Why Is Prof. Yang Shiqun Being Investigated? Read His Class Syllabus

Yang Shiqun (杨师群), a professor of ancient Chinese language at East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, has become a target of a police investigation after his students informed authorities about the content of his class. He was questioned by university authorities, who informed him that his students had reported him and the Shanghai police were therefore investigating the case. Professor Yang wrote a blog post about this encounter (translated by CDT), which caused heated discussions in Chinese cyberspace and the domestic media. See also an opinion piece in China Daily. A day after he posted it, the blog post was taken down, and the Shanghai Public Security Bureau denied to journalists that they were investigating Yang.

During a meeting with the school authorities, Professor Yang asked why students needed to report him rather than just dropping the class if they were uncomfortable with his teaching. He was told that the students who reported him were taking a non-elective class. From that clue, Professor Yang deduced that the students were in his Ancient Chinese language class. What did Professor Yang teach in this class that shocked some of his students and caused an official investigation? A slideshow of the syllabus outline for the class appeared in Chinese cyberspace, generating more discussion among netizens. In order to facilitate the online discussion of this issue, an online volunteer calling himself Dr. Tang rewrote the slideshow content into complete paragraphs. Here is “Dr. Tang’s” introduction to the rewritten syllabus outline, excerpts translated by CDT’s Linjun Fan:

From “Dr. Tang”:

First let me make clear where I stand on values: expression is nor crime; freedom is precious; rights are a hard rare thing; truth, justice and reason are fundamental and ever-lasting.
From the burning of books and burying alive of scholars [in the Qin Dynasty] to the suppression of scholars for their writing [in the Qing Dynasty],thought crime has always suppressed our nation and caused it to lose is vitality and innovation.
Times have changed, and the wave of the Internet is especially washing out those poisonous thought crimes in our society, returning more sunshine.
All autocracy and its dark secrets are being torn apart in this age.
  ….
I have read the Class Slides posted in Moyan by Xiaohe1120. I felt that much of the online discussion was too general, and we should read what he actually taught in order to grasp the meaning of this event. The following is my version of the rewriting of the slides. Total 20 lessons, for everyone’s reading and thinking. (18:35, Saturday December 6, 2008)

Lesson 1 Introduction to ancient Chinese language
 
 古代汉语导论 大学语文第一课的漫谈

Lesson 2 The major difference between studies at college and middle school

Discussion: What are your expectations for college life? How do you think college studies should be different from those in middle school? What are your expectations for the spiritual traits of college teachers?

You’ve become half an intellectual by entering college. What does an intellectual mean? What kind of person is qualified to be called an intellectual?

  大学与中学的区别
  你对大学的学习生活有什么样的期望?
  大学的学习生活与中学应该有什么样的不同?
  你对大学老师的精神面貌抱有什么样的期待?
  踏入大学的大门,也算半个知识分子了。
  知道什么是知识分子?怎样才算一个真正的知识分子吗?

Lesson 3 What’s the purpose and value of education?

Students should not be simply regarded as an empty vessel that passively receives information and doctrines. They should be seen as a free and growing human being. The purpose of education is to help them grow freely.

Teachers’ responsibility is to provide the students necessary basic knowledge, truthful information, cultural nourishment, and professional skills.

Teachers could also share with students what they’ve experienced: the pains and joys, the struggles and endeavors, the risks and anxieties, the despair and hopes, etc.

Teachers should respect the personality and freedom of the students, and instruct them how to develop themselves and benefit the larger society.

教育的目的与价值何在?
不能把人当作强制接受什么的容器。
  孩子是成长中的自由主体,教育的目的是呵护他们的自由成长。
提供必要的基础知识、真实信息、文化教养、职业技术或专业智能。
  告之前辈经历过的痛苦和快乐、挣扎和奋斗、风险和焦虑、绝望和希望……
  尊重学生的个性自由,发展自我同时有益社会。
        

Lesson 4 What does education for all-round development, the so-called “quality (Su Zhi) education” mean?

What is the most important quality of a human being? It’s the spirit of integrity and independence. An education with real quality should aim to cultivate the spiritual independence and wholeness of students. It is the basis of human development and creativity. It’s the goal of human growth. From it comes the joy of learning, the happiness of striving, and the fruits of creativity. The meaning of life lies in self-discovery, self-improvement, and creation of splendid spiritual and material wealth.

Do not be a slave to society, to knowledge or to life. Be the master.

  什么叫素质教育?
  什么是素质?人的最重要的素质是什么?是人格精神!
  真正的素质教育,就是要培养学生的人格独立和精神健全,这是万业之本、创造之源,也是人类发展的目的。
  学习的乐趣,奋斗的幸福,创造的成果,人生的意义,就在于自己发现自己,自己完善自己,自己为自己开辟繁华似锦的精神天地和物质财富。
  不要做社会、知识和人生的奴隶,而要做其主人。

Lesson 5 Independent and Critical thinking

“The primary mission of college instructors is to teach students how to think independently, and cultivate their habit of critical thinking,” said the President of Yale University at a forum of Chinese and overseas university presidents in October 2006.

“A university becomes one due to one primary reason — it is the center of critical thinking,” said the President of the University of Chicago.

Why do we need to think independently? Why do we need to have a habit of thinking critically?
Have you ever thought about the relations between critical thinking and human development and social growth ?

  独立思考与批判性思维
  2006年10月,耶鲁大学校长在中外校长论坛上的演讲:大学教师的主要工作应是教会学生如何独立思考?要让大学生具有批判性思维习惯。
  芝加哥大学校长说:大学之所以名大学,只有一个理由,即他必须是批判的中心。
  为什么要独立思考?为什么要培养批判性思维习惯?
  人类进步及其社会发展与批判性思维的关系,你思考过吗?

Lesson 6 Introduction of book, “How to Become a Real Intellectual?” by Taiwan scholar Yin Haiguang.

An intellectual is not someone who has read lots of books. He must possess the spirit of independent thinking and originality.

An intellectual is a critic of the society he lives in, and an opponent of the established value system. Like Socrates, he takes it as his mission to criticize his contemporary society and its values.

It’s not rare that an intellectual goes against his era for the truth he believes in. He even dies for it sometimes.

  台湾学者殷海光 《怎样才算是知识分子》
  一个知识分子不止是一个读书多的人,一个知识分子的心灵必须有独立精神和原创能力。
  知识分子必须是他所在的社会之批评者,也是现有价值的反对者。批评他所在的社会而且反对现有的价值,乃是苏格拉底式的任务。
  一个知识分子为了真理而与整个时代背离不算稀奇。有时为此,他得付出生命的代价。

Lesson 7 Why do we need to study ancient Chinese literature?

Haven’t you had studied it already in middle school? Why do those students who don’t major in the Chinese language need to read classic Chinese literature? Because ancient Chinese literature offers a tool to understand China’s history and culture.

Students of any liberal arts discipline need to understand history, and the history of the development of the discipline. It’s a basic tool.

It could be quite difficult to master this tool. The classic literature is a carrier of all major knowledge accumulated in ancient China. It appears to be mysterious and obscure. Our ancestors have made it so.

  为什么还要学古汉语?
  中学不是学过了吗?大学我又不学汉语专业,为什么还要读古代汉语。
  古代汉语是文科的学习工具,是把握中国历史、传统文化的工具。
  任何一门文科学科都需要了解自己的历史,有关学科的发展史,工具是基础。
  而要掌握这门工具又相当艰难,中国古代的主要学问几乎都凝聚于此,古人将这门学问搞得相当神秘、晦涩。

Lesson 8 Understanding the major concepts in classic Chinese literature

There is a system composed of various vague concepts (in the classics):
Ren (kindness), Ren Zheng (benevolent rule), Li (reason) in Confucianism;
Tao (the Way), Qi, and Tai Ji in Taoism;
Tian, Tianzhi, Ming Gui in Mohism;
Fa, Shu, Shi in Legalism;
Yin-Yang, Wu-Xing, etc.

Those are the key concepts in Chinese traditional culture. It’s not easy to understand them. You can not conduct further studies of the literature if you don’t have considerable knowledge of the language and the culture.

充满模糊概念的文字体系
  儒家学说的”仁”、”仁政”、”理”
  道家学说的”道”、”气”、”太极”
  墨家学说的”天”、”天志”、”明鬼”
  法家学说的”法”、”术”、”势”
  阴阳家学说的”阴阳”、”五行”
  以上术语都是中国传统文化的关键理念,如何把握这些理念是相当困难的,或者说没有一定的文字功底和文化基础,就无法作进一步的深入研究。

Lesson 9 Be brave to think and to ask questions

Why did Chinese pre-historical society become such an autocracy? Why did it have a profound and lasting impact?
How should we evaluate the historical process of unifying China by Emperor Qin Shihuang? Does the unification of the country necessarily mean progress?
Why isn’t there any concept of “human rights” in traditional Chinese culture? Or very slim awareness of it?
Why did China have a splendid history for thousands of years but become backward and get beaten up by other countries in recent centuries?
Why does the United States criticize China’s human rights problems? What don’t we translate the bill on the issue and show people how the “American imperialists” are trying to damage China?

  敢于提出问题,思考问题
  为什么中国上古社会要走向如此专制的政治体制?且影响深远?
  如何评价秦始皇统一的历史进程?统一就代表进步吗?
  为什么中国传统文化没有”人权”概念,或者说权利意识非常淡漠?
  为什么中国有数千年光辉灿烂的历史,到近代却如此愚昧落后而挨打?
  美国为什么要指责中国人权问题?为什么不将其提案翻译出来,让人们看看美帝国主义是如何反华的?

Lesson 10 Students should cultivate the ability to learn by themselves in college

The difference between college instruction and middle school instruction: The purpose of learning is not memorizing what’s in the textbooks or the standard answers to test questions. The purpose should be encouraging independent thinking.
The purpose of studies is not just to learn what’s already there, but to raise questions about them.
This requires you to have the ability to learn by yourself. Reading and writing are among the basic capabilities.

大学主要是培养自学能力
  大学与中学的差别:学习决不是背诵教课书上的所谓重点或标准答案,而是要独立思考有关问题,提出自己的观点。有所谓:中学求同,大学求异!
  或者说,教育的目的不仅要你熟悉已有的成果,更要你怀疑已有的成果,能提出自己对它的解读。
  这就要求你掌握自学的能力,其中文字功底应该说是最基本的一种能力。

Lesson 11 There are no correct answers in liberal arts disciplines

Teachers should not indoctrinate students with correct answers, or instruct them to memorize them. Instead, teachers should tell the students their perspectives on issues, and the process of how they reached their conclusions. Thus the students are illuminated. They are inspired to learn more. In this process the students get trained in methods of doing research and stretch their creativity.

Students should not simply expect a conclusion from the teachers. They should explore to find the answers by themselves, and develop themselves through independent thinking.

文科课题没有正确答案
  教师讲课的目的并不是将所谓的正确答案灌输给学生,让学生听之,背之。相反,教师只是把自己对问题的看法,或者如何研究得出其观点的过程告诉同学,让同学得到一定的启发,同时又不满足,于是进行补充、完善,以训练研究方法,培养创造性的能力。
  同样,学生不能只知从老师那里获得一个所谓结论,要自己去探索,要从独立的思考中获得学业的进步。

Lesson 12 Dare to suspect all

“Suspect all” is a motto of Karl Marx’s. People tend to accept answers rather than to examine the process of searching for answers. Many simply accept other people’s conclusions. They don’t think hard about how the conclusions are reached and whether they are valid. Thus the knowledge they get is superficial, or might even be fake.

So to understand a complex issue, you need to get a large amount of information, and carefully consider it, especially when it contains opposing opinions.You also need to be ready to challenge the way of thinking indoctrinated by traditions and the education system.

  要敢于怀疑一切!
  马克思的座右铭:怀疑一切!
  人们习惯于接受答案而不去辛苦地考虑其答案的探索过程,尤其是这结论是否存在真实的根据?于是其所谓”知识”不但肤浅,甚或是伪知识。
  所以要获取大量的各类信息,认真思考这些信息,尤其是不同观点的信息。
  然后是突破传统思维模式和教育模式强加给我们的思维定式,打开探索欲望的突破口。

Lesson 13 We Chinese people don’t have profound spiritual pursuits

“The Chinese and the Jews are two tragic peoples. The former has a body without a soul. The latter has a soul without a body.” — Quoted from a Jewish writer.

Although the Chinese have the concept of “soul,” it has a very different meaning. It means a vital breath of life, or a virtual body of awareness. It doesn’t have the aspects of faith or reason. It still belongs to the larger body concept.

中国人缺乏深邃的思想信仰
  犹太作家赫斯说过:中国人与犹太人是两个不幸民族的典型例子,前者只有躯体没有灵魂,后者只有灵魂没有躯体。
  西方人重视灵魂而轻视肉体,灵魂的核心是信仰与理智,它主宰其他方面。
  中国人虽也有”灵魂”概念,但与西方有很大的不同。它只指一股生命之气,一种虚化的身和飘游的意识,不具有信仰、理智、主体方面的自定义功能,总体上仍属肉体范畴。

Lesson 14 Peace and stability are valued above all in Chinese culture

This tendency to preserve peace makes the Chinese people passive in fighting for our rights. We tend to accept the political status quo. As long as a government can maintain stability, the Chinese people would allow it to impose its will on them and to represent them.

It’s hard for many Chinese to comprehend and accept the idea of fighting for individual rights on the basis of equality, as they are exercised in western countries.

  和为贵与稳定压倒一切
  和为贵的倾向,使中国人在政治方面只要求安定,而不是为自己的权利奋斗。因此,一个政府只要能够维持安定的局面,中国人就可以让它的意志强加在自己身上,可以由它来代表自己的利益而感到不关痛痒。
  西方那种在平等基础上,每个人、每个团体都为自己权利而斗争,不能容忍一个一元化的权力结构压在众人头上的文化表现,对中国人来说是无法理解和接受的。

Lesson 15 The Chinese are a practical people

Heaven lies in the food, as an ancient Chinese saying goes. The Chinese value sensual pleasure. They seek practical benefits and attach great importance to eating.

Among the knowledge accumulated in the past several thousand years of Chinese history, practical political tactics and skills of life enjoyment were extensively covered. However, there lacked spiritual pursuits for a world beyond. Thus the Chinese intellectuals easily kneel down before those in power, and subject their thinking to the influence of power.

The Chinese can’t understand the spiritual culture of the west, such as the belief “For my love I will sacrifice life, for liberty I will sacrifice my love.”

中国人的人格结构以实用为主
  民以食为天!中国人重视感观享受,讲究实惠,最重视”吃”。
  中国数千年悠久的文化中,最发达的是实用的政治统治术和一些生活技艺,最缺乏的是一种超验的彼岸信仰追求,由是跪拜在现实的权力脚下。知识者主要在权力的指挥下,运作自己的思维。
  中国人不理解西方人:”若为自由故,两者(生命与爱情)皆可抛”的精神文化。
        
Lesson 16 Introduction of the book The Underlying Structure of Chinese Culture, by Sun Longji

The Chinese are the people in the world that attach most importance to “unity.” They are also a people that are most likely to persecute their own members.

In political struggles among the Chinese, players on both sides would often pose themselves as the representatives of the whole group, and accuse the other side of being partisans.

They pretend to be nice to each other, but harbor grudges in their hearts. They fight against each other under the fake facade of “unity.” They stay together and inflict pain on one another. Like incessant maneuvering between mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law in a big family, each party becomes either sadistic or masochistic.

孙隆基 《中国文化的深层结构》
  中国人是世界上最趋向于”团结”的民族,也是世界上最喜欢整自己人的民族。
  在中国人的政治斗争中,双方都将自己打扮为整体利益的代表者,都将”搞分裂”、”破坏团结”的罪名加予对方。
  在保持”面和心不和”的状态下,彼此的斗争在”团结”的形式下进行。这种大家分不开但又必须互相整来整去的情形,就好象大家庭中的婆媳、妯娌斗法一般,彼此变成虐待狂与被虐待狂。

Lesson 17 It’s the basis of social science studies to analyze in-depth the cultural genes of the Chinese society

There are various aspects that the studies could be conducted on: economic operation, social organizations, authoritarian rule, legal culture, etc. Ancient Chinese literature is the basic tool.

In the meantime, we should take universal values of the modern era as the criteria for our studies, such as liberty, equality, democracy, human rights, rule of law, etc. The goal is to fulfill the difficult task of transforming our cultural gene and modernizing the society in its ideas and way of thinking.

  深入解剖中国文化基因是研究社会科学的基础
  从有关人的观念,从各类经济的运作,从社会团体的结构,从专制政权的形态,从法律文化的传统……各方面入手,而古汉语肯定是最基本的工具。
  同时更需要用现代的普世价值观(自由、平等、民主、人权、法治等)作为研究工作的目的,自觉进入艰苦的文化基因转型的社会现代化历程。

Lesson 18 Freedom of speech

Introduction of the book Outlook of Culture by Taiwanese scholar Yin Haiguang

It’s a humiliation to all human beings if those in power can control all adults in a society in what they know, what they read and what they publish.

Everyone has the freedom to pursue what he believes to be the truth, and to express the truth as he sees it. It’s the worst type of government that only allows the public to know partial information and thus traps their minds.

台湾学者殷海光 《文化的展望》
  如果权力决定其他成年人只能知道他许可知道的,只能阅读他许可阅读的,只能发表他许可发表的,如果有这样的事情,那么这是对人类全体的侮辱。
  任何人有追求自认为是真理的自由,也有表述自认为是真理的自由。那种只许他人知道片面消息,造成民众井蛙之见,观念坐牢,这是虐政中最虐的一种。

Lesson 19 The methods and requirements of the course

Read the texts’ table of contents, learn about the historical background and cultural traditions of each text, and try to understand the meaning of every word and phrase, and be able to translate them. Reflect on the possible enlightenment you’ve got from the texts, or any valuable ideas you’ve learned from them.

By the end of the course, you will have a good grasp of China’s cultural heritage, learn to look at it with critical thinking, and understand its profound impact on the current Chinese society.

You are encouraged to speak freely of your ideas. Carry on the academic tradition of Mr. Cai Yuanpei [former president of Beijing University]: academic freedom and tolerance of different ideas.

Let’s observe the well-known saying by Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

You students must have the courage to express your views freely. You can discuss your thoughts with teachers as their equal. It is quite common that people have different opinions. Do not subject yourself to teachers. Do not follow the authority blindly. Try to discover yourself in the process of learning.

本课程的学习方法与要求
  主要阅读课文的篇目
  每篇课文的时代背景,有关文化传统。
  弄通每个字、词的涵义,读懂课文,并能翻译词、句、段落。(不讲求语法)
  从所读课文中得到什么启迪,或者有什么思想方面的收获。
  主要培养对文字的把握功底,对文化遗产的独立思考能力,理解中国传统社会的文化特质及对今天的深刻影响。
  勇于发言,畅谈思想
  继承蔡元培先生的办学传统:学术自由,兼容并包。
  遵循伏尔泰的名言:你说的话,我一个字也不赞成,但我要拼命力争你有说这话的权利。
  同学们要勇于发表自己的观点,畅谈自己的想法,也可以平等的态度与老师争论,存在不同观点是非常正常的,不要屈服于老师,也不要盲从权威,而要在学习中找到自我。

Lesson 20 How to treat those who have different opinions from yours?

There a revolutionary logic which says: We oppose whatever our enemies embrace, and we embrace whatever the enemies oppose. Do you agree with it?

This is a very simplistic and primitive way of thinking, which ignores the complexity of the world and the issues. It makes people narrow-minded and hostile to those who have different opinions from them. It’s dangerous especially when those in power have such a way of thinking. It would generate countless unnecessary disputes, mistakes and human tragedies.

Learn to be tolerant!

Wise people are tolerant. Intolerance is actually a sign of weakness. A person is bound to be intolerant when he does not have sufficient knowledge but tries to safeguard his authority, when he does not grasp the truth but tries to pose himself as the embodiment of truth, when he observes outdated dogma and refuses historical progress, when he is willing to dwell his wind in a well and refuses to look up to the sky —quoted from Van Loon’s book On Tolerance.

如何对待不同的思想观点
  有种革命逻辑声称:凡是敌人拥护的,我们就要反对;凡是敌人反对的,我们就要拥护。——你同意吗?
  这是一种极其简单化的低级思维定式,它看不到事物的复杂而丰富的内涵。更为恶劣的是,人们会由此养成对不同意见持敌视态度的思维习惯,似乎只有观点一致才算正常,它使人们心胸狭隘。尤其是掌权人的偏执,不但许多无谓的争执和错误由此产生,更导致许多人间悲剧残剧的发生。
  要学会宽容!
  智力非常发达的人才宽容。不宽容实际上是一种软弱的表现,当一个人没有足够的知识,又要维护自己的权威地位时;当一个人并没有掌握真理,而又要以真理的化身自居时;当一个人固守陈腐的教条,而拒绝历史进步时;当一个人目空一切,自作井底之蛙时,这个人必然是不宽容的。——房龙《宽容》

December 15, 2008 11:58 PM
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