The Motto Of Henan University

Henan University,March 28, 2011

The motto of a university serves to encourage its students and faculty to strive for perfection. For more than ninety years since its founding, Henan University, adhering to its motto of "明德新民,止于至善 (to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence)", has educated nearly 400,000 graduates for the development of the country. The motto comes from the very first sentence of a Chinese classic The Great Learning which begins with "大学之道,在明明德,在亲民,在止于至善(What the Great Learning teaches, is—to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence)." Though a short sentence, it makes clear the nature of universities as promoting moral spirit, educating the public and driving to perfection."明明德" means to invigorate morality, encourages students and faculty to cultivate the spirit of morality through study and practices. "亲民" or"新民",means to enlighten and renew the public with modern thinking, stresses the responsibility of a university to disseminate lofty morality and to tirelessly push for progression. As for "止于至善",Zhu Xi, an eminent scholar in Song Dynasty(960-1279 AD), once made an explanation in his book Sentences from the Great Learning that "to rest means not to waver when it is appropriate; perfection is the ultimate truth of things. Invigorating morality and educating the people must not stop until reaching perfection ." As to a university, it must unswervingly struggle for the ultimate perfection, both for self-cultivation and public education.


The school gate has been built in 1936 and on the back of it hanged three plaques with school motto painted on them. The plaque on which "止于至善(to rest in the highest excellence)" were painted was placed in the middle with the "明德(to illustrate illustrious virtue)" plaque on its left side and the "新民(to renovate the people)" plaque on its right side. The golden letters of the school motto were painted with a calligraphy style of Liu Gongquan. Shortly after the completion of school gate, the July 7 Incident of 1937 happened. Fortunately, the school gate survived the anti-Japanese war and in 1953 the school motto was removed from the gate. In 2002, in the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Henan University, the school motto plaque was restored and the motto plaque was hung up behind the gate again. Zhou er fu, a famous writer and a graduate of Henan University, wrote the motto for Henan University. Then the characters were engraved on a Lingbi stone donated by Henan University Alumni Association in Beijing. Now the stone is located in the southern end of the axis leading to the auditorium. The school motto is glittering, thought-provoking, inspiring and make people have a sense of historical responsibility toward the nation and its people.