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Dean Lung

“I send you here with a deposit check for $12,000 as a contribution to the fund for Chinese Learning in your university.” This letter, signed by “Dean Lung, a Chinese person”, was written to Columbia President Seth Low by the valet of University Trustee General Horace Walpole Carpentier in 1901. Dean Lung’s remarkable generosity prompted Carpentier to give additional donations totaling $200,000 in honor of his friend and employee for the endowment of Chinese studies at the University. Thus was founded what would become the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. In 1902 the University appointed its first professor of Chinese, Friedrich Hirth, previously of the University of Munich. Hirth began with the intention of using his own books to support the study of China at Columbia, but in the same year the University received a substantial donation of books from the government of imperial China, founding the University’s Chinese book collection, which would form the basis of what is now the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. Later holders of the founding Dean Lung Professorship have included L. Carrington Goodrich, Hans Bielenstein, and its current occupant Madeleine Zelin.


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