Cai Yuanpei (1868–1940,courtesy names: Heqing and Jiemin, pen name: Heqing) was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. He was a democratic revolutionary, renowned thinker and educator. Being well versed in Chinese classics, Cai earned the title of jinshi (doctorate) during Qing emperor Guangxu’s reign, and in 1892,he became a member of the Hanlin Academy, the highest honor accorded to a scholar in feudal China. In 1894 he was promoted to the rank of compiler at the Hanlin Academy. After the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894, Cai began studying western thoughts and culture, and under the influence of ideas from democratic revolution, he aspired to create a new style of education. Starting from 1898, he spent much time teaching in public and private schools; he co-founded and was named Chairman of the Chinese Educational Association and the Restoration Society (Guang Fu Hui). In 1905,Cai joined the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance (T’ung-meng Hui) and was appointed head of its Shanghai branch. In 1907, he went to Germany to study philosophy, ethics, literature and other subjects in the Universität Leipzig, where he became an evolutionist and resolved to rejuvenate China through education reform. After the Revolution of 1911, he returned to China to serve as the provisional Republic's Minister of Education and that was when he started remodeling China’s national system of education on its Western counterpart. In 1913, he moved to France where he studied French and assisted in running the Educational Institute for Chinese Laborers and in organizing the Sino-French Educational Association. From 1917 to 1927, he was the President of Peking University. During his tenure at Peking University, Cai advocated independent thinking and inclusiveness, paving way for the dissemination of new culture and new thoughts. He introduced democracy and the practice of administration by professors to the running of the university. Cai also advocated the equal importance of five ways of life in students— "Virtue, Wisdom, Health,Collective, and Beauty".These revolutionary ideas and measures not only had made Peking university the birthplace and center stage of the New Culture Movement ,but also had left deep imprint on the education system in contemporary China. In 1927, he left Peking University and held several public posts, including President of the Daxueyuan (the University Council), President of the Academia Sinica, President of the Control Yuan, Librarian of National Peking Library, Vice President of China League for Civil Rights,Honorary President of the China branch of the International Peace Campaign.
Professor Cai Yuanpei had devoted his entire life to the causes of democratic revolution and modern education, and had distinguished himself for his major contribution in these fields. He has been hailed by the Communist Party of China as “prominent forerunner of the modern intellectual circle.” As an erudite scholar, he was also noted for his studies of philosophy, esthetics, ethics and education, which had crystallized into writings of about 3 million Chinese characters, and which have all been compiled into Complete Works of Cai Yuanpei.
More graphic and textual information on Cai Yuanpei can be found on the webpage of "Renowned Professors of Peking University"