[Legacy] Footprints of the Black Flag Army in SCUT campus


In the north area of the Wushan Campus, on the west side of a hill stands a hexagon pavilion. It is a magnificent work of combining eastern and western architectural wisdom, using six Greek Ionic orders to hold up a classical Chinese garden house structure, with dragon heads carved on every tip of the eaves, as well as golden and green glazed tiles covering the roof.

The name of the pavilion, carved in calligraphy under the roof, is "Liu Yi Ting (刘义亭)". It was built in 1937, in memory of Liu Yongfu (刘永福), a Chinese military leader and a patriot who was eminent for victories against the French invasions of Vietnam and China in the 1880s.

According to inscriptions on a stone tablet attached to the pavilion, which was written by Zou Lu, a renowned politician and educationist of the Republic of China, General Liu's troops used to station in this area that was called the Shipai Campus, now known as the Wushan Campus of SCUT.

The above-mentioned "troops" should refer to the four battalions of the new Black Flag Army (BFA) quartered in Guangzhou after 1897. The old BFA, commended by Liu, was widely known for their sharp fights against the invading French forces across the border of China and Vietnam, but later suffered fatal casualties in battles of defending Taiwan against the Japanese invasion from 1894 to 1895. In 1897, a new BFA were regrouped in Guangzhou by the Qing Dynasty and Liu remained its commander.

Across the next few decades, the story of the general and his army spread and became a representation of the unbreakable Chinese character of patriotism. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China, said he had been admiring Liu Yongfu since he was a little boy, and was in particular impressed by the Battle of Zhennan Pass, where the BFA and the army of the Qing Dynasty fought together and secured a decisive victory against the French forces.

That was why in 1937, when China was at the edge of being attacked and occupied by Japan, this pavilion in memory of General Liu was built in the Shipai Campus, which at the time was the main campus of the National Sun Yat-sen University. The university received a donation and used it to build the pavilion to encourage college students to defend their homeland and help the nation thrive.

The pavilion was named "刘义", which refers to "Liu's righteousness". The name is also believed to have a double meaning of "preserving righteousness", since Liu Yongfu's family name "刘" is pronounced the same as the other Chinese character "留", meaning "to make something remain and persist".

In 1952, when the South China Institute of Technology (present SCUT) was established, this pavilion, along with the Shipai campus, was inherited by the institute. In 1988 and 2005, renovations were made by SCUT to provide more convenience for people to visit the historic site. The stone tablet with inscriptions on it was moved into the pavilion, and a pathway was paved to link the pavilion and the nearest road.

Today, after over eighty years of history, the legacy left by General Liu and the BFA fighters still stands with the pavilion, with persistence and resolution as it always is. As Zou Lu wrote on the stone tablet:

"Our campus was built upon the old site of General Liu’s barracks. To remember him, Mr. He Yunqiao, Governor of Hunan province, donated a thousand yuan to build this pavilion. Anyone who comes to this place should carry on the general's will of defending our country against invaders, and then the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation shall be fairly expected."

Based on materials from A Journey of Humanities and Architecture in SCUT
Translated and written by Xu Peimu
Image designed by Li Guanying
Edited by Xu Peimu and Yang Manxi