Image from The Chinese Student – reproduced with permission of the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh
by Dingjian Xie
In June 1921, a group of Chinese students at Edinburgh, members of the Edinburgh Chinese Students’ Union (ECSU), published an official organ The Chinese Student (CS). Two editions of the magazine are collected in the Centre for Research Collections at the University. The title of the magazine, consciously or unconsciously, corresponds to The Student, the UK’s oldest student newspaper launched in 1887 by students at Edinburgh. As the adjective Chinese tells us, although this magazine is produced in English, it is to strengthen internal ties among Chinese students. The CS became a platform of communication among Chinese students who came from not just the newly-founded Republic of China but also from other countries and regions around the globe. Meanwhile, it also provided a window for the British people to understand the ‘real’ Chinese.
Although coming from different corners of the world and living in the UK, the writers in the CS still jointly in their own ways engaged in the nation building and modernisation of their motherland, the new Republic of China, which was founded in 1912. Building on the fact that “the Chinese student colony in Edinburgh is today deeply imbued with a spirit of unit”, the CS was intended as “a permanent record of our collective activities”, to draw together members “from various parts of the world” and “strengthen the existing ties of kinship, common tradition, and sentiment which are so essential to the well-being of our community and our nation”. But it was also outward facing, looking to portray “the Chinese people as they really are, and not as they are painted” – “persistently maligned and misrepresented” by “the cinema, the sensational novel, and propaganda literature”.