advanced Research and Business, whose legal president was Hua Nangui. In terms of scholarly research, he introduced the internship system of the Ecole Spéciale des Travaux Publics (which was also an initiative in Europe at that time) with an emphasis on the importance of internship in teaching. Thus, he personally went to Shijiazhuang, Changxindian and other places to contact the graduation class for travel internship and often took students to Changxindian rolling stock plants for internship. During his tenure of president, College of Advanced Research and Business made great progress in school running concept and training specialized professionals. The college presented a trend of vigorous development and a strong academic atmosphere permeated in the college. Many celebrities were hired to give academic reports, such as Li Shutian, He Lian, Yang Baoling, and Fang Xianting, Wu Daye, Ding Gu of the Institute of Economics of Nankai University, etc. Many experts in the college were employed to make academic reports, such as Sang Zhihua, Pei Huahang, De Rijin and so on. They were invited to conduct academic lectures in Japan and Indochina, which further improved the academic level and the popularity of the college at home and abroad. In August 1937, Hua Nangui resigned as president and continued to teach at college.

During his career as a scholar, Mr. Hua Nangui has successively compiled and published over ten higher education teaching materials, such as Housing Engineering, Summary of Mechanics, Material Endurance, Earth Rock Engineering, Summary, Purchase and Application of Building Materials, Highway and Municipal Engineering and contributed all his life to the development of engineering and architectural scientific research in China.

Efforts to Renovate Old Beijing: Neither Possible Nor Necessary

In 1939, due to the refusal to work for the Japanese puppet government during the War of Resistance Against Japan, Hua Nangui was forced to exile in France until he returned home after the triumph of the war in 1946. He served as the consultant of the Beijing-Hankow railway and chairman of the Design Review Committee of the Yellow River Bridge of Beijing-Hankow Railway. In 1948, with the Civil War coming to an end, underground members of the Communist Party of China visited Hua Nangui and earnestly hoped that he would make contributions to the new regime in future. Because of his hatred for the corruption of the Kuomintang he had witnessed, he readily agreed the request of CPC.

He participated in the planning of Beijing in the early days of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In May 1949, the “Peiping Urban Planning Commission” was established, which is responsible for studying the future development direction of the capital and planning the initial construction projects. Hua Nangui served as the chief engineer and later as a consultant, putting forward a package scheme for the future municipal design.

In August, at the meeting of representatives from all walks of life in Peiping, he put forward 16 proposals at one go, such as the proposal to make use of the room of the housing baseline to “widely set up small parks and squares for the people’s recreation”. Combined with his plan in 1929, he put forward the “plan of sorting out the source of the Jade Spring”. In addition, he, together with Zhou Wei, the road and mining expert, proposed to “start planning to construct sewers”. Capital CouncilIt is particularly worth mentioning that at this meeting, he, relying on the consensus of himself and the members of the “Capital Council” including Liang Sicheng, officially put forward the “outline plan for the new urban area in the western suburb”, and proposed to build a new city in Wukesong of the western suburb. In his proposal, he reiterated his views in the book Highway and Municipal Engineering in the 1930s, and supposed that the transformation of old cities was the biggest municipal problem. The experience of some western countries is to build new towns in the suburbs of old cities which still need to be preserved and improved as much as possible. Therefore, he took an attitude of “neither possible nor necessary” towards the large-scale transformation of the old city.

Most of his proposals were once adopted, such as sorting out the Jade Spring drainage system, building gas factories, setting up the industrial zone in the eastern suburb of Beijing, paving asphalt for all alleyway roads in Beijing, continuing the regulation of the Yongding River and the construction of Guanting Reservoir, opening Jingmi Canal and building Miyun Reservoir, etc. From August 1949 to August 1957, he successively served as a deputy to the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress, offering speeches and suggestions on behalf of the people and contributing to the democratic development of New China.

Mr. Hua Nangui is an estimable engineering and technical professional in New China. As a fanatical Esperanto researcher, he founded the Scienco Literaturo Ĉina-Esperanto Revuo and later became its chief editor when abroad in Paris. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, he participated in Esperanto activities in Beijing.


After the Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China and New China, Hua Nangui, focusing on road engineering, as well as education, municipal construction, cultural relics research and other fields, all his life walked on the path of “rejuvenating the country through science and technology” and gradually witnessed the dawn of an era. The common feelings of intellectuals in this era must be filled with in Mr. Hua’s inner heart: to take painstaking efforts with good deeds in return; to be dedicated into the interests of the country without any regret.