Papers of Derek Hermann Bryan and Liao Hongying

Scope and Content

The collection comprises the personal papers of Hermann Derek Bryan and Liao Hongying. It has been divided into two sub-collections, firstly the personal papers of Hermann Derek Bryan and secondly, the personal papers of Liao Hongying.

Bryan's personal papers comprise personal documents (including diaries, account books, and travel documents); personal, professional and family correspondence; papers relating to Bryan's involvement with the Britain-China Friendship Association, the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, and the International Commitee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives; writings and notes (including notes, lectures and other writings by Bryan); reference material on China accumulated by Bryan; and photographs.

Liao's personal papers comprise personal documents (including diaries and travel documents), correspondence, and photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hermann Derek Bryan (16 December 1910 - 17 September 2003), consular official, teacher, writer and translator, was born in Norwich and educated at Gresham's School, Holt, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. After completing his studies in modern languages at university, Bryan took the civil service entrance examinations and was offered a position as a student interpreter in the consular service in China. Bryan left for China in December 1932, where he was to serve until 1951. He held a variety of positions, including a period as private secretary to the British Ambassador, Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr, and, from 1946, as Chinese Secretary at the British Embassy. Bryan was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1951. He met Liao Hongying at Lanzhou in northwest China during an expedition organised by the scientist and historian of science, Joseph Needham, in 1943. They were married in a Quaker ceremony in June 1944.

Bryan resigned from the consular service in 1951 while in Britain on leave, after he was offered a post in Peru rather than being allowed to return to China. Bryan's initial plans were to study for a PhD at Cambridge University, but he did not complete his studies, instead turning to teaching and organisational activities. Whilst in Cambridge Bryan was involved with the local branch of the Britain-China Friendship Association, and following the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s he, along with Joseph Needham, was instrumental in founding the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding. He remained active within the organisation until his death, with periods serving as secretary, chair and vice-president. From the 1950s Bryan taught Chinese at Holborn College in London, and in 1974 established a degree course in modern Chinese at the Polytechnic of Central London (as Holborn College had become). From the late 1970s into the 1980s Bryan and Liao spent periods teaching in China. In 1988 Bryan and Liao left London to retire to Norwich. Bryan died in 2003.

Liao Hongying (1905-1998), agricultural chemist and teacher, was educated at a school run by the London Missionary Society at Tingchow, China. Marjorie Rainey, LMS missionary and teacher at the school, arranged for Liao to leave China to study agricultural chemistry at Sommerville College, Oxford. Following graduation in 1936, she returned to China, teaching at the College of Agriculture, Wuhan University, and at the West China Union University, Chengdu. In the early 1940s she worked for Joseph Needham in the Sino-British Science Co-operation Office in Chongqing, and it was through Needham that she met Derek Bryan, whom she married in 1944. Liao returned to Britain with Bryan in 1944, and worked for the British Council until their return to China in 1946. Following Bryan's resignation from the Foreign Office, Liao lectured on China and taught Chinese at Holborn College, as well as teaching English in China in the 1970s and 1980s. She was active within the Britain-China Friendship Association and the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding. Liao and Bryan retired to Norwich in 1988, where Liao died at home in 1998.

Publications by Bryan and Liao include: Derek Bryan and Liao Hongying, 'The World Belongs to All' (London, 1960); Derek Bryan (translator), Li-po Chou, 'Great Changes in a Mountain Village' (Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1961); Derek Bryan, 'The Land and People of China' (London : Adam & Charles Black ; New York : Macmillan Co., 1964); Derek Bryan, 'Cultural Restoration versus Cultural Revolution: A Traditional Cultural Perspective' (Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1964); and Liao Hongying and Derek Bryan, 'Let's Visit China' (London : Burke, 1966).


The papers have been divided into two sub-collections to reflect the provenance of material produced or accumulated by Derek Bryan and Liao Hongying in the course of their activities. Bryan and Liao worked collaboratively on many of their activities. So as to respect the original order of the material and to reflect their working practices, this material has been kept together and is located in the first sub-collection. Original file titles are given wherever they occurred.

The papers have been arranged as follows:

PP MS 99/1: Personal papers of Hermann Derek Bryan

- PP MS 99/1/1: Personal documents

- PP MS 99/1/2: Personal and professional correspondence

- PP MS 99/1/3: Family correspondence

- PP MS 99/1/4: Papers relating to the Britain-China Friendship Association

- PP MS 99/1/5: Papers relating to the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding

- PP MS 99/1/6: Papers relating to the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives

- PP MS 99/1/7: Writings and notes

- PP MS 99/1/8: Reference material

- PP MS 99/1/9: Photographs

PP MS 99/2: Personal papers of Liao Hongying

- PP MS 99/2/1: Personal documents

- PP MS 99/2/2: Correspondence

- PP MS 99/2/3: Photographs

Access Information


Archivist's Note


Related Material

Related collections at SOAS:

Addis, John Mansfield (PP MS 25)

Sewell, William Gawan (PP MS 16)

Pratt, John Thomas (PP MS 5)

Odgen, Alwyne George Neville (PP MS 47)

Knight, Sofia (MS 380756)

Records of a visit to China by the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, July 1976 (MS 380899)

Related collections held elsewhere:

Joseph Needham: Papers and Correspondence, Cambridge University Library (GB 12 MS.Needham)

Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin OM FRS (b.1910), Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections (NCUACS 47.3.94)

Archive of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), Labour History Archive and Study Centre (CP)

The Charleston Papers, Cambridge University: King's College Archive Centre (CHA)

China Campaign Committee and British-China Friendship Association, 1938-1953, Hull University Archives (DEV/1/16 & 50, DBN/21/1-5 and DYO/2/7)

Papers of Ida Pruitt, 1850s-1992, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University (MC 465)

Gladys Yang Collection, British Library (Mss Eur F570)

Geographical Names