Hu, who had been a student at Cornell in 1910 and at Columbia after that, was already famous when he came to Chicago in the summer of 1933 to deliver a series of lectures. As a brilliant writer, historian, occasional archaeologist, and teacher, his New Culture Movement had already transformed the Chinese written language literature by substituting everyday language for classical Chinese in books as well as periodicals. At the time of his visit he was Dean of Arts at Peking University. In 1938-42 he was the Chinese Ambassador to the United States.
The lectures were later published under the title "The Chinese Renaissance," and had an important impact on Western views of China. There were four lectures in all:.