Li Ao's Speech At Fudan University
The following is my translation of Li Ao's speech at Fudan University via Phoenix TV:
Mr. Liu Changle, I thank you because I would not be standing here without you. Dean Jiang is my old friend, so I can afford to tell a joke. He deliberately turned my speech today into an academic discourse and that is why I am sitting with him. Actually, let me tell everyone. He spoke for too long and his putonghua is not very good. His scholastic knowledge is first-rate, but he does not speak too well.
Let me tell you. I hate this type of hall. A speaker should look at everyone, and in this hall, I have to look from left to right and then right to left. I feel like I am an electric fan.
Today, I am going to claim the privileges of my age. You have not seen the Shanghai that I saw. Fifty-six years ago, when I left Shanghai, the scene that I saw was the Bund. In front of the banks, the Shanghai police were riding on horseback and beating the crowds back with leather whips. Why were the crowds there? At 5am, when the curfew was lifted, they rushed in from everywhere towards the banks. Why? There was a run on the gold in the banks. The gold had been expropriated from the people by the Kuomintang government. They used the Gold Dollar certificates to plunder the people's assets. They said that if you have gold in your homes -- apart from the gold ring on your finger -- you should give it to the government in exchange for the Gold Dollar certificates. If you don't exchange it, the gold will confiscated and you will be prosecuted according to the law. After the gold was collected, they wanted to sell all of it in one day. If you can buy one ounce, you will be able to sell it for the price of two ounces later. That is why all the people in Shanghai were going crazy to get gold. At the time, there is a squadron of Shanghai policemen known as the Flying Fortresses. They sat on horses and swung their leather whips. But the people could not be beaten back. I saw with my own eyes what a dying government -- what a dying Republic of China -- looked like in its moment of final defeat.
I left with them to flee to Taiwan. At the time, I had no right to choose, because I was only thirteen years old. I have come back to Shanghai now. I have come back 56 years later. Do you know how I feel? None of you have seen the sad and tragic sight that I saw, and you do not feel anything different has happened to you. But for me, I now know how important it is for the nation to be rich and powerful, and I have seen it in Shanghai. Please clap your hands.
When I came back to the motherland, I gave three different speeches. The agenda that Dean Jiang assigned to me are false. My true agenda had three positions. The first position that I took at Beijing University is about the Fiercely Staring Warring Attendant of Buddha (金刚怒目). The second position that I took at Tsinghua University is about the Buddha with the Lowered Eyes (菩萨低眉). At Fudan University, I want to talk about the Nun Who Is Thinking About Worldly Things (尼姑思凡). Why do I want to talk about the Nun Who Is Thinking About Worldly Things? This is about our ideals versus reality.
Among the poetic songs of the Yuan dynasty, we can find many that make fun of nuns. There is a young nun but her master has shaved off all her hair. She sees some young men, she blinks her eyes and they wink at each other. That scene is known as the Nun Who Is Thinking About Worldly Things. This is the more pragmatic side.
A Hungarian writer was a Communist, but he later left the Communist Party. His name is Koestler. He wrote a book titled Darkness At Noon. In this book, an old Communist Party member was being persecuted. As he was about to be executed, he told his young Communist persecutor: "Son, you won't be able to create paradise." Let us think about how we can try to create paradise. According to Deng Xiaoping, he spent 20 years of his life before he was 45 years old in fighting wars. But after 1949, we must admit that the Chinese Communist Party did try very hard to create a paradise.
But Deng Xiaoping said that twenty years of that time was wasted. How was it wasted? The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution both wasted time. Why? We can think of a story from the Han dynasty. There was an Han emperor. You all call him Han Gaozu, but he should really be called Han Gaodi. The emperors of the Han dynasty were Gaodi, Huidi, ... Yindi, and then came the three kingdoms. [technical note: Li Ao had rattled a list of names in rapidfire, such that the transcriber only left it as ...] You know how good my memory is, right?
Han Gaodi hates intellectuals. He hated the students of Fudan University. (laughs). When the intellectuals came, they wore hats at the time. He would forced them to take their hats off and let his people urinate on them. He despised those people. There was a person named Lu Jia and he wanted to tell Han Gaodi about how to rule. Liu Bang (=Han Gaodi) said, "I won the country on a horse. I won the country on a horse. Who needs to listen to intellectuals teach?" So Lu Jia said, "You won the country on a horse. But you cannot rule the country on a horse. Ruling the country requires professional talents." When I was in Beijing, I said that these professional talents are at Beijing University and Tsinghua University. Now that I am in Shanghai, I will say that they are from Fudan. (laughs)
Due to the lack of professional talents, we still wanted to use our patriotic hearts to create paradise. We paid the price. Yet when we think back, did we have an opportunity to create paradise? When the methods are right and when the moment comes, we still think that there is a chance to create paradise.
You think about this. The foreigners have this saying, "A Chinaman's chance." This is sarcastic and derogatory. It is a saying from the Gold Rush era in the American west. "Chinaman's chance" refers to the highly improbable chance for a Chinaman. If you become a Chinaman, you have no chance. But now I feel that we, the Chinese people, have a chance. The Chinese culture and letters also have a chance.
Let me give you an example. In our ossified thinking, Chinese is very difficult to learn and it is very difficult to recognize. Right? Our great Communist Party had tried to destroy that Chinese language. Over these years, the Communist Party has successfully introduced the simplified characters. But do you know that the simplified characters is problematic in the face of modernity?
What is the problem? If you don't have to write Chinese, it is very easy learn. Let me tell everyone. Chinese is the world's simplest culture. In terms of grammar, it is a very simple grammar. "The Spring Wind Greens The Shores South Of The River" (春风又绿江南岸). The "green" is both an adjective and a verb. This is the excellent flexibility of the Chinese language. Do you know that? In the past, we have said that this sort of thing in Chinese was unfavorable to development and we must annihilate them. But let us think again. Today, we destroy them and then we find that Chinese has just come back from the dead. This is because in modern technology, when we type, we find that one word-one sound is the best method for entering words.
But once we realize that there are many words in Chinese with the same sound, we know that we have a problem and we have to solve it. The word "yi" (衣) to describe Li Ao's clothes has 156 words that sound the same, just as the "Li" in my name. There are words with sound but no written form. How to solve this problem? It will be up to Fudan University. We want to carry forward the Chinese language. Why has it not been destroyed? Because it has a deep cultural foundation. How? There are ancient books with a hundred thousand words each behind it. This is not Egyptian, and this is not Babylonian. Chinese is a live language.
Let us now talk about English. In the 14th century, English was a local dialect. It was a local dialect of the German language. At the time, when the parliament met, they spoke French. The universities taught in French. People quarreled in French. But then England produced Shakespeare and Johnson. The appearance of these people made English stronger. Today, English is directly threatening all of the languages of the world, including French and Chinese.
But when computer technology appeared, English did not threaten us. We found that there are so many good foundations to develop our Chinese and to develop our thoughts in Chinese.
What are our thoughts in Chinese? We know that the Chinese think tank groups often use four-word sayings to express their ideas. Everybody knows these sayings. But when we think about them carefully, we know that there is a great deal of good language in there. For example, suppose that this building catches fire, then everybody rushes the door to exit (夺门而出). Please note the word 'rush' or 'fight for' (夺). It is very crucial. If Li Ao speaks well, their tears 'rush' out of their eyes. When the Kuomintang was defeated, they 'watch' the wind and flee (望风而逃). You pay attention to the word "watch" (望). The Chinese language has a lot of excellent features.
I must tell everybody. Although your Chinese literary studies are good, you are not as good as me. Why aren't you as good as me? Because you are missing a knack. What knack? I have the ability to take any abstract thing and make it concrete.
Beyond doing arithmetic, when you do literature or language, you should quantify it. For example, I am standing here. We are describing the old, the middle-age and the young generations. Let me tell you how I describe it. I would say that when I am young, I worry about big-small. When I am middle-aged, I worry about long-short. When I am old, I worry about hard-soft. This is how life is divided into.
Just then, I went to do number 1. When I was 60 and I went to number 1 -- everybody knows that we men have a zipper and there is a piece of cloth in front of that zipper which is called the fly -- when I was 60, if I have to urinate, I often forgot to pull up the zipper. When I am 70, I often urinate without unzipping. It is so important to describe the details of whether I am 60 or 70. Nowadays, we say a young girl or an old man. This is not the best Chinese writing. When we say that one is a 'rouged face' (红颜) and the other is a 'white hair' (白发), then that is the best Chinese.
Using a four-word saying, I am flaunting my old age (倚老卖老). Think about how amusing those four words are. You are 'relying' (倚) on old age like as it you sitting on a chair (椅). This is what I said about how Chinese has its good vocabulary, good methods of expression and good artistic concepts. When the Chinese language was computerized, we found that the simplified characters are hard to recognize and the traditional characters are easier to recognize. It was easier to recognize them through the original form. When we don't have to write them, they are easier to recognize. So we should think about continuing to develop the advantages of the Chinese language with modern science and technology.
We have certain concepts that foreigners don't have. For example, there is an English word "ajar" which refers to a half-opened, half-closed door. There is no such word in Chinese. But we can use Chinese concepts. For example, when we write about books, we write about the Story of the Western Chamber, we say "We wait for the moon underneath the western chamber; the door is half open to greet the wind; the shadows of the flowers by the wall are in motion; could the beautiful woman be coming?" (待月西厢下，迎风户半开，隔墙花影动，疑是玉人来) This is the Chinese artistic concept.
For example, Huang Shangu of the Song Dynasty said that the fragrance is coming. When everybody heard that, they started to sniff for the fragrance. He said it was wrong. Fragrance is when you sit there and then the fragrant smell comes into your notice. The fragrance is active while you are passive. Only when you sense it that way is this fragrance. This sort of subtle and detailed feelings can be seen in our Chinese literature.
The same Huang Shangu also said that when he was demoted as an official, he was locked in the gatehouse and he could not get out. It was raining outside but he could not get out. So he stuck his feet out the window to let the rain come down on his feet. He said that he had never felt happier than that. Have you thought about that artistic concept? It is a wonderful concept. Therefore, we can see that there are so many artistic concepts in the Chinese language and ideas, and we will now carry them forward with modern science and technology.
I speak of these things because I want to tell everybody that when someone appears, we will have this opportunity. There is an American writer named Mark Twain who made a lot of money but wasted it away. He liked to make investments but he also lost money. Finally, someone came to him and said, "I have a gadget. If you speak into it, your neighbor can hear it." That is the telephone. But Mark Twain said, "What kind of idea is that! I don't want to invest." So he lost this opportunity. He had been investing all his life, but when he had the best investment opportunity ever, he skipped it. This is the question of opportunity. Therefore, I think that we have a good opportunity today. The people of China have a good opportunity. I have often said that we have never encountered such a good opportunity. We have encountered it today and we should value this opportunity.
Someone told Li Ao that when you get to Beijing, you will get a kick out of criticizing the Communist Party. Someone else also told Li that when you get to Beijing, you will get a kick out of praising the Communist Party. Am I, Li Ao, going to be played by you!? (laughs)
I was just telling Boss Liu Changle in the car. The heavens run in their regular way and a person must have principles. (天行有常，立身有本) Someone like me will say what I want to say. If I have to say right, I will say right. If I have to say wrong, I will say wrong. But, we know that it requires technique to talk. It is no good to speak stiffly. That is why that when I spoke here to you, my first speech is the Fiercely Staring Warring Attendant of Buddha, the second speech is the Buddha with the Lowered Eyes and the third speech is Nun Who Is Thinking About Worldly Things. What is Thinking About Worldly Things? That is, the woman wants to be a man for the rest of her life and the man wants to become a Buddha the rest of his life. This is the complete spirit of Buddhism. It is nun's ideal to be a man the rest of her life. In practice, she may feel that this is a fancy world with the bright lights and fancy alcohol and may have some regrets. This is a matter of reality. I want to say that we should talk about something more practical instead of ideals.
There is an American newspaper whose publisher is named Abbott. When he wrote his memoirs late in life, he recalled that this father had been a children's book writer. Before the father died, he told the son that he felt that of all religious struggles between people, 90% are arguments over naming. When the young Abbott became old, he recalled this conversation and he said, "When I remembered my father telling me that 90% of religious strife is about naming, I realized that my father's mathematics was not very good. The other 10% is also about naming."
Let us now look at how to deal with concrete matters. I am a famous liberal. So why did I come to the motherland to publicly declare that I am willing to abandon liberalism. Why? Because liberalism itself is abstract. From the 17th century, 18th century to the 20th century, the part that was concrete about liberalism is about my own self. I reflect within myself in order to liberate my own spirits. I close my door in order to talk to myself.
But as soon as I step out the door, I have to deal with my relationship with the government. I want the government to give me freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to publish, and freedom to speak publicly at Fudan University. So I have to deal with the government. But think about it. All these things are enumerated in the constitution of the People's Republic of China, article by article. Who still needs liberalism? I want the constitution. I don't want liberalism.
In the same way, Communism is also like that. Communism is the best ideal for humanity. We each do what we can and we each take what we need. This is obviously the best ideal. In China, we say "when we don't like something, we leave it there where it is because there is no need to take it home; when we can't do something, we don't need it done for us." (货恶其弃于地也，不必藏于己；力恶其不出于身也，不必为己) The first sentence is about taking what we need and the second sentence is about doing what we can. This is the best ideal for mankind.
But I must say, until we have gone through the process of human greed, we won't reach this ideal. What greed? That is, I can do a lot more or less work as you do, but I make the same wages as you do; then, human greed emerged and I won't work as hard. When I get to work, I read the newspapers, I trim my nails, and I go to the bathroom. How do you motivate people? As Deng Xiaoping said, "Let some people get rich first." It is infuriating when we hear that. But this is basically human nature. When people get some more human sense, we can deal with our problems in a concrete manner. Meanwhile, we should talk less about liberalism or communism. If we like, we can say a few words, or we can talk about it for research purposes.
But my goal is too far away. Deng Xiaoping said that the next generation will be smarter than him. During Deng Xiaoping's life, he spent the first 22 years before he was 45 at war. After age 45, 20 years were wasted. Finally, he got the chance to salvage the situation. Everybody knows that we have not encountered these problems today, so we cannot feel these problems now. Only when things are quiet and people don't struggle anymore do we know how valuable this moment is.
Someone questions whether there are no more struggles now. Aren't they still doing power struggles? Do you know that the four-word saying for power struggles (钩心斗角) comes from Du Mu's Poem on A Fang Palace about the architecture of a place. That was the origin. We can say that power struggles are unavoidable. It is unavoidable that people would want to grab power and favors. Now why did I say that I want to visit Qincheng Prison this time? Does everyone know what I mean? At least, we don't see any more political prisoners now in Qincheng Prison and this is a great improvement for China.
Therefore, I tell everyone. Listen to what I say. I am over 70 years old. I am old. If I speak, if I agree with something, if I oppose something, I dare say that I do whatever I want. I will never be directed by anyone. Let me repeat once more. When I need to talk tough, I talk tough. When I need to talk gentle, I talk gentle. When I need to tell jokes, I tell jokes. But after you finish laughing, you may think that you have tears in your eyes.
You look at Wen Wei Po for the past couple of days. You will have noticed this about the 60 Hong Kong legislators from Hong Kong. About one-third of them, they are telling us or they are telling the government about democracy. The Beijing government may not wish to say anything but I, Li Ao, can speak out. You are really democratic, aren't you? Right. When the British ruled you, why weren't you fighting for democracy? Why did you wait until 1997 after the British handed Hong Kong back to us before you start fighting? It is a good thing to fight for democracy, but it is too late to fight for it now.
Among these people, a third of them can go visit foreign countries, but they are stopped at the gates of China. Therefore, about a third of the legislators -- those who advocate democracy -- cannot come to China. But two days ago, they came. They were even welcomed. Senior officials from the Chinese politburo welcomed them in person. Did you notice something? When we have the opportunity and the confidence, we should not think that Communist Party won't open up. We believe that it will open up. We pressure it, we coax it, we fool it, we persuade it and it will open up.
Now I have come to something in Chinese Zen Buddhism. "Destroy a Buddha if you see a Buddha; destroy a founder if you see a founder; destroy a warrior if you see a warrior." (逢佛杀佛，逢祖杀祖，逢罗汉杀罗汉) What does that mean? It does not mean slaughtering people. Rather, this is about destroying your ideas. President Lincoln once said, "He is my enemy. I am going to destroy him." A few days later, he was seen holding hands with the enemy. Someone asked Lincoln, "Isn't he your enemy? Didn't you want to destroy him?" Lincoln said, "Didn't I destroy him? The enemy is gone and he has become my friend."
I tell everyone: there is a Chinese saying: "The rich should not be excessive; the poor should not yield; the strong cannot bend." (富贵不能淫，贫贱不能移，威武不能屈). One phrase is missing: "The fashionable cannot move." (时髦不能动). That is a real man! What is fashionable? Faced with those who expect you to praise the Communists, if you praise the Communists, then you are fashionable. Based upon those vile and shifty Taiwan independence elements and little Japanese militarists, if you scold the Communists, then you are fashionable. How can anyone live with that? We say what we should say, we criticize what we should criticize. Let me repeat. I value techniques. It is not good to have no techniques.
Gong Dingan was a talented man in the Qing Dynasty, and he might have been poisoned by his own wife due to adultery. He has two lines of poetry: "The system becomes more important because its people become important; people become known because the system tells others." (科以人重科亦重，人以科传人可知). This is about the examination in which people get titles as scholars. If Mao Zedong graduated from Fudan University, then he will influence the reputation of his school and Fudan becomes more important as a result. When a person is important, his school is more important. In the second half, the person has nothing except to say that he/she graduated from Fudan University and he got by with that title. We know what this sort of person is like. I want to tell you that you not only want to graduate from Fudan, but you want to be better than Fudan and your brilliant glory will be the best way to repay your school.
The words that I spoke today may be the last that you will hear from me. I am old. My three speeches will end with today's. This may be my final farewell. Why am I so pessimistic? When I was young, I heard a lecture from Mr. Hu Xi who gave me 1,000 dollars. I heard the following eight words: "You must listen and you can't listen again." (不可不听，不能再听) Why must you listen? How can you not listen to the speech by a famous scholar? You can't listen again because the next speech is the same old stuff.
I am the most learned person here. I can tell you that. Why? I have no special duties. Every day, I close the door and I study. So I have read more books than you. I use my mature wisdom ... please pay attention ... I tell you ... there is a poem from Lu You: "When I write these words before you now, you should not laugh because when I die, you will go crazy thinking about it." (尊前作句莫相笑，我死诸君思此狂) So I keep telling jokes in front of you. You shouldn't laugh because "When I speak these words before you, you should not laugh because when I die, you will go crazy thinking about me." (尊前作句莫相笑，我死诸君为我狂) When I am dead, you will be thinking about me like crazy.
I tell everyone. I am speaking to you here today. You need to keep a clear head about what I am about to tell you. Let me say something. The friends in the motherland -- in science, in technology, in the natural sciences -- are exceptional. They are also excellent in the humanities and archaeology. But I must say that in theoretical areas, especially in the social sciences, our friends in the motherland are disadvantaged for so many years. The cause is none other than Karl Marx. Because you must raise the flag of Marxism in order to interpret or publish academic papers.
I think that this is a mistake. It is better now, because we have thought it through and we know that Marxism is somewhat distant from us. We have thought it through now. Therefore, I say that this is a good thing. We are truly liberated and we really don't want someone else to fool us. We have the ability to distinguish. But I must say that our friends in the motherland have been suppressed and held back in the social sciences where it concerns theory. I hope that you can all say goodbye to Marxism after this speech.
I tell everyone. This is the 100th anniversary of Fudan University. Do you know how much difference a 100 years make? You have shoes that are designed for your right and left feet. One hundred years ago, the Chinese as well as foreigners have the same shoes for both feet. Did you think of about?
It is not big deal, but do you know how much changed in 100 years? The true founder of Fudan University is Mr. Ma Xiangba. He lived until he was 100 years old. He has experienced a lot. So we can see how those 100 year old people feel. American President Roosevelt was in office for a long time. He had three Vice-Presidents. The first vice-president was Garner, the second vice-president was Wallace and the third one was Truman. Garner was an obese man. He smoked, he drank and he was overweight. He lived until he was 100 years old. All the principles of health were inapplicable to him. For those who lived until 100, from Ma Xiangba to Garner, how did they feel about the changes in space and time? You should not think that I like to listen to you or to see Fudan reach 100. A few days ago, another 100-year-old got my attention. On September 18, did you know that someone was 100 years old? She did not live until 100, but she would have been 100. Her name is Jiabao. She was a big star back then, but she destroyed herself. Jiabao has even greater attraction for me than Fudan University.
I have a joke that might arouse your interest. A old man lived to 100 years old. He said happy birthday to himself in pieces. He told his eyes, "You are a hundred years old. Happy birthday." He said to this nose, "You are a hundred years old. Happy birthday." He looked down and said, "If you are alive, you would be 100 years old."
Thanks the Dean for seeing me yesterday. After he left, I said bad things behind his back. I told our Boss Liu and our Dean Wang. I said that this man is a bookworm. I admire bookworms. But I could not be one, so I left that business and become a free agent outside. Therefore when I speak at your university and you wish to treat this as an academic discourse, it is very cruel to me. But I am really not speaking about scholarship. So I must tell you this so that my speech can give you a certain warning that will be good to you for the rest of your lives.
When Liang Qichao met Kang Youwei, Kang told him something that changed their entire lives. Let me tell you. There was in Taiwan named Lei Zhen who published a magazine known as Free China. He ran it for ten years to promote democracy. Let me tell you. His influence came to fruition on only one person and that would be me. He influenced my entire life. Everyone, I hope that I can influence even one of you. If you become a national leader someday, you will be open-minded and you will know what is true reform and how to carry it forward, and then I would regard this to be a great thing.
There is a famous couple of poetic lines from Chairman Mao. Everybody remembers that. He spoke about how certain people are heroes but they are all bygone. All the heroes of the past are gone now, and the most distinguished (风流) people are those of today. Let me talk to you about the two words "feng-liu" (风流). Today, these words have bad meaning. If you say that I am "feng-liu", then you mean to say that I am Siman Qing (note: a famous serial adulterer from The Water Margin). But the word as used by Mao has a good meaning (="distinguished").
The Chinese language evolves. Some words go from bad to good. For example, if you call a girl "xiaojie" (小姐), you will get a slap in the face because that is the term for prostitutes. But the word has become a good word by now. Some words have turned bad. The word "gui" (龟, meaning turtle or tortoise) used to be good, but these days when we call someone a "wangba" (王八), it is a bad term.
So "feng-liu" has evolved a bit. When Mao Zedong used it, it had the good meaning of "distinguished." That is why he said that the ancient distinguished people are gone and the only remaining ones are today's.
On the Internet today, someone wrote that Jintao is the most distinguished person today. I hope that my little brother Hu Jintao can be more "distinguished" and that is not a bad thing. There are no more heroes dividing the lands among themselves (英雄割据今己矣), and so who is going to stop the unification of the motherland? All those people are no more, the motherland is unified but their distinguished words are handed down. So today, our Chinese culture, Chinese language, Chinese spirit and our Chinese weirdoes will remain. I hope that you and I will have distinguished writings just like Wu Jintao. Thanks to everyone!
I should add something else. I saw a book. It author is named Jiang Yihua. The Enlightenment of Irrationality. That is my performance today. Not very rational. Irrational. But you are not ignorant, so there is some enlightenment.
Q: I am an 03 graduate student at the School of Journalism at Fudan University. I think that your speeches can be characterized in two colors: grey and pink. Grey is for criticism. Pink is for women. A friend of yours once said: "In your life, you like women most but you also despise women most of all." I am willing to believe that you were true to all your women, but I feel that I hardly perceive any evidence of equality. I would like to ask you: In your vocabulary, apart from the symbolism of liking and chasing after women, is there anyone you genuinely admire and enjoy? A famous American politician once said: "If the world were governed by women, it would be more peaceful. I want to ask you if you think that male leaders create more wars in the world or do female leaders result in more chance for peace to be lost?
Li: Thank you. I was afraid that you might ask me this sort of question. I don't like anything that involves Siman Qing (note: a famous serial adulterer from The Water Margin). Women are lovely and pretty, but some of them have problems with their thinking. The reason is that women tend to rely emotions, and things go wrong when people rely on their emotions.
For example, speaking about democratic politics, why wouldn't some countries let women vote? That is because things go wrong when people rely on emotions. The excellent President Wilson almost lost an election. Why? Because his wife died and he remarried shortly after. American women were conservative back then, and they thought this man was cold-hearted and so they did not vote for him and he almost lost. I ask, Can such voters be counted in democratic politics? Impossible.
Obviously, I respect women. Obviously, I love women. I also agree that it would be the best thing for women to be political leaders, such as Mrs. Thatcher of the United Kingdom. Obviously, we cannot forget about Empress Wu Zetian and the Empress Dowager.
Q: My question is just what spirit or custom in Tang Dynasty is lacking in our era? The other question is, When a man lives in this world, should he try his best to fit in this times, or make his times fit him?
Li: Thank you. Perhaps you misunderstood my meaning. I did not want to be a person of the Tang dynasty. I want the people of the Tang dynasty to be like me. As for the other question, I must tell you that a person must have some action principles. What is an action principle? It is something that makes a difference if you did it as opposed to not.
I have an action principle. So I believe that there are many things that we should try to do with different results. Whining, sarcasm, cursing with the door closed and banging on tables and banging on chairs behind doors are not healthy. At the same time, I think it is also not good to use a bitter and angry emotion to express everything is not good.
Why don't I like Lu Xun? He always had that angry scowl. That is not good. I don't like the post-cultural revolution literature of scars. Let me tell you: too many tears. This is what Deng Xiaoping made fun of: there are no prospects for the future if you only know how to cry. We are men and we don't want people with no prospects.
Q: The first question, Why did you claim that you are the great Chinese writer of free prose? How did this conclusion come about? The second question, you think that you are better than Lu Xun. We know that Li Ao is a great thinker, but please tell me why you think that you are better than Lu Xun?
Li: I have a hearing problem, so my ears often can't hear things that are not good for me. (laughs). Why am I the top three among all the free-prose writers of the last five centuries? Because I was relating an absurdity. In Latin, there is a saying that I believe it because it is absurd. That was absurd, and that is why I believe it without any doubts.
As for the second question, you can watch my criticism of Lu Xun on Phoenix TV recently. I am telling you that Lu Xun had his utility for his era. But if we continue to embrace Lu Xun today, then we are too behind. We feel that we should not be so backwards. Please pay attention. I have been quite clear about what I had to say on Hu Xi. This time, I spend 350,000 RMB for a bronze statue of Hu Xi. I said quite clear that I donated the money to the Hu Xi of the New Culture era and not the Hu Xi who was friends with Chiang Kai-shek. We cannot deny the accomplishments of Lu Xun. But he is gone and you have to look at Li Ao for the distinguished person today. (laughs).
Q: I am an 05 student in the School of Law at Fudan University. I know that you were regarded as a liberal before you came here, and many people regard you as a totally westernized liberal. But in your speech today, you seemed to be admiring the culture of China and you even declare that you have given up on liberalism. What caused that sudden change?
Li: Let me tell you. This is because I became better. Please pay attention. I came here to trade. Did you see that I am making a transaction? What did I trade liberalism for? I traded for the concrete implementation of the constitution of the People's Republic of China. Did you see that? I think if you are smart, you should be able to see that.
Q: This is not a question. I know that you have more than one hundred thousand books, including some handwritten notes by famous people. I want to ask you: Have you considered donating these materials and books to mainland universities? Especially to Fudan University. Better yet to the History Department of the School Humanities where Dean Jiang is. Give us a reference room. I am a history student and this matters a lot.
Li: I know what you mean. You are not a history student. You are a student in the Business School.
Q: Another question is about the two books that you wanted to write a few years ago.
Li: I won't be writing them. I have spinal pains. I have written almost 15 million words. I want to donate the "Great Complete Works of Li Ao" to your school. There are 40 volumes, even though I wrote 80 volumes. 30 million words. I have written most of what I want to write. By the way, I should tell you why this is called the "Great Complete Works of Li Ao" and not just "Completed Works of Li Ao." Like Lu Xun, why does it have the world "Great"? Why are you laughing? What are you so lacking in humility? Let me tell you. I am quite humble already. I called it the "Great Complete Works of Li Ao" and not the "Complete Works of the Great Li Ao."
Q: I am a master student at the Fudan University Chinese Literature Research Center. Let me thank you first for you deep concern for our mother tongue -- the Han language. The only linguistic cultural magazine Yayan was founded by Fudan and is the only such among all universities.
I want to ask you two questions. If you have to start a university, what kind of standard school lecture will you use as good advice for the youth? Second, you mentioned Gong Ding'an. In order to avoid being persecuted by the censors, he wrote only practical books about agriculture. This was a source of spiritual difficulty for Gong Ding'an. "The land and my white hair are both floating in the air; the sacrifices continue without being able to solve them." (神州白发两飘飘，牺牲终继莫悬琴) This is the spiritual difficulty for Ma Yifu. What do you think is the most serious spiritual difficulty confronted by intellectuals today? How can they break through and find salvation?
Li: Let me tell you. Sima Guang wrote History As A Mirror in 294 volumes. Afterwards, he showed them to each of his friends. Everyone fell asleep. Only one friend Wang Shengzhi barely got through it. I tell this story to everyone, and I pay my respects to the Dean. You should not feel too bad.
When Sima Guang interviewed Hou Jin, he asked, "Do you have money in the family?" You must be perplexed why a person in the class of a State Council Premier could ask such a small and irrelevant question? How can you ask me if my family has money? Sima Guang is testing you. If you have no money at home, then it is like what Franklin said: people with empty pockets cannot stand straight. You are not competitive. Money is a force -- a competitive force.
I can say that I don't care. I don't need money. Then I am going to be like Yan Hui -- I eat just one bowl of rice, I drink one cup and I live in the slum. I am not rich, but it does not affect my happiness. But I will die from tuberculosis at age 32. Why? You have no money. Also, if Yan Hui got married and his son gets appendicitis and needs surgery, will you go and beg your father and mother on your knees. You will. If you don't the force of money, you cannot last. So you can talk about so many plans, but I will tell you that as a practical matter, you better put some money into your belt before you talk about anything else. Otherwise, everything is empty talk.
We speak very practically. Let me tell you. Our Chinese intellectuals despise money and economic power. Chairman Mao despised it and he did not do a good job. Deng Xiaoping criticized him for not understanding productivity. Why is it like that? Having money is a very important force because it can protect our freedom.
Today, we can see this. Did you notice that there is a new article in the constitution of the People's Republic of China. We can now own private property. Did you know that? We are changing, we are making progress but having money is still very important. How do you get money? First, investigate your parents to see if they have money. If they have money, they should not give it to you only after they pass away. They should give some money to you now.
What can you do if you don't have money? I recommend that you develop a frugal view of life: resign yourself to your fate, go fishing and stop fighting it. Otherwise, when you don't have money but you still want to do these things, then it is very dangerous. Let me tell you. When Chairman Mao was starting the revolution, he sometimes had no money but he could find old-style Chinese intellectuals such as Zhang Shizhao who gave him money. Did you know that?
Who is going to give us money nowadays? In my era, there was a legend. When I was so poor that I had to send my trousers to the pawn shop, Hu Xhi gave me 1,000 dollars. But some people whine that he was trying to buy off young people. If Hu Xi did not give me 1,000 dollars, he would still be Hu Xi and he would not lose much. But after he gave me the money, nobody could have imagined the result many years later. I donated 1,500 times the amount to erect a bronze statue for him at Beijing University. Why does Beijing University have states of Cai Yuanpei, Li Dazhao, Mao Zedong and Ma Yinchu but not Hu Xi? Today I am back to handle this matter. Of course, the party central may hesitate and say they disagree. I say, "There is no need to return the money. I will wait for you. But don't forget. I am 70 years old. I cannot wait too long. I still have to go to Hainan Island."
Q: I am a teacher in the History Department at Fudan University. I want to ask you a question about Taiwan history textbooks. When Bai Yansong interviewed you and also when you delivered the speech at Tsinghua University a few days ago, this problem was brought up. Do you think that the controversies brought by the Taiwan history textbook prepared by Du Zhengsheng and Zhou Liangkai can be ignored? You said that when a child grows up, he will get his national and cultural identity. But when we think about this, Taiwan independent elements like Du Zhengsheng and Zhou Liangkai grew up as children. At that time, there wasn't even the systematic de-Sinofication process in the textbooks and they became Taiwan independent elements all the same. Your expectation for the children is like a laissez-faire approach. Do you think that will be effective against this systematic de-Sinofication process?
Li: Thank you! We have often been confounded by our own experience. We incorrectly treat the Taiwan independent movement as a rebellious force or a revolutionary force, and we treat their people as rebels or revolutionaries. But you are mistaken. How so? When the Chinese Communist Party fought to win the country, they played for real. For example, five members of Chairman Mao's family died, including the other son that he lost during the Great March. His situation was like what the ancients say: How few families are still complete in the land? (数天涯，依然骨肉，几家能够) It was like that.
Because of this experience -- this experience of winning the country -- they feel that when someone wants to win Taiwan, someone wants to have regime change in Taiwan, or someone wants the sky to rain and the mother to get married, they find it unacceptable. That is why you are nervous.
Let me tell you, Chen Shui-bian published a magazine with me. I know those people too well. They are not playing this for real. They are keeping busy because there is a market for Taiwan independence. Obviously, there are some Japanese stirring up trouble too. But I can tell everyone -- there is no Taiwan independence problem. There is only a Sino-American problem.
American is historically counter-revolutionary, but it is not counter-revolutionary in any practice sense. Why? American used to be hooked up with Chiang Kai-shek. It had that military partnership, in which the bigger partner dominates the little one. After we established diplomatic relationships with America, the old ties persisted for a while and that is how we end up like this today.
But the American know that they cannot seriously try "Taiwan independence." Therefore, the Taiwan independence elements have been only talking all this time. You are the "president," so why don't you go for independence? You are the "governing party," so why don't you go for independence? You have half the national assembly, so why don't you go for independence? Because you are a coward, you are not playing for real and you are a fake.
That is why I mention the following story. You will not find it in the collected or selected works of Mao Zedong. In September 1920, Mao Zedong wrote an essay in the Ta Kung Pao (Changsha). He wrote that all the other provinces in the country look down on the people of Hunan, so what should Hunan do? We will become independent. Mao Zedong advocated for Hunan to become independent. Please note, ten months later, Mao Zedong formed the Chinese Communist Party. In those ten months, he thought it through and he knew he cannot have local independence. There must be a unified country. As brilliant as Chairman Mao was, it took him ten months to figure it out. Taiwan has left the motherland for 110 years. Should we give the fellow countrymen of Taiwan a little bit of time and opportunity to think it over? We don't have to frequently say that we will beat them into a pulp.
Q: I am honored to have the final question. But I actually have two questions. I wonder if you have heard of Yu Guangzhong's sentence about how the more talented one is, the more afraid one is to die. He said that Shakespeare was a talent, but his blue ink could not dilute his fear of death. When I see your 30 million words in the Great Completed Works of Li Ao, I want to know was it your love of life and fear of death that propelled you to write those 30 million words? Obviously, I hope that you live to a hundred because I like your books. I also watched your program and some of that is similar to what you spoke about in your Beijing University speech. For example, the mentions of Eisenhower, Patton and MacArthur were in your books. Was this arranged with your boss Mr. Liu Changle, or can you pick it up with your true mature wisdom?
Li: My boss Liu Changle arranged for me to make this trip to the motherland to give speeches and be received and feted everywhere. It is not up to him to arrange anything else. My ideas and methods are different from Boss Liu Changle, because he is too young, even though we are partners. Let me tell you. You just said that you read in my essay that I was afraid of dying. It was an essay that I wrote when I was fourteen years old. Why was I afraid of dying at fourteen? Therefore, I don't think that this is a big problem.
The problem is how we look at life. Let me tell you. Basically, I have a certain degree of pessimism at this age. I don't believe in Christianity. But in Revelations 6:8 (New Testament), it speaks of seeing a grey horse whose rider is named Death. I tell you. I am about to get on that grey horse anytime. Goodbye!
Related links: Li Ao's Speech At Beijing University; Li Ao's Speech At Tsinghua University; The Mystery of Li Ao's Tsinghua University Speech; Li Ao's YZZK Interview