1896  — 1938

Liu Zhan'en

Herman C. E. Liu , 刘湛恩

Chinese Baptist laymen, educator, and civic leader.

Liu received his primary and secondary education in mission schools and became a Christian. He graduated from Suzhou University (Tongwu) in 1918 and went on a scholarship to the United States where he received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. He returned to China in 1922 and served as education secretary of the national Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) for six years. In 1926, he was chief delegate from China to the world YMCA conference in Finland. He took the opportunity to observe the educational systems in Europe.

In 1928, Liu was appointed president of the University of Shanghai (formerly Shanghai Baptist College). Liu assumed this position at a politically difficult time when private schools were required to be registered with the national government and the teaching of religion was curtailed. When the Japanese invaded Manchuria and Shanghai in 1931 and 1932, patriotic students disrupted learning at the universities in protest. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, Liu moved the university to the International Settlement so that it could continue to function. Under his decade of leadership, the university grew and gained academic recognition.

Liu traveled much and made several trips to the United States. In 1929, he attended the World Education Conference in Geneva. In 1933, he was in Banff, Canada, for the conference of the Chinese Institute of Pacific Relations, of which he was a founding member. He also visited, along with E. Stanley Jones and others, major American cities to promote interest in overseas missions.

Liu played a key role in the organization of the Chinese Baptist Alliance in 1930 and spearheaded the Forward Movement. He was also a primary figure at the Baptist convention in Jiangsu. He was a member of the National Christian Council (NCC), the Council of Higher Education of Christian Colleges, the China Christian Association, the War Relief Committee of the NCC, and the International Red Cross.

With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Liu organized an anti-enemy committee and was appointed by Hollington Tong, vice-minister of information, to try to persuade the United States to support China against the Japanese. He was assassinated, most likely by Japanese agents, in Shanghai on 7 April 1938.

Liu’s wife, Wang Li-ming, who was from Anhui, was a supporter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Becoming increasingly critical of the Kuomintang, she attended the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a delegate from the China Democratic League. She later served as a leader of the China Women’s Federation.

In 1985, Liu was declared a revolutionary martyr by the People’s Republic of China.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Boorman, Howard L., ed., Biographical Dictionary of Republican China 7 (1968).

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