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).