Face to Face



    At Wesley College in 1923, Gladys Gregory selected the name of Vung Tsing Pao, a young Chinese Christian, to be her pen-pal. Her flair for letter-writing, longing for “stirring” words and events, and youthful desire for a role in Christian service—all these on Gladys’ side—helped the correspondence flourish.  After three years, on May 30, 1927, Vung wrote: 

    ...Our Principal loves China very much. She always say she is a Chinese girl. She loves us very much. We also loves her. When will you come to China? I am glad to see you at that time and work together. But now I have decided I shall come to America some day in my life. I don’t like marry and stay at home. I like to be a Missionary and go every where if God pleasing. We shall go home next Saturday. When your school end? I write this letter to your home....

    I always thought of Vung, who sent the album and red shoes when she learned of my arrival in the world (I am Gregory), as my “Chinese aunt,” and there was never a time when she was not somewhere in the background of my experience. In 1937, long before I could have understood, the Japanese invasion of northern China, where Vung lived, meant that heroic deeds of Chinese school girls and teachers were actual in the person of “Vung.” And there was always “big purpose”:

    ... Now, Dear friend, through we are far apart and haven’t seen, but we are Love each other by one big purpose that is “Serve other.” We ought to be a useful women in this world.  Now I have a friend. She is going to teach at Sung King. She had a same mind as me. So she is my real friend. Have you any real friend at America? Write to me as soon as you can, because I am interesting on you. Remember that I love you.


    Vung’s letters describe her war-time experience:

    Kiangse Province  Jan. 14 ‘38

    My dearest Gladys, [above the date and salutation:  “Japanese will kill me immediately if they found me, because I am strong & educated.  They will insert me like ——; so I must get away.  Our Soochow University was also burned & bombed.”]

    It is my second letter since the war explodes.  I left the hill, where I wrote the first letter from Hangchow, home.  Then I left Hangchow with my brother whom I want send him to school which is far from the war territory.  After I left home a month, Hangchow was fallen at the hand of Japanese.  China is trying to extend the war line to weaken the Japan’s Military.  I still cannot find a safer place to put my brother in school.  I have been traveling about 800 miles from home.  I don’t know where are my parents.  It may be the house has been burning by the Japanese.  My parents might left Hangchow before the Japanese has get into the city.  I lost everything.  Now I am going to start a new journey to Changsha which is in the Honan Province.  People told me there are some schools.  After I put him into school, then I’ll begin to think to put myself too.  I may join the army and doing some service.  Well, my dear, you can imagine how a refugee look like.  I have my ambitions, my energy, my everything, to serve my country in a Christian way, though it looks we have lost so many pieces of land.  Never mind, this way is fighting for the right, for peace.  There was not such a war in Chinese history that stirs everyone in the country & makes every one take part in the war like this one.  Japan has prepared 60 years to conquer China, but China was so busy with her own business in the country.  China was just united one year & Japan was so afraid our unification so that the war was opened without any announcement!  This is the time for Chinese revival.  After five months war they can get nothing only some vacant land, and there are still 4/5 in Chinese hand.  The news during these days are very good in Chinese side.  The Chinese part is very active in Hangchow.  May be we will get over Hangchow from them in the near future.  I am cut off from all my friends & home folks, but I am still have contact with God.

    Japanese kills all the innocent people who have not business with the war.  They are so cruel and without any humanity.  I am so sorry for them, because they shall receive their reward from God, also from everybody.  Most country except Italy are sympathetic with Chinese, because their cruel deeds.  We play game, we have to keep the rule, but they are so mad about the rule.  You must have read from your news paper about the war.  If you are my

friend, a person who has righteousness, you must think of some way to do some thing with this war.  Tell your friends not to buy Japan goods.  If you do, you are helping them to kill us & increase their dishumanity deeds.  Your dearest friend

    During the “Second World War,” from 1939-46, Gladys heard nothing from Vung. Then a post card arrived, and the following letter from Boston University:

    Spent one day at S.F. [San Francisco] & took train from S.F. to New Y. & spent one day at N.Y. & then train to Boston.  I was in this train for 6 nights & days.  Of course, it a long way to cross your state from East to West.

    I like your country very much.  The people here are so nice to me.  I am the only Chinese in this dormitory & I think here are only very few Chinese students among 25000 students in B.U.  I like your people & your people like me.... Last night I came home in wet & read your letter with great appreciation for your earnest love & warm to me.  My, my, it recalls all of our young ages back.  Just imagine, it was about more than 20 years ago we started our correspondence.  I was in a junior middle school.  I valued our friendship very much.  My cold lonesome room was warmed up by your letter last night & my tears came down.... I was a little bit of home sick.  This is my first time since I left China feel really homesick....

    1947 December 29:  [Bonham and Denison, Texas, newspapers reporting] A friendship that has thrived...by mail is being strengthened by personal contact.... It was back in 1924 [1923] while a student at Wesley College, Greenville, that Mrs. Clayton Hall selected the name of a Chinese student as a “pen pal.”  Through the intervening years of peace and war and peace again, the two have exchanged letters regularly, discussing many varied subjects by mail and helping each other with their problems.  This week that Chinese student, now a graduate of Boston University and a graduate student in Columbia Teachers’ College, New York, arrived at [Mulberry] for a visit with Mrs. Hall.  She is Miss Pao Vung-Tsing, teacher and scholar of China, who is continuing her education...so that she may return to China and be a better teacher to the hundreds of Chinese boys and girls who are seeking knowledge of the American way of life.

    When the exchange of letters started in 1924, Miss Pao was a student in the Susan B. Wilson school at Sing Piang, China.  Her letters told of her kind American teacher and of her great enjoyment of the story of Cinderella.  Then came Bridgman School, Shanghai.  Her letters told of how she enjoyed the higher and more difficult courses and of her special interest in “The Tale of Two Cities” and Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.”

    Following her graduation from Soochow University, Miss Pao was placed in charge of the Zangtuk Girls School in Soochow and for many years taught young Chinese girls of Jesus Christ and the American way of life.  Then came war [in 1937].  The Japanese hordes rolled across China and her school in Soochow was destroyed.  Her parents were driven from their home by Japanese officers who occupied it.

    Miss Pao and her students fled westward into the mountains, carrying with them what they could.  There, in a secluded mountain hide-away she continued to teach—bringing young and old alike hope for a future when the invaders would be driven out and China was once again free and the people would be free to pursue knowledge and peaceful interests.

    After the long war period came to an end, Miss Pau and her students began their return trek to Soochow.  For 53 days, they travelled in a big wooden boat down the Yangtze River.... Tired and worn out.... The Methodist Mission decided that [Miss Pao] needed a rest...granting her a Crusade Scholarship. ...enrolled in Boston University on Sept. 14, 1946....

    Realizing that the story of China’s sufferings and the needs of the people could best be told by one who had gone through the long war years and knew them from experience, the Board of Missions asked Miss Pao to attend a number of regional conferences during the summer months, telling the Americans of China’s great sufferings and her needs....

    “How I Became a Christian” was the subject of an address Friday afternoon by Miss Pao Vun
g-Tsing...in the home of Rev. and Mrs. Guy Perdue.... Miss Pao explained that while she was very young her father sent her to a Methodist missionary school in China.  She became interested in the life of Jesus and in simple hymns.  Her mother also began attending the school with the result that both were converted.  She explained that such fundamentals as medical facilities, Christian leadership, and a sound economic system were completely absent from the Chinese life. ...only 11 per cent of the Chinese were Christians.  Miss Pao intends to return to China as soon as her education is completed to assist in missionary work....

    Miss Pao Vung-Tsing...was honored with a surprise friendship shower at the Mulberry Methodist church Thursday evening.... Miss Pao told of the food, dress and transportation of the Chinese.  She also told of some of her experiences during the war.  She sang two songs and repeated the Lord’s prayer in Chinese.... At the conclusion of the program women entered carrying arm loads of gifts for the honoree who was overcome with surprise and at first couldn’t believe they were for her.  After Mrs. Hall had explained to her that they were intended to show the love and friendship of the donors for her and her people, she expressed her thanks.... Friday night Miss Pao began the return trek to New York.... The norther that had Bonhamites shivering didn’t bother Miss Pao....

“Last Letter”

Soochow  May 14th ‘50

Dearest Gladys,

    Your letter wrote in April via Mr. McCoy with a 20 dollar check was duly received.  I feel so sorry for my letters to you upset your heart.  How I wish I could see you and your family right now.  Let me pour out every word in my mind to you like the evening visit in your home.  My new experience will shook you all once again this time.  You just get to excuse me for very impolite and uncorrupted thoughts.  The reason I raise ducks, geese is to adjust myself in something else, to disconcentrate my mind from one thing to another.   I secure my peace and quiet from these innocent animals.  I devote my personal interest to these little innocent creatures.

    This new principle in our [illegible] is—People should not have or count more about [illegible] and personal interest.  You should not love yourself or others if it’s not based on principle of Communism.  We should not worship God.  There is no God.  There is only Stalin and Lenin and Mou Tsu Tong who worth to worship.  People worship God is crazy.  Men and their labor builds this beautiful world, not God.

    Dearest ones in America for you love me, therefore you love China.  China needs something, but I don’t know what.  I often have reading articles and letters from Dr. Ruth Strang.  Just got one recently.  But I don’t know whether these articles are good enough for my workers or not.  Probably publication from S. V. Russian will be much better.  But they inspire me personally anyway.

    I may walk out from my job because I can’t stand this nerve fighting.  But I don’t know how to get out from this place—a big problem!

    Don’t feel bad for me or mad at me because unspeakable words and invisible thoughts are within me always instead of write down by words.

“The Letter Not Mailed”

April 28, 1949

Quincy, Mass.  Feb. 3rd 1950

Dear Mrs. Hall,

    I have just written Vung-Tsing.  Heard from her a week or more ago (dated Nov. 17) in which, also, she wanted me to....

    ... they felt they had done all they could for Vung-Tsing.  I don’t think that necessarily means they would withhold the offer of the scholarship.... The primary thought in our minds is that she came on a two year scholarship from the Methodist church which means, of course, gifts large and small from thousands of church members.  That involves an obligation on her part and a duty to serve Christ in China with a greater efficiency and knowledge and love.  Otherwise the two years were to no avail.  I think it would be a running away, if I may use the word, to leave at this critical point (and even if it were not critical!) to return here for further studies that are not essential. Her major was social science, not theology.... Vung-Tsing can be very strong and wonderful and courageous and I think she and I had a more common bond than I had with any other in the dormitory.  We were very close at times.  She is just thinking wrong.... Besides, if she should come for a year, what would it advantage her?  China would still need her and conditions there will take years to adjust themselves, so she would go back to more or less the same rule.  I have hated writing this but it just seems to the Dean, the girls, and to me that Vung-Tsing should put back into the Christian work in China what she has received from the Methodist Christians here.... This is her wonderful God-given opportunity.

    It’s very distasteful to me to have had to write Vung-Tsing somewhat in this strain.... Very sincerely, M_ A_