“In Chinese, an introduction to any subject is usually called ‘entering the gate,’ or ‘entering the door,’” former United Board Trustee Julia Ching wrote in her 2000 book, The Religious Thought of Chu Hsi. Dr. Ching’s intercession at a pivotal moment helped the United Board re-enter the door to mainland China and start a new chapter of cooperation with Chinese colleges and universities.
Dr. Ching’s research focused on the neo-Confucian philosophy and religion of the Song and Ming dynasties, but she was well attuned to the changing currents in Sino-American relations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1979, she opened the door for Paul Lauby, then general secretary of the United Board, to attend a Beijing conference on contemporary ethics sponsored by Georgetown University’s Institute of Ethics. During the conference, she arranged for Dr. Lauby to meet with China’s Deputy Minister of Education. That conversation, in turn, led the Minister of Education to invite representatives of the United Board to visit China and discuss prospects for cooperation. When trustees and counselors – including Julia Ching – visited China in 1980, and began to discuss shared interests in education with government officials and university leaders, the United Board entered the gate to a new era of building partnerships in China.
Dr. Ching was born in Shanghai and educated in Hong Kong, the United States and Australia. At the time of her death in 2001, she was on the faculty of the University of Toronto. She served as a United Board trustee from 1978 to 1986.
Originally published in Horizons in November 2012.