Posts Tagged ‘GeneralHistory’

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by Hermann G. Heid

Last updated: 24-10-1998

I am grateful to all of you affording me this opportunity to discuss a topic which has fascinated me for some 3 years now: the history of the RC Peking. The old Shanghai and Peking Rotary Clubs were closely intertwined; as a matter of fact all Chinese Clubs were closely knitted together. 

What we have experienced in Beijing you are about to experience here and therefore I am glad to share with you what we in Beijing have learnt over time. Hopefully, this evening will give all of us some new insights. The RC Peking counted great men among its membership and I am continuing my research so that one day I may have enough material to write a book on the Men of the Tiffin Club. 

It all began on January 18th 1923 when fifteen Americans and one Chinese met in the popular Wagon-Lits Hotel in Peking and subsequently appealed to the Secretary of the RC Chicago – who had been a charter member of the RC Shanghai – for help and advice on procedures how to obtain a Charter from RI. About the same time, and unaware of the meeting in Peking, Julean Arnold, himself a member of the RC Shanghai, was guest speaker at the Chicago Club. Arnold’s speech led to a discussion with Lester Struthers, Asst. General Secretary of RI, on the extension of Rotary into Peking and Rotary’s policies towards China. 

Shortly after Arnold’s meetings in Chicago the Peking letter, detailing the January 18th meeting in Peking, arrived.

This letter and Arnold’s visit prompted the Secretariat to contact the RC Shanghai requesting nomination of a Shanghai Rotarian as Special Representative for the organising of the Rotary Club in Peking”. But the RC of Shanghai was primarily a white man’s club. Therefore, Jim Davidson of the Extension Committee was afraid that Shanghai would again build a club dominated by missionaries and “not bring together the many brilliant young Chinese holding important positions in China.” He favoured the appointment of Julean Arnold, of whom he knew that he would build a primarily “Chinese” Club. In June 1923 the Secretary of RC Shanghai, Dr. Julian Petit, wrote to the Secretary General, Ches Perry, questioning both the appointment of Arnold and the idea of setting up a RC in Peking altogether. This letter, of which I have a copy, was quite negative – one may say nasty – and it upset Julean Arnold quite a bit when he learnt about it later. 

(2) Arnold had come to China at the age of 26, worked at various US Consulates and was a field representative of the American Red Cross. He was Chairman of the American Delegation at the crucial China Tariff Revision Commission, authored and co-authored several books and ultimately lectured at Berkeley University. On June 18th 1923 Julean Arnold assembled five men to discuss the requirements of RI and to bring 25 Charter Members together. Twenty-five potential charter members, of which twelve were Chinese, met for lunch in Arnold’s home on July 11th during which the project, obligations and essential features of a Rotary Club were explained. All candidates were asked to confirm their desire to become Charter members and to obligate themselves to Rotary. 

(3) The temporary name THE THURSDAY TIFFIN CLUB was chosen and 

(4) a photo taken. The first meeting of The Thursday Tiffin Club took place on Thursday, July 27th 1923, and Julean Arnold was elected President. The Extension documents for the RC Peking were quickly dispatched to Evanston in which Peking is described as a city with a population of 950,000 of which 947,000 were natives. 

(5) The Extension Committee found two major irregularities and the Application is rejected! The irregularities are: 

1. The proposed RC Peking based its Constitution and By-Laws on those of the RC Shanghai. But the RI Los Angeles Convention had compelled all new clubs to adopt the Constitution and By-Laws as revised at Los Angeles and 

2. amongst the charter members five men had the same classification and five others used an identical business address. 

Several months later, in March 1924, while en-route to Canton, Julean Arnold informed Perry that he had lost his former enthusiasm for Rotary. He was disappointed that the charter had not yet been granted and he had meanwhile learnt of the negative letter that Dr. Petit had written in opposition to the RC Peking. 

In April The Tiffin Club disbanded but immediately selected new members for a second Charter attempt. 

(6) All preparations were completed by July when Admiral Tsai Ting Kan, President of a newly organized club, sent the second charter application to the Secretary General. Tsai, like many other members of the RC Peking, was a remarkable man: Navy Commander, personal Secretary of the country’s President, Admiral, Top Military Advisor, China’s Delegate at several international conferences, head of the Tax and Customs Bureaus, MC at the Last Emperor’s wedding, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, Professor, Author. While doing all this he was husband to three wives (two of whom died), one concubine and he had time to father one boy and eleven girls! 

(7) Finally, on September 2nd 1924, Julean Arnold received the long awaited telegram from Ches Perry reading: PEKING CLUB ELECTED MEMBER ROTARY INTERNATIONAL AUGUST 30TH HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS 

(8) Little is known of the Club’s Community work but there was correspondence with RI on Flood relief. And on Christmas Eve 1924 the club organized a Dinner for 200 of the very poorest boys of Peking. Many of whom had to be clothed first as otherwise they could not have ventured outside due to the extreme cold. 

By 1928 the Club had grown to 47 members and published “The Peking Rotarian”. Following the re-naming of the capital RI approved a name change to RC Peiking in July 1929. The Club ceased to function on December 8th 1941 when invading Japanese forces ransacked and took over the meeting venue. Most files and possessions were stolen, confiscated or otherwise lost. 

(9) The club was informally revived on August 30, 1945 (Date!) but times were bad! Many members could not afford the lunch and it was therefore decided to meet only once a month. The hotel permitted financially strapped members to bring their own lunch boxes. 

Dr. Chengting T. Wang, charter member of RC Peking, had meanwhile become Rotary’s “Administrative Advisor for China” and upon his urging re- chartering efforts gained momentum. RI re-admitted the RC Peiping one year later on August 14th 1946 and Dr. C.T. Wang eventually became Rotary’s first District Governor. The Club now met fortnightly – once again – at the Wagon- Lits Hotel. 

(10) Dr. Wang’s classification was ‘Parliamentarian’. This grossly understates the role he played in shaping China’s destiny in the first half of this Century! Educated at Yale, he served as Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s government chief negotiator at the Versailles Peace Conference. He was speaker of the Canton and Peking senates, member of China’s delegation at the Washington Conference, head of the China-Japan Conference for the return of Qingdao, repeatedly Foreign and Prime Minister and, late in his career, Ambassador to the United States. After his wife passed away he moved to Hong Kong where he married the daughter of Sir Shouson Chow (Chou Ch’ang-ling) and became Chairman of the Pacific Insurance Co. Both he and his father-in-law were members of the RC Hong Kong. 

Of the 58 members at the end of RY 1946/47 twenty-eight were Chinese. Germans, Italians and Japanese were not admitted pending signing of Peace Treaties with these countries. 

Civil order and the financial situation deteriorated rapidly. Membership fees and fines could no longer cover running expenses and a paper shortage prevented inter-club correspondence and the printing of members’ rosters. On October 1st 1949 Chairman Mao proclaimed The Peoples’ Republic of China. In July 1950 RI approved – again – a name change. This time to “Rotary Club of Peking”. 

The Club closed 1949-50 with 41 members. Records indicate that the RC Peking was practically the only international organisation still remaining in Peking. Though no meeting had been cancelled uncertainties accelerated rapidly. By early 1950 only two Clubs in Northern China remained functional but late 1950 RI invalidated the Charters of most Chinese Rotary Clubs because they could no longer operate. 

(11) Rotary Club Hong Kong reported that President T.E. Shaw and Hon. Secretary A.C. Hausske of the RC Peking were notable guest-Rotarians at their June 12th, 1951 meeting. They were on their way back to the USA and “the Rotary Club of Peking virtually goes with them”. On the eve of their departure from Peking the Chinese members held a special meeting to consider disbanding the club. The authorities had taken over all major facilities and it had become impossible to find meeting venues. T.E. Shaw reported that there had been no outside request to close the club, which could have gone ahead so far as he knew. But on June 26th 1951 RI declared the charter of the RC Peking null and void. 

In November 1951 RI confirmed to hold a credit for the Rotary Club Peking “and nothing would thrill Rotary more when, one day, Rotary would return to Peking when this money would be waiting as a credit for that club.” Well, a group of Rotarians are poised to claim it! 

(12) After 1951 China went through many painful years of turmoil and self- imposed isolation. But since 1978 China has opened up and gone through remarkable changes. The visitor of the 1950’s would not recognize the China of today! 

When I arrived in Beijing in 1995 I had remained member of the RC Hong Kong. I was fully aware that many Clubs and Districts from around the world had undertaken countless projects in China and Rotary International had spent Millions for the construction of a Polio vaccine manufacturing plant in Kunming. Yet, Rotary had not been invited to return to China. Over the years many well-meaning, yet unauthorized, attempts have been made to re-establish clubs in the Mainland. All such efforts failed. Rotary wants to be invited and have assurances that clubs may function according to our constitution and by-laws. China on the other hand does not know how to deal with NGOs. One major obstacle is that Chinese citizens are not permitted to become members of foreign organizations. But what was I to do? I wanted to practice Rotary in China and I did not want to hear “no” from either side! There being no law prohibiting like-minded people to meet for weekly luncheons I gathered eight friends for a meeting nearly forty-five years to the day after the termination of the RC Peking. We have met weekly ever since that June 1996 and our group has grown to well over 40 dedicated Rotarians. About ninety percent are members of the Rotary Club of Hong Kong. 

(13) Through the introduction of the RC Perth we located and invited PP Percy Chu of the former RC Shanghai to Beijing were we honoured him with a splendid 100th birthday party. RCs Perth and Hong Kong presented Percy PHFs and we arranged for Percy to appear on the popular TV program “Sons of the Orient” which has over 600 Million viewers. 

(14) The community projects meanwhile undertaken by our group are too many to name. Whenever calls for assistance from within Rotary came the Rotarians in Beijing stood ready to help. 

(15) When China was struck by devastating floods in 1998 we showed once again true Rotary spirit! We joined District 3450 to construct “Rotary International Village” for about six hundred people who had lost their homes. Our member Rtn Arthur Mattli co-composed and recorded music for piano and the Chinese pipa for a CD entitled “Village in the Floods”. 

(16) Then RI President Luis Giay was pleased to see how much Rotary had flourished in Beijing when he and other Rotary dignitaries attended a meeting in May 1997. 

(17) At our 100th meeting in June 1998 Rtn Bob Wilson presented us the original bell of the old Peking Club which he had discovered in an attic sale in Hong Kong. Within the community and various government Ministries we are meanwhile recognized and accepted as a trustworthy non-entity. 

(18) While Rotary International remains cautious towards China several Rotary Clubs are seeking dialogue with us. The recently signed Friendship Agreement with the Rotary Club of Copenhagen and numerous joint projects meanwhile undertaken with other clubs may serve as examples. 

We hope that the efforts in Beijing will soon bear fruit and that it will not be too long before the once thriving Rotary Club of Peking, which would celebrate its 75th Anniversary on August 30th this year, be re-chartered!


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District 3450 did not always incldue the territory it does now. Below is the timeline showing the evolution of District 3450’s geographical limit:

1960 – 1978 District 3450
Taiwan / Hong Kong / Macao 

1978 – 1987 District 3450
Northern Taiwan / Hong Kong / Macao 

1987 – 1991 District 3450
Hong Kong / Macao

1991 – 2000 District 3450
Hong Kong / Macao

2000 – 2003 District 3450
Hong Kong / Macao / Mongolia

Feb 2003 – District 3450
Hong Kong / Macao / Shanghai / Beijing / Mongolia


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Past District Governor Peter K. P. Hall

Last updated: July 2009

From a lonely man’s hunger for friendship, Rotary has become the most influential international service organization today.  For one club with only four members 104 years ago, Rotary today has more than 32,000 clubs with an estimated 1,200,000 Rotarians in 200 countries and regions.

Rotary did not become truly international until it extended to Asia in 1919 when clubs were organized in the Philippines, China and India, thus attesting to the universality of Rotary by proving that its principles possessed the vitality and appeal, to transcend not only national boundaries and language limitations but also the barrier of race, religion and creed.

Rotary was an alien import when the first club in China was established in 1919 in Shanghai, and there was considerable doubt as to whether it would acclimatize itself to the Chinese soil.  Other clubs were started in Tientsin in 1923 and in Beijing in 1924, but until 1931 these three remained the only Rotary clubs in all China.

Then Rotary began to develop and the number of clubs was increased to seven by 1932 – the four additional clubs were established in Hong Kong and in the three Manchurian cities of Dairen, Harbin and Mukden.  The life of the three clubs in Manchuria was, however, very brief as they were forced to cease functioning following the Japanese occupation in the same year.

Through the efforts of the late Dr. C.T. Wang, (close relative of Past President Wing Chow of Victoria Rotary Club) eleven new clubs were organized in different parts of China between 1932 and 1935.  The 15 clubs, which were, then in existence in China together with the Rotary Club of Hong Kong, and three other Rotary clubs in the Philippines, were in 1935 Constituted into Rotary District 81, with the late Dr. C.T. Wang elected as its first district governor.

When the Japanese invaded Shanghai in 1937, there were 23 clubs in China, one in Hong Kong and three in the Philippines, having a total of 1,211 Rotarians.  They were then divided by Rotary International into three Rotary Districts as follows:
District 96 which replaced District 81 in October 1937 covered roughly South China, Hong Kong and the Philippines with 11 clubs and 529 members; District 97 for Central China with 11 clubs and 475 members and District 98 for North China with five clubs and 207 members.

In 1938, the Philippine Islands were detached from District 96 of South China, but Macau was included in this district although there was no Rotary club in the Portuguese enclave at that time.

In the following four years prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941, many of the Rotary clubs in the Chinese cities under the Japanese occupation were still permitted to operate according to the official directories of Rotary International (R.I.).  Those four years recorded the existence of 25 clubs in 1938 and 26 clubs each in 1939, 1940 and 1941.  The 26 clubs included those in Chungking, Chengtu, Changsha and Sian, which were still free from the Japanese occupation.

The Japanese changed their policy following the outbreak of the Pacific War by closing down all the Rotary clubs in Japan and in all other territories occupied by them.  Chungking, the capital of wartime China, was bombed in four successive years, yet the Chungking Rotary club had never stopped functioning.  Rotary International records showed that the Chungking club continued to hold weekly meetings as usual, but not always in the same place.  When warning of an approaching air raid was received, a new meeting place was selected and word was passed along to its members.

Changsha, another city in free China, was three times the chief target of the Japanese attack.  The club there had to move out from the city on each Japanese onslaught, but still carried on its meetings.

After the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Shanghai Rotarians stopped functioning as a club because the Japanese would not allow it to meet regularly, but the members continued for some time to get together informally every week, often times in their homes.

Rotary in China had shown great vitality as well as courage.  Notwithstanding frequent air raids and other dangers, Rotarians had succeeded in establishing four new Rotary clubs during the war years when Western China held its own.  These four clubs were organized in Lanchow, Wuchow, Kweilin and Kweiyang.  There was a total of nine clubs with 295 members in China by August 1945 when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces.

Because of air raids and loss of territory Rotary in China had suffered a great setback, but the outlook immediately after the end of the 2nd World War was very encouraging.  As soon as an area was freed from Japanese control, Rotarians at once took steps to re-establish their clubs.
The clubs in the three Rotary Districts, 96, 97 and 98, which were the first ones to be re-admitted to Rotary International membership after the war, were the Rotary Clubs of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hankow and Beijing.  The first post-war Districts Governor, again in the person of the late Dr. C.T. Wang, jointly supervised the three districts.

In the following year the three districts were again separately constituted, but in 1950 they were renumbered as District 57 for South China, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, District 58 for Central China and District 59 for North China.  The number of clubs in the three districts had grown to 22 with 1,091 Rotarians by the Rotary Year 1950/51.  Incidentally, Taiwan was grouped with Japan in the prewar days.

The Rotary Club of Hong Kong was suspended during the Pacific War after operating for ten years since 1931, but revived in 1946.  It sponsored the Rotary Club of Macau in 1947 and the Rotary Club of Kowloon in 1948.  The first postwar club in Taiwan was organized in 1948.
The situation in China deteriorated tremendously and the Rotary movement on the China mainland came to a complete standstill following the Communists coming to power in 1949.  Later, when only four of the 22 postwar clubs in the three districts were able to function, with one each in Hong Kong, Kowloon, Macau and Taipei, Rotary International saw it fit to remove the district status of our area on July 1, 1951.  The late Dr. Arthur Woo was appointed by R.I. as its first Administrative Advisor for the Hongkong-Macau-Taiwan area.

Determined to regain district status, Rotarians in Hong Kong and Taipei exerted greater efforts in promoting new clubs.  The Rotary Club of Hong Kong sponsored the Rotary Club of Hong Kong Island East and the Rotary Club of Hong Kong Island West in 1954, while the Rotary Club of Taipei at the same time succeeded in organizing eleven additional clubs in Taiwan.  As a result, Rotary International decided to constitute the clubs in Hongkong-Macau-Taiwan area under District 345, effective as from 1st July 1960 when we had altogether 17 clubs with 764 Rotarians.  Its first postwar-district governor was the late Rtn. K.T. Kwo from Taipei.  Just a coincidence, the writer of this article was inducted into Rotary in the same year-1960, hence he had the opportunity to witness the reinstatement of a new district – 345.

Rotary had been growing fast in Taiwan after the 2nd World War and it had branched out another two new districts, viz., District 346 in Central Taiwan and District 347 in Southern Taiwan in the years 1978 and 1984 respectively.

Due to the rapid growth, the number of Rotary clubs mushroomed to 101 in District 345 (Hongkong-Macau-Northern Taiwan) during the Rotary Year 1986/87.  It was just impossible for a district governor to oversee all these clubs, hence a new district was born, known as District 348 (Northern Taiwan) whereas District 345 remained unchanged, except the area covers only Hong Kong-Macau with a total of 27 clubs as from 1st July 1987 under the leadership of District Governor Raymond Wong.

In January 1995, the first club in Mongolia, Rotary Club of Ulaanbaatar was chartered.  Since then, the membership has grown steadily.  From 1st July 2000, Rotary International approved to include Mongolia to be part of District 3450.  In February 2003, Rotary International Board of Directors decided to assign the two provisional Clubs in Beijing and Shanghai to be supervised by our District.  With their independence and upgraded to be official Clubs, they directly reported to Rotary International and disaffiliated with us from 8th February 2006.

I cannot distance the memoir of our Rotary Information Centre when it was started to own our premises at the present address since 1985. The Centre is closely linked together with our district 3450. There were certain changes throughout these long years, such as renovation, personnel changes and etc.  It is pleasing to note that the services at the Rotary Information Centre has been expanded and upgraded over the years to meet the increasing number and changing needs of the clubs.

District 3450 consists of the territories, viz., Hong Kong, Macau and Mongolia.  With the addition of 2 new clubs, namely Rotary Club of Financial Centre and Rotary Club of Lan Kwai Fong in 2007-2008, it is growing pretty fast under the leadership of District Governor Peter Wong with members coming from different trades and professions.

During the reign of D.G. Albert Wong (2008-2009) we have added the following new Rotary Clubs to our district 3450, namely:  The Rotary Club of Tamir, The Rotary Club of Lion Rock, The Rotary Club of Kowloon Tong and The Rotary Club of Central.

Today, District 3450 has 63 Clubs and about 1,700 rotarian members including 48 Clubs in Hong Kong, 6 in Macao, 8 in Mongolia and 1 E-Club. In Taiwan, they have developed to 7 Districts now.  All these are lovely memory for myself because I had spent my wonderful days as the District Governor in 1981-1982 supervising both Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

It is gratifying to note that while other countries are losing members, District 3450 is increasing its membership by establishing new Rotary clubs in our area by quality than quantity.

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