Tsai Yuan-pei (Cai Yuanpei) 蔡元培

This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.

Cai Yuan-pei

Dr. Tsai Yuen-pei, one of the formemost educational leaders in China, was born in Chekiang province, in 1866. His brilliant literary career was signalized when he passed the highest Imperial Examinations, at the age of twenty-four, with the degree of Han-lin. His scholarship made him known as the “literary genius of Kiangnan”.

Dr. Tsai has always been associated with the liberal movement in China. As one of the leaders of the revolutionary party, he was obliged to flee to Europe, in 1904, where he studied at Heidelberg and in Paris, until 1911. Because of his broad experience in education, he was appointed the first Minister of Education in the new Republican Government. He resigned this office in 1913, and again went to Europe to continue his studies.

In 1916, while still in France, he was appointed Chancellor of the Peking National University, by President Li Yuan-hung. When he took up his duties, he enrolled new intellectual leaders in the service of the University, reorganized the courses of study, and worked out a scheme for faculty control of the University, which is at present in operation. During a brief period of four years, in spite of strong opposition, he has brought about a wonderful change in the life of China’s first seat of learning. The University is now the Pole Star of China’s intellectual movement. It guides the new China, and owes its leadership largely to its Chancellor, who had the courage to disobey orders, which, had they been carried out, would have crushed the people’s movement in its inception; and Dr. Tsai’s stand in this matter forced him to flee for his life and remain in exile in the south for several months.

Dr. Tsai has travelled in Europe investigating educational conditions following the great war. His interesting and valuable reports will be greatly appreciated by his fellow countrymen. He believes that in order to keep pace with the progress being made in education, and to attain the greatest efficiency, one should visit the principal educational centers of the various countries every few years. Dr. Tsai is very popular with both Chinese and foreigners.

Cai Yuan-pei text


A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 33.