At the beginning of the 20th century China, which had once been one of the most advanced and powerful nations in the world, became shrouded in a dark cloak of political, social and economic upheaval with a great multitude of its people struggling under the burden of humiliation and oppression.
Still suffering from the devastating effects of the earlier Opium Wars and burdened with the injustices imposed upon them by the unfair treaties of foreign invaders, much of the Chinese population lived in chaos and abject poverty. With the fall of the Shin Dynasty and loss of confidence in its 2000 year dynastic rule, feudalism, warlordism, autocracy, and despotism became the law of the land leaving many of its people anguished, disordered, and destitute.
It was during this time, on March 20, 1919, that seven Chinese students, Tsui-Ying Teng, Shi Yung Lu, Tseh Dong, Sy-Duh Ren, Feng-Hua Huang, Chih-Huang Lin, and Chi-Ying Nieh, who had been given the extraordinary opportunity to study in the U.S.A., met in Livingston Hall at Columbia University, NYC, to form a fraternity which would reflect their common, underlying belief – that this new fraternity, Phi Lambda (PL), would be dedicated to the singular principle of service.
The name “Ren She” was part of their original oath and it is loosely translated into English as “benevolence, virtue, humanity”. Actually, the Chinese word “Ren” is of distant origin and not until the time of Confucius was its meaning amplified and glorified. All the teachings of Confucius may be summed up in the single word “Ren” meaning kindness and love of your fellow man. The name Phi Lambda was later adopted for the fraternity because these Greek letters contained some symbolic interpretations of Ren.
Thus, the purpose of Phi Lambda, was to assemble a group of likeminded people to promote brotherly love, mutual assistance and cooperation among its members but, unlike other social fraternities of that time, this group of extraordinary young men pledged that above all, they would work to “labor for the welfare of Chinese people”.
These words of honor became the foundation of our organization and its rich legacy still guides us to this day.