Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pitt Chronicle on Chinese Nationality Room in Cathedral of Learning.


The Chinese Nationality Room in 1939; via Historic Pittsburgh.

The December 8 issue of the Pitt Chronicle profiles the Chinese Nationality Room, which turns 75 years old this year.
A group of Pitt students from China petitioned the Chinese government in 1920 for a donation to begin fundraising for the room’s development. The Chinese government pledged $5,000 in gold, but the eruption of The Chinese Civil War in China in 1927 put that donation on hold. Not to be dissuaded, the committee of students and Pittsburgh business owners canvassed neighborhoods of Chinese residents up and down the East Coast to solicit donations, eventually raising the initial $5,000 deposit.

Following 15 years of fundraising, the Chinese government in 1935 forwarded its contribution to Pittsburgh, and the room was dedicated four years later. It cost the equivalent of about $250,000 in today’s dollars, and is one of 29 Nationality and Heritage Rooms housed in the Cathedral of Learning. Each represents a different nation or heritage, all of which played a part in the historical development of this region.
A good bit of the history of the China Memorial Room---as it was then called---and its design is available in the October 6, 1939 Dedication Ceremony program, preserved in full by Documenting Pitt. Introducing several pages on the design and decor, the program writes "The design and decoration of this Room attempt to express something of China's 4,000 years of culture and wisdom." It concludes:
The China Memorial Room has been designed, decorated, and furnished with the hope that it will give the people of Chinese descent in Pittsburgh a just reason for pride in their ancestral heritage. At the same time the Committee believes that the Room will command the respect and admiration of all other people in America.