Our History and Philosophy

Philosophy and History of Rural Reconstruction

The teachings of Dr Y.C. James Yen, the father of Rural Reconstruction and the founder of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) as well as China’s Mass Education Movement (MEM) remain the philosophy of rural reconstruction practitioners to the present day.dr_yen

Not relief but release is Dr Yen’s equivalent to the maxim about teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one. Don’t make anyone dependent. Encourage them to stand on their own.

Early in his extraordinary and long life, Dr Yen realized that poor peasants “don’t lack the brains but the opportunities” to succeed in life. The role of development organizations like IIRR is to seek opportunities for education, development, environmental protection, and self-governance, among others.

How could we help them if we don’t know them? Like Dr Yen, we go to the people to share their concerns. The Credo of Rural Reconstruction, which was written by Dr Yen over 90 years ago, is just as valid today as it was then: Go to the people, learn from them, build on what they have… The Credo provides the operational principles for the philosophy of rural reconstruction.

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Using this simple yet powerful humanistic philosophy, Dr. Yen introduced the wonders of education to over 200 million Chinese peasants which earned him several prestigious international awards. In 1943, along with Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, John Dewey, Oliver Wright and Walt Disney, Dr Yen was awarded the prestigious Copernican Citation as one of the 10 modern revolutionaries.
Click here for a Power Point presentation about Dr Yen’s life and legacy.
Dr Yen died in 1990 at the age of 96 but his legacy continues to guide the development philosophy of IIRR today. Read more