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Jiang Pays A Call on His Venerated Ex-teacher

【Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31,1997】The aged professor, his family and his friends waited through the afternoon in the living room of the Center City high-rise. The table was set with green tea, pastries, and two large, decorated cakes. Darkness was setting in over Broad Street when the knock came. 


The door opened and in walked Jiang Zemin and his entourage. It was the start of a warm meeting yesterday at the Academy House between a student and his venerated teacher. The president of China, visiting Philadelphia for an address at Drexel University, came directly from the airport to visit Ku Yuhsiu, the professor who had taught him operational calculus in Shanghai a half-century ago. 


For 45 minutes, Jiang was not consumed by issues of trade, human rights, or billion-dollar deals. He and his wife, Wang Yeping, were simply relaxing in the company of Ku, a 94-year-old playwright, historian, engineer, poet and composer -- now retired from teaching at the University of Pennsylvania -- who is revered by Chinese Communists and Nationalists alike. 


Jiang was a most cordial guest, taking time to chat privately with each of the 15 people, according to Common Pleas Court Judge Ida K. Chen, who was there with her parents, Kuo-Sin and Yuen-Yin. The Chens, longtime friends of the Ku family, were invited about a week ago when Ku learned that Jiang would be in town. Judge Chen, the first Asian American female judge in Pennsylvania, also is on Drexel's board of trustees. 


Ku was the perfect host, Chen said, recounting a few details of the private visit. "He made certain that my mother and father got into a photo with President Jiang." Ku's living room was filled with books and photos of Ku taken with Chinese leaders before and after the 1949 revolution. Chen said that Jiang took note of a calligraphy hanging on a wall that he had written in Ku's honor some years ago. It tells how inspirational Ku was to Jiang, she said. 


Tea and memories flowed. As it happened, though, Jiang was at least a half-hour behind schedule. Dignitaries at Drexel awaited him. Rush-hour traffic was halted on 15th Street between Locust and Spruce. So Jiang bade farewell to his professor and got in a waiting black stretch Cadillac, bearing Chinese flags, that whisked him off. 


Afterward, Chen marveled at the homeyness of the meeting as well as the significance of Jiang's U.S. visit. "The experience of watching Americans welcoming a Chinese leader is very positive," she said.


By Michael Klein


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