Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

Unbearable "Concern": Scholars and the Government after 1949

Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

Unbearable "Concern": Scholars and the Government after 1949

Article excerpt

Yang Kuisong. Unbearable "Concern": Scholars and the Government After 1949. Nonfiction. Cuilin. Guangxi Normal University Publishing House. 2013. 385 pages. 48 RMB. ISBN 9787549536306

1. Insufferable "Regard"

In Unbearable "Concern": Scholars and the Government After 1949, Professor Yang Kuisong examines the individual encounters of reporter Wang Yunsheng, sociologist Pan Guangdan, and philosopher Dr. Zhang Dongsun as case studies in order to bring attention to problems within the reformation of scholars' ideologies after 1949.

In his interviews, Dr. Yang addresses the title of the book, explaining that the phrase "unbearable 'concern'" is his generalization for the instincts of these conscientious Chinese scholars. They didn't avoid risks or discussing politics because they were urged by their conscience not to do so. In the midst of calamity within the nation and state, they "couldn't bear" the desire to speak. The subheading "Must Speak" from the section of the book that is about Pan Guangdan encapsulates this idea.

This kind of "unbearable 'concern'" is an impulse in which not speaking would leave one malcontent. It's the feeling that no one else but you could speak out, and is a mountainous ambition where one's heart goes out to the common people. Its essence is a scholar's patriotism, a feeling of being duty-bound to society, and the sense of a shared mission in times of crisis.

Obviously, acknowledging historical context brings together people's experiences, making it easier to understand their actions: how they didn't do "honest work," were anxious for a government, went about campaigning, or even hit the table angrily and called out in distress. However, many modern intellectuals have developed distorted ideas about the life experiences of historical figures, either by belittling them or putting them on a pedestal. Dr. Yang believes that in order to research historical figures one "needs to pay attention and research subjects from a considerable distance," while also holding a sympathetic attitude towards the subjects.

Such an objective is in line with the principles of justice and inclusiveness and of consistent and rigorous scholarship, as well as more of an affectionate heart. Dr. Yang also "cannot bear" the impetus to examine how people establish their ideals in a contradictory and ever-changing political storm, how they face their unfortunate reality, and how to objectively evaluate them.

Therefore, in the book we see him actively conducting a great deal of investigation and analytical research. The author wrote the section on Zhang Dongsun by deliberating on a book another researcher had discussed previously. Repeated research shows points of doubt in the historical data and draws in readers to decipher the clues together. This can help unravel doubts, restore the psychology of the party in question, and close in on history's truth.

In writing the section on Wang Yunsheng, the author sorts through the stance of Wang's speech on the one hand and cites facts on the other, afterward pointing out some places where other researchers were inaccurate. In writing the section on Pan Guangdan, the author is wary of the countermeasures that Pan himself proposes as the three "S's," believing the tactic is just a momentary frustration of the language, although it is not quite the same misuse as others have done, resulting in a characterization of Pan as "a victim" and "weak. …

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