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

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Focus 3

Zhongshan University and
Yang Chengzhi

The war began during the summer vacation, and Liang Zhaotao's family decided that he should not flee with the Xiamen University community to the interior during the upcoming academic year. Seeking to remain closer to his family in Hong Kong, Liang Zhaotao transferred to Zhongshan University 1 and entered the History Department. Lin Huixiang personally introduced and recommended him to Yang Chengzhi, the head of the anthropology division. When Lin later left China for Southeast Asia, Liang remained as Yang's loyal student.

Yang wasted no time in putting the junior transfer from Xiada to work. Liang began a field study with Yang on the "Tanka" or "boat people." 2 Liang focused on their religion, a theme that was to captivate him for the next decade. Later that year he conducted research on the Buddhist and Daoist elements in Guangzhou's Buddhist temple's zhai tang (vegetarian dining hall). 3

At the end of the academic year, however, Japanese advances caused most of Zhongshan's personnel to evacuate to Yunnan Province. This time Liang accompanied his school and professors, arriving in Chengjiang County during the summer of 1938. Liang's progress toward his degree was uninterrupted, however, and he graduated the following spring with honors after writing a 40,000‐ character thesis for his undergraduate degree on the origins and development of religion. Back home in Guangzhou, meanwhile, his father had died and his brothers divided the family estate. From then on, Liang tried to remain near his widowed mother (Zhuang 1991:1).

-50-

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