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

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Focus 5

Liang Zhaotao and New China,
1949-1964

The tidal wave of change that swept China during the fifteen years after Liberation also affected Liang Zhaotao and the other anthropologists at Zhongshan University. Educated in the American mold but with a patriotic dedication to the development of Chinese anthropology in New China, Liang was soon faced with severe tests of his intellectual, personal, and political foundations. From the very beginning of the new era, choices made then would influence his life and career in the coming decades.

Like many other "patriotic" scholars, Liang chose to stay in Guangzhou rather than flee to Hong Kong or abroad. During a break in one of our discussions of the early 1950s, Liang vividly brought home to me the spirit of the early post‐ Liberation period when he suddenly leaned forward, exhaled another puff of smoke from one of his ubiquitous cigarettes, and told me, "I could have studied in America, I could have gone abroad, but I didn't want to abandon my responsibilities. How could I go? Without my teaching these courses there wouldn't have been any anthropology classes. I couldn't abandon the students and my responsibilities. I knew that if I went to Hong Kong, I'd be adequately taken care of by my brothers."

One reason Liang felt so needed was the departure of many of the Anthropology Department's senior faculty by the time the Red Army entered Guangzhou in the fall of 1949. When the department itself was disbanded and many of its faculty and courses transferred to other departments and danwei, Liang continued to press for the inclusion of anthropology courses in these new academic

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