Part dragon, part turtle, and surmounted by a 13 foot shaft, the Chinese dragon monument causes hundreds of passers-by to stop and blink in amazement every day as they approach Widener Library from the west side of the Yard.
Presented to the University by more than 1000 Chinese alumni during the Tercentennial celebration in 1936, the monument belonged originally to Emperor Chia Ch'ing, of the Ch'ing dynasty. The emperor presented it to one of his favorite governors in the year 1810, and it remained in China until the Tercentenary, when Dr. J. Heng Lin '09, of Nanking, purchased it as a gift for Harvard, in recognition of the educational contributions of America's oldest college.
Fantastic carvings and the Oriental grandeur of its appearance contrast with the simplicity of the Colonial red brick by which it is surrounded on all sides, and add a touch of Kiang Province, home of the monument for over a century, to the otherwise austere College Yard. Situated just west of Widener Library, about midway down the length of the building, the white marble structure is well preserved despite its age.
Seventeen and one-half feet in total height and over ten feet long at the base, the Oriental monster weighs more than 20 tons. When accepted by the University eight years ago it was placed first on a temporary scaffolding in the Yard, so that the authorities could be certain that its appearance would be satisfactory in contrast to the neighboring buildings.
Give With Japanese Lantern
Dr. Liu made the official presentation at a meeting of the Associated Harvard Clubs in Cambridge on September 17, 1936. Part of the ceremonies commemorating the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of the College, the donation was made in conjunction, strangely enough, with the gift of a Japanese lantern from the Nipponese alumni.
On the front of the tablet, surmounting the turtle-dragon, is inscribed a message from the Chinese graduates. The letters, surrounded by wolrd carvings of snakes, dragons, flowers, and mythological figures, spell out a statement of congratulations and encouragement for the University, extolling her as a main factor in the growth of the intellectual knowledge of the American people.
"Let us hope," the message concludes, "that through the merging of the civilizations of our countries, our intellectual progress and attainments may be further enhanced."