Mr. Lee Yü-chieh’s religious name is Chi-ch’u [“Absolute Beginning”], and his sobriquet is Han-ching Lao-jen [“the Venerable Vessel of Stillness”]. He was born in 1901 in Wu County, Kiangsu Province, China. As a child he was inculcated with his family’s credo: “Take delight in tilling the fields of the mind.” and “The superior man stands in awe of three things, among which mandate from Heaven is paramount”.
In middle school years he scraped together pocket money to print two calligraphic works left by his father: Taishang’s Discourse on Recompense and Lord Wench’ang’s Treatise on Secret Virtue. For three years he gave these books of moral exhortation to officers on the Yangtze steamer Chianghua, to be distributed among passengers.
In 1919 Chinese students initiated the May 4th Movement. They opposed unreasonable demands by Japan at the Paris Peace Conference to assume wartime powers held in Shantung by Germany. At age 19, under the name as Lee Ting-nien, he was president and representative of the student association at China Public School in Wusong, while heading the General Affairs Department of the Shanghai Student Alliance. He was at the forefront of boycotting classes, calling on merchants to close shops and on workers to hold a strike that had nationwide effects, forcing the Peking government to balk at signing the allied agreement with Germany. That same year, Mr. Lee entered the Kuomintang.