Chén Yuán 陳垣 (1880-1971)
Chén Yuán 陳垣 (1880-1971) was a founding figure in the history of religion in China, author of several studies on Chinese Buddhism, and a former head of Fǔrén University 輔仁大學.
Chén received a classical education as a child but failed to pass the civil service exams. In 1905 he established Shíshì huàbào 時事畫報 (The Illustrated Times) in Guǎngzhōu 廣州, and two years later entered a medical school. After the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911 he was selected as a representative to the National Assembly 國會 in Běijīng 北京. In 1919 he became a Protestant Christian, and in 1921 became vice-minister of the Ministry of Education, but soon left to pursue scholarship, gaining fame as a historian with his Yuán yělǐkěwēn kǎo 元也里可溫考 (Investigation into Christianity during the Yuan Dynasty), written in 1917 and later published by Commercial Press 商務印書館 in 1923.
In 1911 Chén had helped Mǎ Xiàngbó 馬相伯 and Yīng Liǎnzhī 英斂之 establish a Catholic University in Běijīng. The school was founded in 1925 as Fǔrén shè 輔仁社, but when Yīng died the following year, Chén was asked to join as an administrator. After the school gained official status in 1929 as Fǔrén University 輔仁大學, Chén served as president.
After the establishment of the People's Republic, Chén was praised by Máo Zédōng 毛澤東 as a "national treasure". In 1952 he continued to serve as president when Fǔrén merged with Beijing Normal University 北京師範大學, and formally joined the Communist Party in 1959. Chén was put under house arrest during the Cultural Revolution, and died at home in 1971.
Note that many of these works circulated in manuscript or article form before they were formally published.