The Yale-China Association (雅礼协会) inspires people to learn and serve together. Founded in 1901 by graduates of Yale University, we foster long-term relationships that improve education, health, and cultural understanding in China and the United States.
We believe in global citizens who have experienced daily life and language, friendships, professional cooperation and insights in a very different culture—as a way to discover commonality and respect for people who seem different from ourselves. We believe that developing a community of such global citizens on both sides is crucial to a prosperous, healthy and safe 21st century, in which the U.S.—China relationship is one of the most important engines of cooperation, growth and peace. The Yale-China community has modeled this vision for 120 years.
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Advisers, Consultants, and Volunteers
Hannah Yuan Chen
Dr. CAO Ya
Advisor to the Yale-China Board
Yali Society Co-Chair
Yali Society Co-Chair
Yali Society Regional Coordinators
Veronica Zhang, Yali Society Boston Coordinator
Caroline Grossman, Yali Society Chicago Coordinator
Hugh Sullivan, Yali Society DC Area Coordinator
Andrew Fennell, Yali Society Hong Kong Coordinator
Brendan Woo, Yali Society New Haven Coordinator
Jeremy Kutner, Yali Society New York Co-Coordinator
Jonathan Lowet, Yali Society New York Co-Coordinator
John Tang, Yali Society San Francisco Coordinator
Adam Click, Yali Society Singapore Co-Coordinator
Jan Kleinman, Yali Society Twin Cities Coordinator
Board of Trustees
A Vision Ahead of Its Time
Yale-China Through 120 Years of Upheaval & Change
Across the tumultuous 20th century, Yale-China and its Chinese and American supporters built a legacy of famous and influential institutions—Xiangya, Yali, Huazhong Normal University, New Asia College—all of which continue today as world-class learning communities. Just as important as the bricks and mortar legacy are Yale-China’s intangible contributions and path-breaking collaborations— launching the nursing profession in China (starting in 1909), keeping Xiangya going throughout World War Two and rebuilding it again in the late 1940s, contributing to the immigrant community of Hong Kong by supporting New Asia College and Chinese University of Hong Kong (starting in the early 1950s), resuming our vision and partnership in the Chinese mainland (in 1979) after 30 years of painful separation, and rediscovering how Yale-China could contribute in our modest way to China’s era of “reform and opening up.” The past forty years have produced innovative and life-changing exchanges and program work: HIV/AIDS training in the 1990s, programs in American Studies, arts and law, language and teacher-training, the Medical Residency program (the past decade), medical ethics, the Chia Fellowships for Women in the Health Professions, and the 110-year Fellows/ELIs/Bachelors Program, among others! Just as inspiring is the community of hundreds of thousands of Chinese and American students, fellows, faculty, nurses, doctors, patients, officials, managers, artists, audience members, alumni, legends, martyrs, scholars and friends, whose lives were changed, minds opened and career directions altered by the Yale-China experiment.
The importance of this history and of our legendary people is not just a matter for the past. This legacy, broad-minded vision, reputation and community are exactly what enables us to accomplish work, change lives and make important contributions today—in both the United States and in China and Hong Kong. Today and in the future, Yale-China leverages the resources of Yale and of our exceptional partners and communities in Asia. We draw on the “Yali Spirit” and a century of goodwill to demonstrate to the world that Chinese and American people cooperate and engage brilliantly and peaceably. Yale-China carries on this work for the long-term and models daily the Sino-American relationship that can be in this new century.
1901 - 1951
A reflection of the religious fervor sweeping American college campuses at the end of the 19th century, Yale-China was founded in 1901 as the Yale Foreign Missionary Society by a group of Yale graduates and faculty members committed to establishing a Christian missionary presence overseas. The founders chose China as the focus of their work, in part to honor the memory of a Yale graduate from the class of 1892, Horace Tracy Pitkin, who had worked in China as a missionary and died in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. The city of Changsha in Hunan Province was chosen as the base of operations in China after consultation with other foreign missionaries.
At the urging of the home office in New Haven as well as other missionaries in China, the Yale Mission early on assumed more of an educational than evangelical function. With the arrival of Dr. Edward Hume in 1905, medical education and care became a major focus of the endeavor. The educational compound that began with Dr. Hume's medical clinic eventually grew to comprise a preparatory school, the Yali Middle School; the College of Yale-in-China (later moved to Wuhan, where it joined two other missionary colleges to form Huachung University); and the Hsiang-Ya Medical College, Nursing School and Hospital. Over the years, Hsiang-Ya (a compound of hsiang, denoting Hunan, and ya, denoting Yale-China; transliterated today as Xiangya) developed a reputation for providing the most advanced training in Western medicine in all of central and southern China. More than at other foreign-affiliated institutions, an effort was made early on to bring as many Chinese faculty and administrators on board as possible. By the late 1920's, all major leadership positions were held by Chinese, and Yale-in-China was very much a joint Sino-American enterprise.
The war years (1937-45) placed enormous strains on the Yale-in-China institutions, especially the Hsiang-Ya Hospital, which cared for the seemingly limitless war casualties and refugees. As the Chinese Nationalist armies retreated towards the southwest, these institutions followed to escape the advancing Japanese. In July of 1938, Huachung University moved to Guilin, but bombing raids there forced it to move to Xizhou in the remote reaches of Yunnan province the following year. Yali Middle School moved to Yuanling in western Hunan in September of 1938 and the medical college and nursing school moved to Guiyang, in Guizhou, the following month.
Yale-in-China's wartime experiences were difficult, and many of the Changsha facilities were damaged by invading Japanese troops. Nevertheless, these challenges served to inspire renewed commitment on the part of both American and Chinese faculty and administrators. The Yale-in-China staff who returned to Changsha in September of 1945 were determined to rebuild the campus and resume their pre-war operations. Within four years, however, a Communist insurgency toppled the Nationalist government and Yale-in-China's future seemed uncertain in the face of growing hostility between the United States and China.
By 1951, the new Communist government had taken possession of Yale-in-China's Changsha properties and renamed the Yali Middle School as "Liberation Middle School." Dr. Dwight Rugh, Yale-in-China's last representative in Changsha, spent most of 1950 under house arrest as the only American on campus, and was eventually expelled from China in May of 1951. With his departure, the ties between Yale-in-China in New Haven and the institutions in Changsha and Wuhan were broken for nearly 30 years.
Between 1951 and 1954, hostility against the United States on the mainland and turmoil on Nationalist-held Taiwan led to a suspension of Yale-in-China’s work within China. During those years, Yale-in-China devoted its resources to financing the education of Chinese students in the U.S. while looking in Asia for new projects to support. Attention soon focused on a refugee college in the British colony of Hong Kong which had been founded by Ch’ien Mu (1895-1990) and other Chinese intellectuals determined to preserve traditional Chinese learning and values in the face of the Communist victory on the mainland. In early 1954, after a visit to the colony and months of negotiations, Yale-in-China’s trustees formally affiliated the organization with New Asia College.
Unlike in Changsha, Yale-in-China’s relationship with New Asia College was, by intention, one of support and assistance rather than direct administration. Yale-in-China secured funding from the Ford Foundation and other U.S. foundations to support the development of the college, and also provided fellowships for New Asia faculty to pursue further study in the United States. In 1956, Yale-in-China resumed the practice of sending two recent Yale graduates each year to teach English, though now to New Asia College instead of Yali Middle School.
In the late 1950s, the possibility of founding a university in Hong Kong that would use Chinese as the medium of instruction was explored. In 1959, the Council of British Universities selected New Asia, United and Chung Chi colleges to federate and form the new Chinese University of Hong Kong, which was formally inaugurated in 1963 on its Shatin campus. Yale-in-China contributed to the new campus by securing funds to construct numerous buildings, including the university health clinic, the Yali Guest House, Friendship Lodge and a student dormitory at New Asia College. Yale-in-China also contributed to the early internationalization of the campus by helping to establish the New Asia—Yale-in-China Chinese Language Centre and the International Asian Studies Program, which now enroll hundreds of international students every year. Meanwhile, the relationship with New Asia College, where the Yale-China Association (as the organization was renamed in 1975) has maintained a representative office for fifty years, remains a strong one.
By the 1970s, both New Asia College and the Chinese University of Hong Kong had achieved a level of institutional maturity and financial stability that decreased the need for Yale-China's contributions. At the same time, the normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China presented the possibility of resumed activity on the mainland. In the fall of 1979, Yale-China staff traveled to Changsha to explore opportunities for academic exchange with administrators and faculty at Hunan Medical College, the successor to Hsiang-Ya, and several exchange agreements were concluded that led to the arrival of Yale-China English teachers in September of 1980 and exchanges of medical personnel between Yale University and Hunan Medical College. Two English instructors were also sent to Wuhan University the same year and later to Huazhong Normal University.
Despite the geographical continuities, however, the intervening years had brought substantial changes to Chinese higher education and within Yale-China itself. Political sensitivities in China and Yale-China's own evolution determined that any new activity in China would be of a nature substantially different from that of the pre-1949 years. Rather than seeking to resume the joint administration of the former Yale-in-China institutions, the emphasis was placed on shorter-term academic exchanges in the fields of medicine and American Studies and a resumption of the English language instruction program. Throughout the 1980s, Yale-China's medical program brought almost 50 Chinese medical personnel to the U.S. and sent over 40 Americans to China for exchanges of medical knowledge. During the same years, nearly 100 Yale graduates participated in Yale-China's English teaching program in China. Yale-China also continued to send English teachers to the Chinese University of Hong Kong and maintained its involvement with the university's International Asian Studies Program.
The decade of the 1990s brought an expansion of Yale-China's activities into new program areas and affiliations with institutions outside of Yale-China's historical bases in Hong Kong, Changsha and Wuhan. While maintaining its English teaching program, Yale-China initiated projects in environmental protection and pediatric cardiology and facilitated a drama collaboration between New Haven's Long Wharf Theater and the Shanghai People's Art Theater which resulted in a Chinese-language stage production of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club in 1994. Other areas of expansion have included the fields of American Studies, legal education, public health, nursing, and service in the non-profit sector for China and American students. Information on current programs appears on the programs section of this website.
Changing Times, Changing Names
The Yale-China Association was first incorporated as the Yale Foreign Missionary Society, and was known informally as Yale-in-China as early as 1913. It was nondenominational from its beginnings and by the 1920's had ceased to be an overtly missionary enterprise. It was re-incorporated in 1934 as a secular organization, the Yale-in-China Association, and in 1975 as the Yale-China Association. Today, it is often recognized simply by Yale-China.