JAMES YEN saw the tragedy of illiteracy among his own
people in France during the first World War, when he was beseiged by Chinese laborers
seeking help in writing to their families at home. Returning to China in 1920, he began a
career dedicated to educating rural people who had no opportunity for schooling and
reeducating the educated to share in this task. Through the years, he labored, sometimes
alone, from one disheartening disappointment to another lesson learned, in his quest for
ways to help farm folk realize their own strengths.
The endeavors he has originated are milestones on the path of coping effectively with
Asia's age-old problems of ignorance, poverty, official abuse and lack of confidence in
themselves among ordinary citizens. The "Ting Hsien Experiment" in North China
was the first of its kind bringing scholars to live and work with the rural people. To
this the wartime and postwar community developments in West China's Szechuan Province were
The Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, launched on the mainland of China in 1948
and primarily responsible over the past decade for Taiwan's peaceful and successful rural
revolution, was conceived in large measure by DR. YEN. UNESCO's Fundamental Education
Movement in Southeast Asia has drawn much from his program.
In order that 30 years experience in China might be made helpful to other developing
countries, JAMES YEN, in 1951, joined with friends in the United States to organize the
International Mass Education Movement. After searching through Asia, Africa and Latin
America, he chose the Philippines as a promising site where these lessons could be applied
and an international center established to train rural leaders who would carry forward
this pioneering work. A result is the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement which has
begun to make a positive impression on life in the barrios it has reached.
Stimulated in part by this private effort, the Presidential Assistant on Community
Development, World Neighbors and other groups now are seeking to bring needed change to
the rural areas.
DR. YEN's lifetime devotion to the cause he chose and the extraordinary talents cultivated
in furtherance of this effort give expression to the ideals and spirit of service
exemplified by Ramon Magsaysay. Born into a family of scholars, he has remained humble and
at ease with the simplest of those whose lot he has sought to improve. These qualities
have been translated into renewed faith and purpose by many who have worked with him.
At all levels, from chiefs of state to legislators, government administrators,
businessmen, field workers, and village people, JAMES YEN has spread the seeds of his mass
education ideas to Asian countries. He has become a citizen of the world, who, by his
works, gives substance to the dream that one day men everywhere may freely enjoy security,
equal opportunity and a sense of international brotherhood.
In electing Y. C. JAMES YEN to the 1960 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International
Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his sharing of experience and creative
leadership in rural reconstruction and his bringing to East and West an awareness of the
urgency for meeting the aspirations of the Asian farmer for a fuller life.
The Award Foundation particularly commends Dr. YEN's continuing concern for the whole man
and molding his social institutions, rather than simply refashioning the physical