Reminiscences of Tsinghua by Wang Zuoliang
I am just one of the thousands of alumni of Tsinghua University, and although I am no longer working there, every time Tsinghua is mentioned, I would get as excited as when I was young, and can’t seem to stop talking about it.
What is it that makes Tsinghua so attractive? Its beautiful campus? Its advanced facilities? But all these are not lacking in other universities. Or its long history? But a good many universities in the world even boast histories of several hundred years. Having thought it over and over again, I come to the conclusion that it is the people of Tsinghua, or rather, the special relationship between its people and Chinese history, that makes it so attractive.
Speaking of the Tsinghua people, I cherish a lot of sweet memories of my teachers. As a freshman, I was taught Chinese language and literature by Professor Yu Pingbo and Professor Yu Guanying in reading and writing respectively. They were both encouraging and rigorous with me. Once Professor Yu Guanying pointed out that I had mistaken creepers for redbuds and encouraged me to write more for practice. As a sophomore, I was taught History of Western Philosophy by Professor He Lin. He did not frown at my one-hundred-page long book report in English, but rather praised me in class. It was under his guidance that I read a great deal of ancient Greek philosophers in English translation, the delight from which was just like that of discovering a new planet. I was also taught Italian Renaissance by Professor Winter in the Gongzi Courtyard. In his lectures, he passed around many painting albums, and humorously but rigorously offered his critical evaluations. I have many such unforgettable experiences. At the time when the Japanese troops were carrying out military maneuvers in the cities of North China, the teachers and students of Tsinghua were endeavoring to achieve excellence in learning, and soon openly launched the December 9th Movement, a political movement against Japanese invasion.
Our grade (1935-1939) also went through a special experience, an experience of being tempered in the Anti-Japanese War. We spent the first two years on Tsinghua Campus, and the last two at Changshang, Nanyue, Mengzi and Kunming. Some of us fought as guerillas in the liberated areas, while most stayed in the vast rear areas, directly or indirectly participating in war work. Nevertheless our academic work never let up. The Southwest Associated University in Kunming assembled the elites from Peking, Tsinghua and Nankai Universities, who, under the crudest conditions, achieved the best academic results of the time, with the young maturing very rapidly. Waling over half of China endowed us with invaluable experiences of getting closer contact with the reality of inland China. These experiences were impossible to obtain by burying ourselves in books within the confines of Tsinghua Campus. This great shift therefore broadened both our knowledge and our sympathies.
Nevertheless, we still missed Tsinghua Campus. During the 8 years of learning and teaching in Kunming, there was not a single day we did not miss the native land in the north. In the course of Chinese history, Han Literati had been driven out of the north several times, and had never been able to return. As Professor Feng Youlan pointed out, the Anti-Japanese War was an exception. This time we won the war. In the summer of 1946, I, together with my wife and children, returned from Kunming to Tsinghua Campus. Although the school buildings were worn out, and the campus desolate, a large group of staff led by Mr. Chen Daisun immediately threw themselves into reconstruction on a large scale, and before long, the Tsinghua people resumed classes under the splendid autumn sun of the north, their aspirations and enthusiasm reaching a new height.
After that, I went abroad to further my study. When I came back, Tsinghua Campus had already been liberated and ushered a new historical era.
Later on, I was transferred to another university. But the Tsinghua academic standard remains with me.
Such a standard has never been explicitly laid down, but the actual example set by our innumerable fellow teachers and students of “actions speaking louder than words” has made me realize that there must be the highest standard in scholarship, and that the ultimate purpose of gaining knowledge is to serve our country. To put it simply, “preeminence in academia and contribution to society.”