I am a Chinese learner | Yu Tu


TV series “Snowflakes That Gone With the Wind” (2010) Stills

One night in the late autumn of 2018, I got together with two old classmates who came to Shanghai for a meeting. At the wine table, I chatted about what major I would choose if I went back to college 38 years ago. One student said that he would choose biogeography, but the other student couldn’t remember the major he chose. And I said that I would study philosophy. In short, no one is willing to go to the Chinese department anymore.

I still remember that when I filled in the college entrance examination volunteers, I filled in the Department of Chinese and the Department of History in several colleges and universities, because I really like these two majors. It was only a few years after the resumption of the college entrance examination at that time, and the majors in the university were not as rich as they are today. For example, in the Shanxi Normal University where I studied, the liberal arts majors in it are only Chinese, foreign languages, history, geography, politics, etc., and the range of choices is very limited.

There are also those who deliberately do not study the Chinese department because they like literary writing. When I first came to Shanghai, I soon became friends with Mr. Yang Jinlin, who taught history. He said that he loved literature at the beginning, and he was caught reading Li Taibai’s poems in the math teacher’s class. The teacher got angry when he saw the “white hair three thousand feet” and said it was nonsense. Who do you see whose hair grows so long? Unconvinced, he argued that this was an exaggerated writing technique, so he was taken to the principal’s office by the teacher for education. Even though he loves literature so much, when he applied for the Shanghai Normal University, he filled in the history department. He believed that if he studied Chinese, he would definitely teach Chinese in a middle school after graduation. From the first year of senior high school, the poor composition of the students would be criticized. In the first place, start from the composition of the poor first-year high school students. This will not only help you improve your writing ability, but it can even be said to be harmful.

I remember coming to Shanghai at the beginning of 1998 to celebrate the first Spring Festival. On the afternoon of Chinese New Year’s Eve, a young man rang the doorbell to deliver the word “福” and asked for one yuan. While accepting the word “Fu”, he asked him what he did. The answer is college students, working part-time during the holidays. When asked what major he studied, he answered “Chinese Department”; when asked what he specifically studied, he answered “Chinese, Politics, History” and so on. I immediately understood that he was not a college student, let alone a Chinese major, but I didn’t expose him. This young man, why did he think of pretending to be a Chinese student?

After four years of majoring in Chinese Language and Literature, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Regardless of ancient Chinese or modern Chinese, my interest is not too great. My real interest lies in literature, especially foreign literature, from ancient Greek and Roman literature to modern and contemporary Anglo-American, French, German, Russian and Italian literature. After graduation, I was assigned to teach at Jindongnan Teachers College. For a while, I lived in the same room with a young teacher who graduated from a philosophy department of Shanxi University. Unexpectedly, he was not interested in learning Chinese, and believed that the real wisdom lies in philosophy, and encouraged me to read Hegel’s “Aesthetics”. Since then, I have just become interested in Western philosophy, and it has been out of control.

Although it is said that “literature, history and philosophy are not separated”, and this is true for ancient Chinese literary works, aren’t Lao Zhuangzi’s philosophical works also literary works? Isn’t Sima Qian’s “Historical Records” “Li Sao without rhyme”? However, in the West, there is still a big difference between philosophy, religion and literature.

Literature appeals to emotion, while philosophy appeals to reason; literary works move people through images, while philosophical works use logic to analyze and reason. In short, on the surface, literature and philosophy are two cars running on two separate roads. Didn’t the ancient Greek philosopher Plato look down on poets? And the comedy writer Aristophanes also mocked Socrates in his work “The Cloud”? However, when reading Western literary works, if one does not understand the era background, philosophical trends and religious sentiments in which they were produced, it is difficult to deeply understand their works. And these are unbearable burdens for the history of Western literature in universities. Look at the chapter “The Grand Inquisitor” in “The Brothers Karamazov” by the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky (Penguin Books published it separately), if you don’t understand the Orthodox Church and Dosto’s religious complex, Just literally, can you say that you really understand the book? As for Rousseau and Thoreau, they are both writers and thinkers; while the great French writers Camus and Sartre are both writers and philosophers! In short, without a deep understanding of Western history, philosophy and religion, it is probably impossible to understand its literary works.

About 30 years old, I became interested in Zhitang, and it got out of hand. And Zhitang is a miscellaneous writer, such as ancient Chinese notes, Ellis’s “Sexual Psychology”, Fabre’s “Insects”, Gilbert White’s “Selpon Natural History”, etc. my bookshelf. Since then, I have started from literature, then philosophy, then psychology, then logic, then history, then nature, then jurisprudence, then the history of political thought, and then political science… All of them will be read. The result is that it is getting farther and farther away from literature, and closer to philosophy, history, politics, logic, etc. that appeal to reason. Have I become a literary betrayer?

Yes, I am a Chinese student, but today, I prefer to be a prisoner of reason, to get close to logic, philosophy, law, history, political science, psychology, economics, in short, all aspects of human life that rationally analyze I am willing to be involved in all those; I am willing to do anything that can promote my independent thinking.

Author: Yu Tu

Editor: Qian Yutong

Editor in charge: Shu Ming

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