|Teatime Symposia- Sipping Tea and Savouring Life
|XMUICE Public:ICE Datetime:2011/5/3
The "Teatime Symposia" are a series of events set up by the Xiamen University Youth League and Graduate School, as a way of establishing an efficacious environment in which teaching staff can exchange ideas and share their experiences both as academics and in life with students. To date, nine members of the academic staff have been invited to take part in the symposia. They are Professor Zhou Changle, Professor Zhu Shuiyong, Professor Jian Jinyi, Professor Zheng Xiaoying, Academician Tian Zhaowu, Professor Pan Maoyuan, Dr. Bill Brown, Professor Deng Ziji and Academician Zhang Qian´er. They were warmly welcomed from the audience of students and other teachers, who greatly appreciated their contributions, which helped foster a more invigorating atmosphere in academic research at Xiamen University.
Symposium one: Professor Zhou Changle on the Dao of life and doing research
On 14th March 2009, Professor Zhou Changle of the Xiamen University School of Information Science and Technology was the guest at the first Teatime Symposium. He has dedicated his extensive learning and academic abilities.
During his two-hour Teatime Symposium Prof. Zhou took the concept of the "Dao" and applied it to academic life and research. He quoted the Confucian classic the Great Learning "The Dao of the Great Learning is in illustrating illustrious virtue" to expound the importance for universities of pay greater attention to fostering the personalities, morals and ethics of the students. He said that improving the thinking and inner qualities of the students was not merely dependent on the efforts and teaching of the institution, but was also inevitably linked to the hard work and diligence of the students themselves. This was reflected in the motto of Xiamen University: "Pursue Excellence, Strive for Perfection". When it came to the Dao of life and doing research, Prof. Zhou insisted that one should follow ones truly heartfelt interest, rather than merely going with the flow. "If everyone sacrificed their dreams merely to earn a living, then there is no hope for universities." He hoped that the students in the audience would stick to their principles and pursue their dreams. Prof. Zhou also entered into deep discussions with the students on his research into artificial intelligence, and on poetry and Zen philosophy.
Symposium two: Professor Zhu Shuiyong on the story of Xiamen University
On 18th April 2009, Professor Zhu Shuiyong of the Xiamen University College of the Humanities took part in the second Teatime Symposium, tracing the glorious and unforgettable story of Xiamen University. His work principally involves teaching and research into modern and contemporary Chinese literature and comparative literature, especially theories of modern and contemporary Chinese literature, and the comparative study of Chinese and western novels.
"I´m here to tell stories. The spirit of humanities in a university can be reflected, I think, in a short story", Prof. Zhu Shuiyong said with a smile. He wound the clock back to tell the story of Tan Kah-Kee´s founding of Xiamen University. "He was a leader of the Overseas Chinese and a true man of South Fujian, whose dream it was to establish a ´kingdom of education´ in southern China." Tan Kah-Kee stood firm against great pressure to found Xiamen University. Prof. Zhu expressed enormous appreciation for the courage and vision of Tan Kah-Kee, as seen is his obtaining the Yanwu Playing Field, over 130-hectares in area, from the government of the time. Prof. Zhu pointed out that Xiamen University was the only one of China´s long-established universities which had never changed its name. He told the story of how Tan Kah-Kee argued with government and insisted on it being called Xiamen University. Prof. Zhu said that, thanks to his determination and insistence, "Our motherland weighs more in the heart of her overseas children." He was convinced that this Tan Kah-Kee Spirit was bound to be maintained for the future. The Symposium was relaxed and comfortable, giving the students a good opportunity to chat with an eminent teacher. Prof. Zhu answered questions from the students about the contributions of the well-known writer Lu Xun Xiamen University, the research in sinology, and the sense of identity of Xiamen University alumni. He ended his Symposium by reciting an ancient Chinese poem, leaving yet more for the students to and savour and think about.
Symposium three: Professor Jian Jinyi on the historic dialogue between Laozi and Confucius
On 17th June 2009, Professor Jian Jinyi of Taiwan Tunghai University was invited as guest of honour at the Teatime Symposium to talk about the historic dialogue between Laozi and Confucius with an audience of over 30 students and teachers.
Prof. Jian began by considering the true essence of harmony between nature and human beings, saying that, to him, Chinese culture was so extensive and profound. Research into sinology and understanding the teachings of the ancient sages was something we should not put off, so he had set about encouraging people to think about the origin and growth of life, and reach a better understanding of how to live and treasure life. To that end, the thinking of Laozi and Confucius were the best topic.
Prof. Jian expounded the nature of "Dao" and "De", starting from a consideration of natural phenomena in the universe. He spoke on the Tao Te Ching of Laozi and the Analects of Confucius using quotations and stories to show the relevance of their thinking to modern realities. Using incisive language and vivid explanations, he gave a detailed analysis of the thinking of the two sages, leaving a strong impression on his audience. In doing so, Prof. Jian emphasised the importance of cognition. "Learning has its roots in comparison and cognition; only then can we become enlightened."
Symposium four: Zheng Xiaoying on a life in music
Prof. Zheng Xiaoying was the first woman orchestra conductor in the Peoples´ Republic of China and considered one of the best women conductors in the world. As Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, she still active as a conductor even though she is in her 80s. Prof. Zheng came to Xiamen University on 26th November 2009 to take part in the Teatime Symposium. White-haired, and yet full of energy, Prof. Zheng entertained an audience of more than 40 students of Xiamen University with the story of her career in music.
Prof. Zheng founded the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997 at the invitation of Xiamen University. The first few years were really difficult, as most people in Xiamen had little knowledge of orchestral music. However, she upheld the spirit of Tan Kah-Kee in the conviction that, sooner or later, the people would come to appreciate great music." The Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, which has performed hundreds of concerts both at home and abroad, is one of the ten important distinguishing features of Xiamen.
Prof. Zheng told the students that she hoped that more and more of them would go to concerts and enjoy the music. "Music can teach you the spirit and culture of a nation; it can inspire your imagination and enrich your life." With great good humour and a smile, she said, "Our tickets are the most inexpensive in China." When a student asked her whether her baton had been made specially for her, Prof. Zheng said, "The baton does not matter; it is the conductor who counts." And continued "I love every work that I have conducted. It is only if I love a piece of music, that I can conduct it well." Throughout the two-hour symposium, the audience showed their great appreciation for Professor Zheng´s long career in music and rich experience.
Symposium fiveSymposium five Academician Tian Zhaowu on life as a fraction.
The 5th Teatime Symposium, on 8th April 2010, was the turn of Academician Tian Zhaowu to share his experience of studies and life with his audience. Prof. Tian is an eminent chemist, and Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Professor at Xiamen University College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. In spite of the drizzly weather, a warm and comfortable atmosphere reigned during Prof. Tian´s talk.
Prof. Tian told his audience that life is like a fraction "The denominator is what we get from society; the numerator is what we can contribute to it." He said the reason he was still working in the front line of teaching and research was that he wished to repay his debt to society, adding that he had received so much from other people and society. He hoped that the younger generation, who had better learning conditions than he had had, would also have a sense of duty to pay back society. Prof. Tian shared his motto for life with the audience "Aspiration; Hard-work; Innovation; Practicality", explaining that to be innovative required being able to "abandon one´s own original ideas" and practicality had to be based on social reality.
Prof. Tian was asked about his view of the academic assessment system and the relationship between the Social Sciences and the Natural Sciences. Prof. Tian´s answer that while the Natural Sciences made a tremendous contribution to life and society, the Social Science were fundamental, giving as examples, the direct relationship between policy-making in finance and trade and national development. Institutional reform and innovation also needed to be jump-started by the Social Sciences. And yet, he said that both the Social and Natural Sciences in China had a long way to go in order to reach international levels. Prof. Tian called on the students, saying that "Whatever major you have chosen, I hope you will work hard to contribute more to our country."
Symposium six Professor Pan Maoyuan on exploring education and thinking about life
On the 16th April 2010, Professor Pan Maoyun was the sixth guest invited to share his understanding of life with students at the Teatime Symposia. Prof. Pan founded the discipline of Higher Education Studies in China, and is Honorary Director and Honorary Dean of the Xiamen University Institute of Education Research Institute of Higher Education Science.
Professor Pan Maoyuan began his talk with an account of his first experience of teaching, covering for his elder brother, a primary school teacher. He was still only 15, but had no option but to take his place on the podium. His first class was a disaster with the pupils out of control and making a lot of noise whenever his back was turned. This failure set Prof Pan thinking about how to teach and the best way to pass on knowledge, thinking which led to his choosing education as his career.
Prof. Pan began his research into higher education of Professor Pan and founded the discipline of Higher Education Studies in China following from another perceived failure in teaching. He had been teaching education theories to Party cadres at Xiamen University. However, all the research into education that he was studying concerned nursery, primary and middle school education; there were no education theories on university-level education. He concluded that it was essential to establish a discipline of Higher Education Studies, and in 1965, he put forward his first proposal. It was only 22 years later that the proposal received a favourable response. If hit had not been for Prof. Pan´s perseverance, the current rapid development of higher education would not be possible. Prof. Pan also told the students present that the pursuit of happiness was a matter of perseverance; happiness brought by money or promotion was ephemeral, while true happiness came from the lifelong pursuit of one´s career. He concluded that, "It I´m glad that I am a teacher. If I had a second life, I would choose to be a teacher again."
Symposium seven Prof. Bill Brown, an arrival from afar who is staying forever
Professor Bill Brown of the Xiamen University MBA Centre took part in the seventh Teatime Symposium on the 5th May 2010. Prof. Brown said "I´m a Xiamenese from far away. I´ve lived here for a very long time, and I have the deepest love for Xiamen." and entertained his audience by accompanying himself on his guitar and singing a song he had written about his story with China and Xiamen.
Three days before, Prof. Brown had been at the Shanghai Expo as a guest on the Xiamen promotion stand. He told everyone proudly that Xiamen was a rapidly developing city, yet delightful to live in with a deep cultural heritage. This was not the first time him had promoted Xiamen. Prof. Brown was the first foreign permanent resident of Fujian Province, and has long been an "old China hand" and spokesman for Xiamen. In 1988, Dr Brown was a Vice-President of First Financial Securities of America, but when he heard that overseas students could learn Chinese at Xiamen University, he resigned and brought his wife and two children to Xiamen. After four-months studying Chinese, he began his teaching career at the Xiamen University MBA Centre.
Prof. Brown said he was witness to the astonishing changes over the past two decades to populous China. He had visited more than half the cities in China, but Xiamen still was the most beautiful in his eyes. "The citizens of Xiamen are friendly to foreigners and open-minded." He has written many books, including Amoy Magic, The Fujian Adventure, Magic Siming, Magic Fujian, Discover Gulangyu, Mystic Quanzhou-City of Light, and Xiamen University-Strength of the Nation. These have become both essential reading for foreigners visiting China and a source for Chinese people on Fujian Province and Xiamen. "Chinese cities seem all the same to foreigners, but I dig out interesting historical and cultural features to show them what lies behind and beneath." He not only describes the scenery but tells traditional stories, giving visitors an even more enjoyable sightseeing tour.
Prof. Brown added that language was the means to help more people learn more about China. He hoped that all the students present would master a foreign language. After two-hours of talk in English, he said in fluent Chinese, "I love the wisdom of Confucius and Laozi. I also love The Art of War, which is so full of wisdom in just a few thousands characters." Perhaps it is his understanding and identification with Chinese culture that has helped his integration into Chinese society.
Symposium eight Professor Deng Ziji on being a teacher, not a guru.
On 5th November 2010, Professor Deng Ziji was the guest at the Teatime Symposium sharing his life story with over a hundred students. He is a well-known economist, and an experienced educator in the Social Sciences, a finance guru within China, and a student of Professor Wang Ya´nan, the former President of Xiamen University.
However he said, "I´m not a guru but a teacher. I´m not a leading authority but an ´old learner´." Prof. Deng Ziji was born into a poor family, and he lost his parents while he was a child. He maintained himself through middle school and university. In 1950, Prof. Deng became a student of Wang Ya´nan. On graduation, he devoted his life to teaching and research. Prof. Deng claims two things have stayed with him since his years as a student laying a solid foundation and studying to improve theories.
Prof. Deng said that he had preserved ten catch-phrases from Prof. Wang "Disseminate knowledge; Educate students; Create research results; Nurture useful talents." With this in mind, Professor Deng has trained thousands of finance experts, including over 100 doctoral students. He is still teaching at the age of 88 and said, "Students are both something we shape and something we serve. Every one of my students is my child." During the discussion that followed, the students talked about their confusion in learning and reform of the post-graduate training system. Professor Deng Ziji told them that they should maintain a down-to-earth attitude towards their studies, and hoped all the students would study well and be good people.
Session nine Academician Zhang Qian´er on perseverance in the pursuit of truth and living optimistically
Professor Zhang Qian´er was a favourite student of Prof. Lu Jiaxi, one of the founders of Physical Chemistry and Structural Chemistry as discipline in China. In spite of a life full of suffering, he is still involved in scientific research. He says, "I just like what I am doing now" Prof. Zhang Qian´er is a quantum chemist and Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He took part in the Teatime Symposium on the 22nd December 2010.
Professor Zhang says modestly, "I am not famous as a teacher; my three teachers were." He was admitted to Xiamen University in 1947 and studied under three famous chemists Professors Lu Jiaxi, Tang Aoqing, and Cai Qirui. Under their influence, Professor Zhang learnt to be very strict when it comes to academic requirements, and stresses the importance of honesty in academic research. He said that post-graduate students were not employees and their teachers should help them to find their own way in research rather than merely making use of them. A spirit of criticism and innovation should be encouraged.
In 1954, Professor Zhang received his Master´s degree from the Xiamen University College of Chemistry and then devoted the next 40 years to research into quantum chemistry and structural chemistry. He made many research achievements which were well received both at home and abroad. He was asked about the choosing between applied studies and theoretical studies, Professor Zhang responded that some students would no doubt choose applied subjects in order to meet the reality of today´s job pressures, but he hoped that they did not bring personal interests into their academic research; the progress of science and society was dependent on people of ability undertaking fundamental research.
Professor Zhang Qian´er had had a difficult life. As a child, he had had to walk for three days to get to school. In his 80s, he was involved in a serious car accident. But he survived, thanks to his determination and optimism and to the help of the medical staff Prof. Zhang through and through, a man who has never abandoned his pursuit of the truth and smiles even in the face of difficulties.
The "Teatime Symposia" will continue to invite further highly regarded teachers to share their teaching and life with students in a relaxed atmosphere.