Zhang Boling

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Zhang Boling
Zhang Boling.jpg
Born 1876
Tianjin, Qing Dynasty
Died 1951
Tianjin, People's Republic of China
Nationality  Republic of China
Alma mater Saint John's University, Shanghai
Political party Naval Jack of the Republic of China.svg Kuomintang
Zhang Boling
Traditional Chinese 張伯苓
Simplified Chinese 张伯苓

Zhang Boling (Chinese: 張伯苓; Wade–Giles: Chang Po-ling; April 5, 1876 – February 23, 1951) was a Chinese educator who founded Nankai University and the Nankai system of schools.


Statue of Zhang Boling.

Zhang Boling was born in Tianjin in 1876 during the last years of the Qing Dynasty. His younger brother was P.C. Chang, a philosopher and diplomat. He was a cadet officer in the Beiyang Fleet, but he abandoned his training after the fleet was destroyed during the First Sino-Japanese War. He attended and graduated from Saint John's University in Shanghai.

After several years of teaching, Zhang Boling organized funding for a private college preparatory school, Nankai High School, in Tianjin in 1904. In 1917 he briefly studied at the Teachers College at Columbia University in the United States, where he was influenced by the American educator and reformer John Dewey. Afterwards, he expanded his school into a full university, Nankai University, in 1919. Under Zhang's leadership, Nankai continued to expand for the next few years and became one of the most prestigious universities in China.

He was noted for his emphasis on athletics, which he believed would rid China of its image as the 'Sick man of Asia' in the early 1900s, quoting that 'only a good sportsman can be a good teacher'. He established a number of annual national athletic meets and the forerunner to the modern Chinese Olympic Committee. He established several smaller institutions, including a girls middle school (1923), experimental primary school (1928), institute of economics (1927), and of chemistry (1932).

During the 1930s, Zhang Boling anticipated the possibility of war with Japan and made preparations to evacuate Nankai University and Nankai High School from Tianjin to the Chinese interior. As part of these preparations, he founded the Chongqing Nankai Middle School in 1936. When the Second Sino-Japanese War began on July 7, 1937, Zhang Boling evacuated the entire Nankai system of schools to Changsha, Hunan province.

As the Japanese military advanced towards the Chinese interior, Zhang Boling organized a second evacuation to Kunming, Yunnan province in 1938. In Kunming, Nankai University joined with Peking University and Tsinghua University to form the National Southwestern Associated University, which continued to educate the top students in China until the war ended in 1945. Afterwards, Nankai University returned to Tianjin.

Zhang Boling died in Tianjin in 1951.


  • Fairbank, John King. The Great Chinese Revolution: 1800-1985. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.