Shen Zhonghan

Name in Chinese
Name in Wade-Giles
Shen Tsung-han
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Biography in English

Shen Tsung-han (15 December 1895-), agriculturalist noted for his work in establishing and developing a national agricultural research bureau and for his service on the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, of which he became chairman in 1964.

The fourth of six children, Shen Tsung-han was born in Yuyao, Chekiang. He received his early training in the Chinese classics from his uncle and from his father, a sheng-yuan who taught school for a living. At the age of 13, Shen won a scholarship to a senior primary school. Upon graduation in 1912 he decided to study agriculture in the hope that he could help strengthen China and better the lot of the peasantry. With this idea in mind, he spent two years at an agricultural vocational school in Hangchow and then went to Peking to study at National Agricultural College. During this period he was strongly influenced by his eldest brother, a devout Christian; and in 1919, a few months after his graduation, he joined the Chinese Episcopal Church in Peking. In 1919-22 Shen worked on a cotton farm and taught at agricultural vocational schools. The many problems he encountered caused him to think of going abroad for further training. With US $800, some of which he borrowed from friends, he went to the United States in September 1923 and enrolled at the University of Georgia at Athens to study the cotton industry. He received an M.A. degree in June 1924. With the help of a partial scholarship from Tsinghua College and, later, a research fellowship from the International Education Board of New York, he went to Cornell University, where he chose plant breeding as his area of concentration and worked under the supervision of Professor H. H. Love. He received a Ph.D. degree in 1928. Upon returning to China, Shen Tsung-han became a professor at Nanking University and did research on wheat genetics. An extremely popular teacher, he trained many outstanding Chinese agriculturists. Shen also took charge of wheat, rice, and kaoliang breeding in the Nanking-Cornell cooperative crop improvement program, a venture which was supported by the International Education Board of New York. He made annual inspection trips to the ten Christian institutions which undertook experimental work in areas that were representative of north, central, and east China. One result of this cooperative program was the development of No. 2905 wheat, which yielded at least 40 percent more than the ordinary variety. A new rice variety and a new kaoliang variety improved farmers' yields by 20 percent. During his annual inspection trips to various parts of China, Shen studied other aspects of China's agricultural problems. In 1931 he and a few other agriculturalists prevailed upon the National Government to establish a national agricultural research bureau under the ministry of industry. Shen joined the bureau as chief technician in 1934, retaining his Nanking post. As part of his work in the agricultural research bureau, Shen Tsung-han made a study of China's imports of rice, wheat, and cotton from foreign countries in the 1920-33 period. He found that the heavy concentration of population in the coastal industrial cities, inadequate transportation facilities from the interior, and the high cost of marketing were the principal causes of importation; and he and other experts recommended improvements in grain production, marketing, and milling to attain self-sufficiency. These recommendations led to the establishment of a national cotton improvement bureau and a national rice and wheat improvement bureau, with Shen as head of the wheat division. When inspection services for these three crops were established in 1937, Shen also became director of the one for wheat, which set up offices in the wheatmarketing centers to inspect the moisture content and foreign matter of wheat as a first step toward standardization. As a result of these improvements, the imports of cotton, wheat, and rice dropped sharply in 1933-36. In 1937, however, China's economic development was disrupted by the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war. Shen resigned from his Nanking University post so that he could devote more of his time to work in the agricultural research bureau, concentrating his efforts on wartime food and cotton programs.

In December 1937 Wu Ting-ch'ang(q.v.), governor of Kweichow, invited Shen Tsung-han to work out an agricultural program for his province. After studying the work of the provincial agricultural stations in the Kweiyang vicinity, he recommended that all independent small stations be dissolved and that a provincial agricultural improvement bureau be established in order to reduce administrative expenses and coordinate agricultural programs. He also recommended that emphasis be placed on a few projects that would be helpful to the war effort: extension of wheat, rape, tobacco, and cotton crops to replace opium poppies ; improvement of irrigation by digging ponds and building small dams; improvement of rice, wheat, and cotton strains; control of hog cholera and cattle rinderpest; and the creation of a rural credit loan system. Shen's recommendations were adopted, and a Kweichow provincial agricultural improvement bureau was created in the spring of 1938. The national agricultural research bureau set up a field station at Kweiyang with a working staff of 20 specialists which also served the provincial bureau. The close cooperation between these two bureaus helped effect a significant increase in Kweichow's agricultural production. In the course of a governmental reorganization in February 1938 all national agriculture organizations were abolished and their work transferred to a national agricultural research bureau, of which Hsieh Chia-sheng was director and Shen Tsung-han was deputy director. With about 150 specialists and an administrative staff of 20, this organization gave the provincial bureaus both technical and financial assistance. Shen paid frequent visits to the provincial bureaus and advised them on how to improve research work and extension services.

After returning from the Postwar World Food and Agricultural Conference in Hot Springs, Virginia, in 1943, which he attended as a National Government delegate, Shen Tsung-han discussed with Owen L. Dawson, agricultural attache of the American embassy in Chungking, the need for technical cooperation between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Chinese ministry of agriculture and forestry. In 1946, partly as a result of Shen's efforts, a joint China-United States Agricultural Mission was formed to study agricultural conditions in China, to outline a comprehensive program for agricultural development, and to suggest the types and forms of public services necessary for its implementation. With Dr. C. B. Hutchison as its chairman and Shen Tsung-han as deputy head of the Chinese section, the mission—composed often American and thirteen Chinese specialists—spent several months touring fourteen mainland provinces and the newly retroceded island province of Taiwan. The report of the mission, which was published by the Office of Foreign Agricultural Relations of the U. S. Department of Agriculture in May 1947, provided valuable information for the 1948 discussions in the U.S. Congress about economic aid to China; it also contributed to the development of the joint commission idea.

At the suggestion of Secretary of State George C. Marshall, Dr. James Y. C. Yen (Yen Yang-ch'u, q.v.) prepared a memorandum in which he proposed the establishment of a joint commission to administer a program of rural reconstruction, and he recommended that ten percent of American economic aid be earmarked for this program. In accordance with the authority provided by Section 407 of the 1948 China Aid Act (P.L. 472, 80th Congress), an agreement was entered into by the United States and China through an exchange of notes on 4 August 1948 whereby the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) would be established. The commission became operative on 1 October 1948. It was composed of two American commissioners, John Earl Baker and Raymond T. Moyer, and three Chinese commissioners, Shen Tsung-han, James Yen, and Chiang Monlin (Chiang Meng-lin, q.v.). Chiang was elected chairman, and he held that office until his death in 1964. The basic objectives ofJCRR were to increase agricultural production, promote rural welfare and fair distribution, and strengthen government and private agencies in their service to agriculture. Because of the agricultural crisis in China, high priority was given to projects that would bring direct benefits to great numbers of people as soon as possible. Accordingly, the basic programs of JCRR were: (1) increase of food production through flood control, irrigation, the multiplication and distribution of improved grain varieties and seeds, and the control of animal diseases and plant pests; (2) land reform programs in Fukien, Szechwan, and Taiwan; and (3) a mass education program in Szechwan. A number of JCRR specialists were recruited from the national agricultural research bureau, of which Shen Tsung-han had been the director since 1947.

With the fall of the Chinese mainland to the Chinese Communists in 1949, the JCRR moved to Taiwan, where it continued to provide technical and financial assistance to government and private agencies concerned with agricultural development. Shen Tsung-han's chief concern was helping the National Government in Taiwan to plan and coordinate agricultural programs for the economic development of Taiwan. He served on the Economic Stabilization Board (later the Council for International Economic Cooperation and Development), which promulgated four successive four-year plans from 1953 to 1968 and which formulated agricultural, industrial, trade, transportation, financial, and educational policies and programs. Government and private agencies at all levels took part in carrying out various agricultural projects, and it was Shen Tsung-han who coordinated their activities and promoted interagency cooperation. With the death of Chiang Monlin in 1964, Shen became chairman of the JCRR. Although American economic aid to Taiwan ended in June 1965, the JCRR continued to operate as a bi-national organization with funds provided by the Sino-American Development Fund.

In the course of his career, Shen Tsung-han wrote more than 180 articles on many aspects of agriculture, including wheat genetics and crop improvement, agricultural policy and planning, land reform, and farmers' organizations. His two books in English, published by the Cornell University Press, were The Agricultural Resources of China (1951) and Agricultural Development on Taiwan Since World War II ( 1 964) .

He wrote two autobiographical works in Chinese, both of which were published by the Cheng-chung shu-chü in Taipei.

Shen Tsung-han married four times. His first wife, nee Wu, was a girl from his native village. They were divorced in 1930. The following year, Shen married Shen Li-yin, a graduate of Wellesley who was an agriculturalist. She died in October 1941, after suffering a stroke. Shen's third wife, Ch'en Pin-chih, whom he married in June 1942, died of stomach cancer on 3 January 1944. He married Liu T'ing-fang, a historian, on 2 July 1944.

Biography in Chinese


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