Hwa Nan University

The Story of Lydia Trimble and Lucy Wang and the Hwa Nan University in Fuzhou, China

Hwa Nan University 
Hwa Nan girls dig the high school foundation

Lydia Trimble founded Hwa Nan University in China. She was sent as a Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society missionary in 1890. She was appointed to be an evangelist, but once she got into the villages, she discovered only Chinese boys received any formal education. So, she became a teacher of girls—setting up first primary, secondary, and then university-level programs over a 50-year career.

The girls in the high school were so excited when Lydia went to the United States to lobby for funds to set up the college, they decided to dig the foundation themselves, and removed basket after basket of dirt by hand until it was finished.

One of her first five graduates from the college followed Lydia as president of Hwa Nan, Lucy Wang. Lucy saw the school through World War II, when she led the students—by train and by wagon—in moving the entire school out of the way of the advancing Japanese army, deep into the interior—twice—rather than closing it. The girls carried many of the books and supplies — that’s how much this school meant to Chinese women.

In 1949, after China’s Liberation, when the country became the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government in Fuzhou merged Hwa Nan with several other colleges in the area. The new institution was the Fujian National University, and in 1972, this became the celebrated Fujian Normal University.

Hwa Nan University 
Lydia Trimble and Lucy Wang

The alumna of Hwa Nan, both teaching alumna and former students, kept the dream alive of founding a new private women’s college. All through the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when educational institutions were shut down, the alumna kept in touch with each other. They wanted to pass on the kind of education and sense of community they experienced when they were young to the next generation of young women in China.

The Hwa Nan alumna pooled their resources and in 1984 established the new Fujian Huanan Women’s College. As the colleges’ old buildings had long been taken over by the Fujian Normal University, alumna worldwide raised money to build classroom buildings and an administrative office on some of the old land that was Hwa Nan’s, given back by the government. The new Fujian Huanan Women’s College is registered with the Fujian government. Its first president was Dr. Yu Baosheng, a former professor in the old school’s department of chemistry.

Living out its old motto “Having received I ought to give”, the new Fujian Huanan Women’s College became the first private women’s college in the People’s Republic of China.

Ms. Lin Manhong was one of the new Huanan’s first graduates after it established itself as a private women’s college in 1984. She was taught English by Lois Cole, a United Methodist Amity teacher at Huanan from 1987-89. (Lois’ grandparents were former missionaries in Fujian, and her parents were Methodist missionaries who served in Taiwan.)

By Christie House, editor, New World Outlook magazine.


Diane Allen, Oral History Project, China Program, United Methodist Church.

World Outlook, “Hwa Nan Goes On.” Also “Hwa Nan College, Foochow, China,” October 1941.

World Outlook, “Hwa Nan Starts Home,” by Lucy Wang, May 1946.

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