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June 23
2014 年 6 月 23日

朱熹與朱德

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「讀史早知今日事」,這些話說得真有道理。

以我的學生為例。30年前,我有一個博士生,畢業於大陸的名校,很聰明,也有研究能力。有一次,我在談話中說起日本人把中國的朱熹當成神來看待。他若有所失地答道:「朱熹?沒聽過朱熹這個人。」他還問我:「老師說的是朱德吧?」我說:「朱熹對理學大有貢獻。」他回說:「你說的是物理學嗎?朱熹對中國的物理學有什麼貢獻呀?我只聽說過楊振寧、李政道對物理有些貢獻。」我感到很訝異,心想這又是一個文革的後遺症吧。

20年後,我收的另一個博士生,80後出生,也是大陸數一數二的名校出身的,還是個誠懇、謙虛、有氣質的女生。在她畢業前不久,我跟她講起早年那個博士生的笑話,想不到她低頭靦腆地說:「老師,對不起,我也不知道朱熹是誰;可不可以講一講他是什麼樣的重要人物?」

但是,以上先後遇到的兩個故事,還不是最令人吃驚的。前幾個禮拜,我對一百多個香港的優秀高中生演講,把上面兩段與博士生的對話重複了一遍。沒想到許多人不但沒聽過朱熹,甚至不知道朱德是何許人也。簡直不但沒吃過牛肉,連牛走路都沒見過!

以上經歷,已經不是笑話了。如果連博士生、優秀高中生都缺乏普通的歷史文化知識,其他學生,是不是更令人擔憂呢?

註:本文曾載於聯合報(2014年6月5日)。

Zhu Xi and Zhu De. Who's who?

"Histories make us wise and able to predict what will happen today." These words by a well-known Chinese scholar are so true, at least according to my personal experience.

Take two of my doctoral students as examples. About 30 years ago, I supervised a PhD student from a prestigious university on the mainland. He was a brilliant young man with a strong research capability. One day, when I mentioned how the Japanese had treated China's philosopher Zhu Xi (1130–1200) as a God, he was a bit puzzled. "Zhu Xi?" he asked. "I've never heard of him."

Then he added, "Professor Kuo, do you mean Zhu De?" Zhu De (1886–1976) was one of China's greatest military leaders and the founder of the Chinese Communist Army.

When I said Zhu Xi had made great contributions to 理學, a rationalistic Confucian philosophy school, also known as Neo-Confucianism, he asked, "Do you mean 物理學 [physics]? What contributions did Zhu Xi make to physics in China? I only know that Tsung-dao Lee and Chen-Ning Franklin Yang made contributions to this field."

I was dumbfounded by his question. Maybe, I thought, this lack of knowledge is a consequence of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976).

Twenty years later, I had another doctoral student from a leading mainland university. Born in the 1980s, she was cordial, modest and well-poised. I related how my doctoral student mixed up Zhu Xi with Zhu De. Much to my surprise, she said shyly, ducking her head, "Professor Kuo, I'm sorry but I don't know who Zhu Xi is, either. Can you tell me why he is such an important figure?"

However, both anecdotes are overshadowed by a recent experience as I delivered a speech to over 100 top seniors from secondary schools in Hong Kong. I retold the two conversations I had had with my doctoral candidates. To my surprise, many in the audience didn't know the identity of Zhu Xi nor Zhu De!

I couldn't help thinking that not only had these students never tasted beef; they had not even seen a cow walk!

Such experiences are no joke. If not even doctoral students and top high-school students have basic knowledge about history and culture, how about other more mainstream students?

Note:
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (5 June, 2014).

June 23, 2014

 

 

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