East Asia Library

NEW exhibit on Henry Fenn in the East Asian Reading Room

February 27, 2015

We are delighted to announce that, a new exhibit “Henry C. Fenn: American Chinese Language Authority & Early Western Traveler to China” has just been installed in the East Asian Reading Room (2nd floor on the Sterling Memorial Library). Henry C. Fenn (1894-1978) was a noted American authority on the Chinese spoken language who taught at the Yale Institute of Far Eastern Languages from the late 1940s to early 1960s and was also the Director of the Institute from 1952 to 1962. Born in Peiping (present Beijing), he was son of the Reverend Dr. Courtenay Hughes Fenn, a Presbyterian missionary to China and compiler of The Five Thousand Dictionary. While working at the Yale Institute of Far Eastern Languages, he developed the "Yale system" of Chinese grammar and became widely known as one of the originators of the so-called “blitz” method of teaching students to speak Chinese. Growing up in Beijing, Fenn travelled extensively to northern and southern China during the 1920s and 1930s and took a great number of photos to record natural scenery, cultural relics, and various social aspects of Chinese culture. Most of his photos are well kept by his grandson Thomas Fenn who is the Director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Pyro-Technology at Yale. This exhibit features selected publications authored or edited by H.C. Fenn on the study and teaching of Chinese language, as well as his travel photos on social events and religious practices in northern China from T. Fenn’s collections.