The Fan Memorial Institute of Biology Endowment Fund


The major task of the Institute was to survey the flora and fauna of the northern China. Its departments of zoology and botany were directed by Ping Chi and H. H. Hu. Ping Chi, the first curator, after travelling up and down China for several years, resigned the position as the curator and devoted his full time in the Biology Laboratory of Science Society of China. His position was taken over by H. H. Hu. These two institutions had conducted almost the same research and the only difference was the scope of the research. The China Foundation also believed the location of the institutes in the north and the south was a good idea and the friendly cooperative relationships between the two institutes were appropriate.

Besides the Fan Memorial Institute of Biology, there are the Biology Laboratory of the Science Society of China and The Institute of Plants and Forestry, Chung Shan University in Canton. The three institutes all received our grants. Because the curators of the three have long-term friendly relationships, their works are cooperative without duplication. Since the locations of the three institutes are in the northern, western and central China and there were abundant species in the vast territory of China, the distribution is seamless .

Since the major task of the Institute was to “follow the footsteps of the National Geological Survey to survey the taxonomy of the flora and fauna in China”, its survey areas spread widely north to Mongolia, south to Hainan Island, and to Tibet and Sichuan in northwest and southwest China. They found many new species. Their reports were published in the Bulletins of the Fan Memorial Institute of Biology, the Chinese Plants Illustrated and Floral Special Report, etc.

Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica
Author:中文維基百科的Jijie 123, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Author:猫猫的日记本 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Fan Yuan-Lien, also called Fan Ching-Sen, was born in Hsiang-yin, Hunan Province. In the early year, he studied biology in Japan. When he returned to China, he was appointed as the Deputy Administrator of the Tsing-Hua School. Later on, he was appointed Minister of the Ministry of Education and President of the National Normal University, Peking. He was the first Director and a trustee of the China Foundation. He was also a member of Hsiang Chih Hsueh Hui (Hsiang Chih Research Society). He enjoyed research in natural science at his leisure hours. When he died in December, 1927, he left a number of books and preserved plants in his home. In order to memorize him as the promoter of biology, his friends provided monies from the Hsiang Chih Research Society in the amount of CN$150,000 to be entrusted to the China Foundation for setting up Fan Memorial Institute of Biology. The Board of the China Foundation decided at the 4th Annual Meeting in June, 1928 to accept the proposal, and on October 1st established the Institute by appointing Ping Chih as the director of the Institute with six researchers such as H. H. Hu and Shou Cheng-Huan.


For the management of the Fan Memorial Institute of Biology Endowment Fund (referred hereinafter as the Fan Memorial Fund), the China Foundation invested mainly in the Silver Dollar denominated securities, mostly in China Unification Bonds.

During his early years of study in the Harvard University, H. H. Hu used the plant specimen he collected in the school’s botanical garden for his PhD thesis. He was interested in the botanical garden management. At end of 1933, Hu returned to his Kiangsi hometown and contacted the Provincial College of Agriculture for jointly operating Lushan Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Next year, the Garden was established and they hired Chin Zen-Chang as the curator. Chin had been the researcher of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburg and Kew Garden, London. The Provincial Kiangsi College of Agriculture provided $30,000 as organization fees, and the Fan Memorial Institute of Biology shared half of the on-going budget of $12,000 with the College. The garden was 9,000-mu in size. In addition to the cultivation of and experiments on the forestry and garden plants, the garden also surveyed and collected the plants in Lushan. The Garden became the biggest one in China. In addition to his second job offered by the College as the curator of Lushan Forestry, Chin Zen-Chang also established Meisan Forestry Laboratory at the request of Lu Tso-Fu, the director of the Bureau of the Public Works, Kiangsi Province. The Fan Memorial Institute’s cooperative project for the Lushan Botanical Garden and Arboretum was planned to last 3 years.

After discussions, they decided to stick to the original plan for botanical gardens were “the most important enterprises of a permanent character for us. The project cannot be compared with short-term cooperative businesses.” Therefore they continued the project.


After the break-out of the war, due to impossibility to move the collection of specimen and books, the Institute did not moved to the south. It was under the protection of U. S. Embassy. H. H. Hu led part of staffs to Yunnan and established Yunnan Agriculture and Forestry Laboratory in cooperation with the Department of Education, Yunnan Province. The Lab was established at the Dragon Spring Park, near Black Dragon Pond, in the northern suburb of Kunming. Chin Zen-Chan led the staffs of the Botanical Garden to Likiang County at the northwestern Yunnan. They established Likiang Working Center of the Lushan Botanical Garden and Arboretum and continued their research. They not only surveyed the plants in Yunnan and the Houlan Mountains, they also published many research papers on ferns. The grants from the China Foundation never stopped. At the start of the Pacific War, the Japanese army treated the Institute as an American institute and confiscated it. The equipment was totally destroyed. Nevertheless, H. H. Hu still published the reactivated bulletins in Kiangsi. He published his most important discovery in Szechuan, i.e. metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), a living fossil. After the war, the China Foundation could no longer afford the expenses to move the Institute back to Peking and the market value of the Fan Memorial Fund's securities was cut in half due to its investment in Chinese government bonds. The Foundation asked government for a grant of 500 million dollar to maintain the Institute. In 1948, the Foundation wrote to the Ministry of Education asking the government to include the salaries of the Institute under the government's budget for education and culture, while the Foundation was to be responsible only for the Institute's business and administrative expenses. After the fall of the Mainland by the Nationalists, the Institute was merged to the Institute of Plant Taxonomy, Chinese Academy of Science .