The Saga of Anthropology in China: From Malinowski to Moscow to Mao

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Focus 2

Lin Huixiang, Mentor of Liang Zhaotao

While Cai Yuanpei was organizing the sciences of China, the future founder of the Anthropology Department at Zhongshan University was coming of age in Guangzhou. After attending middle schools there for six years, nineteen-year-old Liang Zhaotao arrived on Xiamen University's campus in the fall of 1935 to study in the Department of History and Sociology. He soon met Lin Huixiang, the professor only fifteen years his senior who was to introduce Liang to his life's vocation. Lin awakened in Liang an intense interest in anthropology; Liang recalled hearing from his teacher that humans had lived for hundreds of thousands of years in epochs called the Paleolithic and the Neolithic and that humankind had progressed slowly but unmistakably from those early stages. "From then on," Liang told me, "I was his student and took all the courses from him that I could." 1

Before his arrival on campus, however, Liang had wanted to be a geologist. His father was a wealthy owner of coal mines and a fleet of sixty ships to transport the coal. Liang's mother was his father's third wife and had been only seventeen years old when she was betrothed to a man in his fifties. Liang Zhaotao was his father's last child, the fourteenth. His father wanted the youngest of his eight sons to go into business, so he made Liang learn elementary business skills such as the use of the abacus. Liang soon wearied of the abacus and business and thereby disappointed his father; convinced that his son would not do well in business (unlike Zhaotao's elder brothers), 2 Liang's father allowed him to pursue his studies instead. Determined to help his father by other means, the young scholar decided to concentrate his studies on mine technology.

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