Chen Hengzhe (Ch'en Heng-che) 1893-1976

Chen Hengzhe, also known by her English name Sophia H. Chen Zen, was among the first generation of Chinese women admitted to Tsing Hua University. She then received a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship to study in the United States, and went to Vassar College in 1914 to study history. She later pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago. During her years at Vassar she met fellow Boxer Indemnity Scholar Hu Shi JA (1891V1962), and became an early supporter of his proposals on writing in the vernacular. Her story 'One Day' is arguably the first piece of vernacular writing in modern Chinese literature. She continued writing short stories, mostly about her experience as a student in America.

In 1920, when Peking University opened its doors to women, Chen began her teaching and research career as the first woman professor in China, hired by the University Chancellor Cai Yuanpei (1868V1940). She had to give up fiction writing, but authored a history of Europe which became the standard university text in the subject. She was not silent on political and social injustice and the condition of women, however, continuing to raise these issues through essays.
Chen suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution (1966V1976) because of her long association with the US and the fact that her children lived and worked there. She died in 1976.

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