Skip to main content

John C. H. Wu papers

Identifier: Mss 0122

Scope and Contents

The following contents of this collection constitute various materials representing the intellectual files of John C.H.Wu along with personal items that illustrate his family life and faith. This includes original manuscripts, printed works, photographs, notebooks, sketch books, subject files, posters, clippings, and other research matter of note.


  • 1958 - 1996

Language of Materials

Chinese and English.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are available for research at the Msgr. William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center. Advance appointments are required for the use of archival materials.

Conditions Governing Use

All materials available in this collection (unless otherwise noted) are the property of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center and Seton Hall University, which reserves the right to limit access to or reproduction of these materials. Reproduction of materials or content is subject to United States copyright restrictions and may be subject to federal or state privacy regulations. The Archives and Special Collections center does not hold the copyright to materials in this collection and cannot provide permission to publish reproductions from the collection.

Biographical / Historical

John Ching Hsiung (C.H.) Wu (Chinese – Wu Jingxiong, ???) was on March 28, 1899, in the city of Ningbo, Jiangsu Province. His early education focused primarily on the teachings of Confucius along with the study of Daoism, Buddhism, and notable poets of ancient China. At age fifteen, Wu entered a local junior college, where he was exposed to the field of physics which he continued to study at the Baptist College of Shanghai. A change of educational path occurred during the spring of 1917 when Wu began studying law and transferred to the Comparative Law School of China, in Shanghai, affiliated with the American Methodist Missionary Church. During his time in law school, Wu married his first wife Theresa (died in 1959) and continued to pursue his course work which also branched out into religious studies with an emphasis on the Christian Bible and other related texts. This led to a conversion to Christianity and he was baptized into the Methodist Church in the winter of 1917. Wu completed his degree by the fall of 1920 and subsequently attended the University of Michigan Law School for post-graduate work and earned his JD in 1921. From here he began writing articles that largely compared the legal traditions of China and the Western World. After his first article, on law in ancient China, appeared in the Michigan Law Review, he sent a copy to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The two subsequently began a friendship and correspondence on various topics in law and philosophy that lasted until the death of Holmes in 1935. In May 1921, Wu earned a fellowship from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which enabled him to study at the Sorbonne and Berlin University prior to his return to the United States where he became a research fellow at Harvard Law School in 1923. During the mid-1920s, Wu moved back to China and settled in Shanghai where he began teaching at the Comparative Law School of China, and helped to co-found the China Law Review. On January, 1, 1927, Wu was appointed a judge of the new Shanghai Provisional Court. Wu expanded his range of activities over the next decade and in 1933, he joined the Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China together with Dr. Sun Fo, son of former President Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China. He also served as head of the publicity department of the Sun Yat-sen Institute for the Advancement of Culture and Education, and co-founded T'ien Hsia Monthly, an English-language literary periodical. As a writer, Wu began to submit many of his own essays for publication including the book - The Art of Law and Other Essays Juridical and Literary (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1936) As he confessed in later reflections, Wu escaped action and injury in the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937. When hostilities broke out, he found sanctuary he began to study read different works which led to his taking refuge in the house of a Roman Catholic friend. After observing the family in prayer and learning about the life story of French nun, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Wu decided to convert and adopt the Catholic faith and in time his wife and each of his 13 children would also follow his lead. This adherence lasted the rest of his life and led to his next phase of writing focus. In particular, Wu produced works that explored the human soul and affection for Christ including such titles as: The Interior Carmel: the Threefold Way of Love (London: Sheed & Ward, 1954) among other books that explored the spirituality of Chinese mystics with those of Christian saints. During the World War II years, Wu became a writer for the cause of Chinese freedom and re-located to Hong Kong and was enlisted by Chinese President Chiang Kai-shek in 1942 to translate the Christian Book of Psalms and the entire New Testament into Chinese. In addition to Chinese, Wu was fluent and wrote various works in English, French, or German depending upon the topic and subject matter connected to a particular volume. In the spring of 1945, Wu attended the inaugural United Nations conference in San Francisco as an adviser to the Chinese Delegation and also became lead author of the Nationalist Constitution that same year. He also helped to work on their Charter and by the end of the year he was appointed the Chinese delegate to the Vatican which took effect on February 16, 1947 and lasted through 1949. Wu made history as his appointment marked the first time in diplomatic history that a Roman Catholic ever represented a non-Roman Catholic nation as China had adopted Communism. After living in Rome with his family for two years, he was called back to Mainland China and offered the position of Minister of Justice by Premier Sun Fo, but never served due to the change in the political situation nationwide during the latter part of the 1940s which also led him to leave for other opportunities abroad. Upon leaving China, Wu became the Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii in 1949 where he also wrote his autobiography entitled - Beyond East and West (New York: Sheed and Ward and Taipei: Mei Ya Publications, 1951). After his tenure in Hawaii, Wu began teaching legal studies at Seton Hall University and helped in the founding of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies during the 1951 academic year and remained a member of the faculty until his retirement in 1967. In between his time in South Orange, Wu was appointed to a judgeship on the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague and wrote additional works including - Fountain of Justice: A Study in Natural Law (New York; Sheed and Ward, 1955), Cases and Materials on Jurisprudence (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1958), and Chinese Humanism and Christian Spirituality (Jamaica, New York: St. John's University Press, 1965) prior to ultimately settling in Taiwan where he remained until his death in 1986. He was survived by his second wife Zu Wen-ying and 11 of his 13 children. His legacy survives through regular interest in the scholarship that has been left behind for present and future scholars to discover.

Source Notes: A Symposium in Honor of John C.H. Wu Biographical Notes and Program Guide, April 21-22, 2016 />; Howe, Marvine. “John C.H. Wu of Taiwan, 86; Diplomat and Legal Scholar,” New York Times, 10 February 1986> ; “Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and Policy – John C.H. Wu” />


43 Linear Feet

Preservica Internal URL

Preservica Public URL

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Wu, Jr. and Theresa Wu in conjunction with the entire Wu Family of Taiwan, United States and worldwide in 2017.

John C. H. Wu papers, 1958-1996
Finding aid completed by Jacquelyn Deppe with notes compiled and written by Alan Delozier.
August 24, 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
  • TypeCollection

Repository Details

Part of the The Monsignor Field Archives & Special Collection Center Repository

Archives, Walsh Library
400 South Orange Ave
South Orange NJ 07079 US