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

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Focus 7:

Liang Zhaotao: An Epitaph
Throughout much of 1987, Professor Liang grew increasingly weak from cancer of the gall bladder, entering the hospital during the summer and finally succumbing on December 2 of that year. Since our first meeting in 1981 he had always appeared frail to me but by the time we last parted, in the January of his last year, his health had already deteriorated further. His wife and others blamed his poor health on the years of hardship he endured in Pingshi and the other labor reform camps, and such travail was indeed enough to ruin one's health. But his spirit had not been broken during those years, and Liang had returned to his campus and his home to rebuild, and he succeeded in realizing his dream for anthropology.But such a feat, under often trying circumstances, was not accomplished easily. His wife, Grace, recalls his workaholic life-style:
I always liked to go with him for a walk after dinner. But he rarely wanted to. I had to drag him out. Then after we'd walk just a few minutes, he'd get an idea and want to return home immediately! Then he'd work 'til midnight or later. I'd get up and tell him to go to bed, but he wouldn't listen. "You sleep. I'm working," he'd tell me. Then I'd offer to make him something to eat, as long as we were both awake. "No, no," he'd respond, "just you go to sleep!"

This obsession with work was compounded by his personal habits. He never exercised and he was a chain smoker ("He felt it helped him think," Grace told me). He never had a physical examination, and his wife believes that if he had not been so stubborn he might have discovered his cancer earlier and survived his illness.

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