Tag: Brown University

Edith Chu-Nian Bien (卞菊年)

Holy lag between updates, Batman. The spring semester picked up and I haven’t touched my research in weeks. Fortunately, Spring Break is almost upon us, so I have a few posts swimming around in my head that I hope to soon be able to share with you, my loyal readers (and those who have stumbled upon me via Google Search. Hi there!).

Today I will be posting about Edith Bien, the final child of Z. S. Bien who studied in the United States. Her full name was Edith Chu-Nian Bien (卞菊年, pinyin Biàn Júnián) and she was the youngest child of Z. S. Bien and Guojin Li, being born in 1915. She was born after her parents returned from studying in America and was 5 years younger than her next oldest sibling, Edward. According to Chinese sources she, like her brother Edward, attended Yenching University in Peking (Beijing) (from this blog post about the Bien family, original text: 卞寿孙女儿卞菊年(1915—1959)肄业北平燕京大学).

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George Sung-Nian Bien (卞松年) and Paul Bai-Nian Bien (卞柏年)

Today’s post is about the twin sons of Z. S. Bien and his wife Guojin Li: George Sung-Nian Bien (卞松年, pinyin Biàn Sōngnián) and Paul Bai-Nian Bien (卞柏年, pinyin Biǎn Bǎinián). Before I get into that, however, this seems like a good time to get into traditional naming conventions in Chinese and the way I write the students’ names in this blog.


Since I am writing (mostly) in English and discussing students in an American context, in this blog I write out the students’ names in Western fashion: given names (first and middle) first, and family name second. You may have noticed that I often refer to students by their first initials and family names, which was the media style of the time used in newspapers and primary sources. Around the turn of the 20th century it was common practice in these sources to refer to men by the initials of their given names, followed by their family name. Unmarried women were referred to as “Miss”, followed by their full given names and family names, or “Mrs.”, followed by the full given names or initials of their husbands and then their husbands’ family names.

Chinese names are, of course, written “backwards” from the Western perspective, with the family name coming first and the given names second. However, because most Chinese given names are two characters long, this means that their names are easily adaptable to the early 20th century Western media style of naming. Z. S. Bien is a great example of this: his given name was “Zue Sun” (currently romanized to Shou Sun), and in Chinese his name was written 卞夀孫, or Biàn Shòusūn. However, since the given name was two characters, it stood in quite well for the American first name-middle name system of given names, making 卞夀孫’s name in America “Z. S. Bien”.

You may have also noticed that the three of Z. S. Bien’s children that I have mentioned  so far have the name “Nian” (年 in Chinese) as the second character of their given names: Richard Peng-Nian Bien (卞彭年), George Sung-Nian Bien (卞松年), and Paul Bai-Nian Bien (卞柏年). As a matter of fact, Z. S. Bien also shares a bit of his name with his brother, F. S. or Fu Sun (福孫) Bien, the second character of their given names being 孫. This shared character is what is known as a generational name, which is shared by all the members of a current generation in a family, siblings and cousins alike. Since 年 is the generational name of Richard, Paul, and George’s generation, all of Z. S. Bien’s children have it as the second character of their given names, as do F. S. Bien’s daughters, although I have only been able to find documentation of one of them using it: his oldest daughter, whose Chinese given name was Li-Nian.

Continue reading “George Sung-Nian Bien (卞松年) and Paul Bai-Nian Bien (卞柏年)”

Richard Pang-Nian Bien (卞彭年)

Richard Pang-Nian Bien (卞彭年, pinyin Biàn Péngnián) was the oldest child of Z. S. Bien and Kuo-Kin (Guojin) Li, two future students in American universities. He was born in about 1902 (January of 1901 according to Chinese sources), and in my previous post on the Bien brothers, I indicated that Z. S. Bien’s children were born in Shanghai, but most immigration documentation for their children, including Richard, state that the children were born in Yangzhou. It’s probable that Richard and his brothers grew up there in the care of relatives while his parents were pursuing degrees at Brown University beginning in 1906. As detailed in the previous post, Richard’s parents were in America from 1906 until 1913, when Richard was between the ages of 4 to 11 years old.

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Z. S. Bien (卞夀孫) and F. S. Bien (卞福孫)

Z. S. Bien (卞夀孫, pinyin Biàn Shòusūn) and his brother F. S. Bien (卞福孫, pinyin Biàn Fúsūn) were born to a well-known and politically-connected family in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. Z. S. Bien was the older brother – he was born on 13 September 1884 – while the younger brother F. S. Bien was born on 11 June 1886. In fact, Z. S. Bien was the oldest of six children.

Continue reading “Z. S. Bien (卞夀孫) and F. S. Bien (卞福孫)”