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  • Managing God’s Higher Learning: U.S.-China Cultural Encounter and Canton Christian College (Lingnan University), 1888–1952
  • Baoyan Cheng (bio)
Dong Wang. Managing God’s Higher Learning: U.S.-China Cultural Encounter and Canton Christian College (Lingnan University), 1888–1952. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007. xii, 211 pp. Paperback $34.95, ISBN 978-0-7391-1936-5.

Christian higher education institutions were an integral part of China’s higher education history between the last years of the nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century. For example, in the 1920s, sixteen colleges and universities were set up by Protestant churches in China. Enrolling nearly two thousand men and women, they accounted for approximately 12 percent of the student population at higher education institutions in China (Fenn 1980). As one of the sixteen institutions, Lingnan University has held an important position in China’s higher education history. Studying the experiences of Christian higher education institutions in general and of Lingnan University in particular is of great significance for understanding China’s educational history.

Managing God’s Higher Learning by Dong Wang is a case study of the history of Lingnan University between 1888, when it was first established, and 1952, when it merged with Sun Yat-sen University under the newly founded People’s Republic of China. This merger ended the existence of Lingnan University in Canton. Lingnan College was restored in Hong Kong in 1967. Later it gained university status from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government in 1999, thus becoming Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Lingnan University, a nondenominational Christian college that developed into a comprehensive university during the first half of the twentieth century, was founded by Andrew P. Happer, a Presbyterian minister, physician, educator, and missionary, in the southern city of Canton. Lingnan University was widely recognized for its academic excellence as well as the great influence of and contributions made by its alumni. One unique characteristic of Lingnan University, compared to other Christian institutions of this period, was its self-financing. First called Canton Christian College, Lingnan University was chartered by the Regents of the State of New York in the 1890s1 and was managed by a board of trustees. As a result, Lingnan University was independent of any single denominational body, which had profound implications. On the one hand, Lingnan University could enjoy relative freedom from the governing of any particular religious group. On the other hand, however, this independence also meant financial insecurity, as its support was not guaranteed by any specific religious group.

The organization of the book is fairly straightforward. As Wang explains in the introduction, she did not intend to cover all aspects of the history and development of Lingnan University. Rather, she took a “topical approach” (p. 14) and [End Page 395] organized the first four chapters around four different themes. The first chapter provides a brief history of Lingnan University and describes the context in which Lingnan University was founded. The second chapter covers the efforts made by the administrators and faculty at Lingnan University to make the foreign-run institution relevant in the local context. The third chapter examines the great fundraising campaigns launched by Lingnan University as well as the entrepreneurial mentality of the institution’s administrators, especially its presidents. The fourth chapter focuses on women’s education at Lingnan University, which was the first coeducational higher education institution in China. The fifth chapter deals with trans-Pacific experiences of Charles K. Edmunds, president of Lingnan University between 1908 and 1924 and Pomona College between 1928 and 1941.

The book is based on extensive archival work at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, Lingnan College2 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Provincial Archives, Harvard University, Yale University, and Claremont Colleges. Wang’s great efforts in carrying out the meticulous archival work across the Pacific Ocean are commendable, and the book offers important and detailed historical evidence on the development of Lingnan University. The information is not only valuable for people who are affiliated with or attached to Lingnan University, but also important for researchers and scholars in the area of higher education in general, and cultural and historical studies of Christian higher education institutions in China...