From Harvard Yard to Divinity Avenue: The Harvard-Yenching Institute’s Two Homes


Ruohong Li (Harvard-Yenching Institute)

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Abstract: The Harvard-Yenching Institute, an independent foundation whose mission is to advance higher education in Asia, funded by the endowment from Charles Hall’s estate, has had its home in two different places during its nearly a century history: Boylston Hall and 2 Divinity Avenue, two landmark buildings on Harvard University’s main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While the Harvard-Yenching Institute, currently located at 2 Divinity Avenue, well known for its prestigious fellowship program and full service to support East Asian Studies in Asia as well as at Harvard, the story was seldom known and rarely told about its connection to Boylston Hall and of the early history of 2 Divinity Avenue, built for the highly controversial Institute of Geographical Exploration. Central to the story are the construction of these two buildings, funding sources, and architectural renovation and expansion in relation to the history of the development and expansion of East Asian Studies and the ill-fated field of geography, abolished as a discipline of study at Harvard. This paper is an attempt to trace the history of the two major buildings at Harvard to reestablish connection between architecture and formation and evolution of academic disciplines and highlight the important role that the Harvard-Yenching Institute plays in the development and expansion of East Asian Studies and library collection at Harvard.

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