TV series The National Southwest Associated University And Us tells stories of students in the Xinan Lianda. TENCENT PICTURES

Few universities in the world are so intimately tied to a nation’s founding and development as is the National Southwestern Associated University, known as Xinan Lianda in Chinese. Though it was only open for several years, its history and graduates have played a key role in modern China.

On May 29, a documentary called One Day When We Were Young invited 16 alumni – all famous scholars – to share their stories about the university. A TV series to be released, The National Southwest Associated University And Us will tell stories of students in the university who study hard to serve our motherland.

The National Southwestern Associated University was born during wartime. In 1937, Japan invaded northern China. To escape Japanese blockades and aerial bombardments, the remaining students and faculty at Peking University, Tsinghua University and Nankai University retreated to Changsha, Hunan province, and later headed south to Kunming, Yunnan province. As they worked together, the three universities merged into National Southwestern Associated University.

Studying there was never easy. Students were short of food, books and clothing. Forty students had to live in a big thatched room. Bugs were everywhere. Sometimes they were subjected to sporadic bombing by the Japanese.

Even so, the university still served “as a beacon of hope during the bleakest hours of the Japanese invasion” for students, noted the Global Times. Here they could continue their study and animatedly debate the future of China with teachers.

According to the Global Times, Xinan Lianda had five colleges and 26 departments, with 179 elite professors. They included famous figures like linguist Chen Yinke, historian Qian Mu, architect Liang Sicheng and philosopher Feng Youlan. Three principals of the university, Jiang Menglin, Mei Yiqi and Zhang Boling, received both Chinese and Western education. Students here could have a higher education based in large part on the American model. It sought to provide general education and academic freedom.
据《环球时报》报道,西南联大共有共设5个学院、26个系、179名大师级教授。当中包括了如语言学家陈寅恪、历史学家钱穆、建筑家梁思成、哲学家冯友兰等名家。该校的三位校长 ——蒋梦麟、梅贻琦、张伯苓都接受过中西方教育。在这里,学生们可以接受主要基于美国教育模式的高等教育。该校力图提供通识教育与学术自由。

Though Xinan Lianda was disbanded and each school moved back to its original home in 1946, the experience of studying there had an everlasting impact on students.

Two of its students, Yang Zhenning and Li Zhengdao, shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1957. Yang has said many times in the past that his experience in Kunming profoundly influenced his career and that he would not have been as successful without it.
该校的两名学生 —— 杨振宁与李政道于1957年获得诺贝尔物理学奖。杨振宁此前曾多次提及,他在昆明的经历深刻地影响着他的职业生涯,没有这段经历他也无法取得成功。

“The National Southwestern Associated University set a good example for contemporary Chinese universities, and there are many treasured legacies for us to inherit, to cherish, and to share,” Li Zhong, vice-president of the university’s Beijing alumni association, told the Global Times.
“西南联大为当代中国高校树立了良好的榜样,有许多珍贵的遗产能够让我们去继承、去珍惜、去分享,” 西南联大校友会副会长李忠在接受《环球时报》采访时如此表示。

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