The statue and tomb of John Leighton Stuart
Mr. Stuart, a respected missionary, educator and diplomat, died in Washington in 1962. He had written in his will that he hoped his remains would someday be buried in China, where he had been born the son of Christian missionaries in 1876 and had helped found a prominent university.
On Monday, 46 years after his death and after years of negotiations, Mr. Stuart’s ashes were laid to rest at a cemetery near the West Lake in the eastern city of Hangzhou, about two hours south of Shanghai. A small ceremony honoring Mr. Stuart on Monday was attended by Chinese and American officials, including the vice mayor of Hangzhou and the United States ambassador, Clark Randt Jr., as well as alumni of Yenching University in Beijing, the institution Mr. Stuart helped found.
Mr. Stuart’s own history is a window into the shifting sands of United States-China relations from the later years of the Qing dynasty to the rise of PRC.
He was born in Hangzhou and grew up speaking fluent Chinese. He moved to the United States with his parents at the age of 11, eventually earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary and returned to China in 1904. For the next 45 years, he worked as a missionary and educator in Hangzhou, Beijing and Nanjing. He raised money from wealthy Americans, including Henry Luce, the founder of Time and Life magazines, and in 1919 founded and was president of Yenching University, a Christian institution whose idyllic campus now is the site of Peking University.
Historians say Mr. Stuart pushed for reforms in China and led protests against the Japanese occupation of northern and then eastern China. Because of his stance, he was jailed in Beijing by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. He was released in 1945. A year later, he was named ambassador to China at a time when Washington was supporting the Nationalists, who were waging a civil war with the Communists. Mr. Stuart was the last American ambassador to China before 1949. It was not until 1973, after Nixon pushed to re-establish relations, that the United States opened a diplomatic liaison office in Beijing.
Mr. Stuart returned to Washington in 1949 and suffered a stroke. His wife, who had died in 1926, was buried near Yenching University; his parents were buried in Hangzhou. Mr. Stuart lived the last decade of his life in Washington, under the care of Philip Fugh. Mr. Fugh was Mr. Stuart’s longtime assistant.
The effort to have Mr. Stuart buried in China goes back to the 1960s. In 2007, with the help of Mr. Xi, a burial of Mr. Stuart in Hangzhou had been approved. Mr. Stuart’s ashes were brought to Shanghai through American diplomatic channels. And on Monday, they were slipped into the ground in Hangzhou. The Yenching alumni played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace.”
Now, the tomb of Mr. Stuart in Hangzhou has been a memorial of history between China and USA.
(Source: www.nytimes.com, with a re-editing)