In the City Palace and in the Countryside
The classical texts of China and other
countries represent a crystallization of scholarly wisdom.
Their study requires a certain resolve. These texts have
formed the path of my education, and yes, my awakening.
In the process of conducting research, scholars require a
pure heart. They must have the resolve and temperament to
endure loneliness, since what they do entails a rare
discipline: to admit neither deception nor affectation into
the thought process.
Thanks to their hard work—often a lifelong
devotion of meticulous study and research—we now have
priceless books to guide us back to an origin through the
history of ideas. In using their intellectual landmarks to
trace this path, we locate the origin of our self-awareness,
and we allow wisdom and truth to prosper, just as we
discover how to understand that truth.
When discussing those scholars who possess
such a rare pedigree, we should despise with all prejudice.
I used to hear people say: ‘A theoretical scholar? Well,
what does he know about practice and reality?’
As a matter of fact, whether a person is theoretical or
practical in approach, if he has grasped the truth, all
methods will lead to the same result.
Let us not label those who are theoretical in
orientation--as opposed to practical--as being of lesser
wisdom or standing. Both approaches deserve our equal
respect, because they have pursued a methodology that
eliminates the false and retains the true; they have created
a process that permits us to make discrimination with clear
minds: in doing so, we learn the precepts of traditional
culture in a consistent, systematic manner.
I have observed many scholars take
formulations of complex learning and streamline them
intellectually--without loss of meaning—to create clarity in
the mind. A reader feels genuine delight in the presence of
such accessible levels of wisdom; it is like basking in a
spring wind. The efforts of scholars to make the truth
available radiates a humanistic warmth and care on their
part. In their explanations, they have restricted themselves
to the realities presented by human nature. They have
brought the classics within reach of the ordinary person.
It is they who have demonstrated the profound learning and
cultivation of High Culture—and the delicate sensibilities
that such a gathering of ideas can generate.
But are we to understand that only
theoreticians know culture?
Many of us may have read the piece about two migrant
workers, possibly a couple, hesitating outside a 7-11 store.
They hesitate to enter. They worry that the dirt on their
shoes might muddy the store and cause inconvenience for
others. They may not be well-educated, but their decision to
wait outside reflects a cultivation which includes a
wide-ranging consideration for others.
Over thousands of years, people on the land
have worked hard to create physical artifacts and other
cultural elements—not only tangible things such as
pavilions, roads, bridges and folk houses, but also the
intangible—songs, dance, village rituals and regulations,
rules for family life, folk customs, traditional arts, and
temple fairs. Rural culture is the origin of Chinese
culture. It represents good ground for the cultivation of
national qualities, sustaining all Chinese who understands
the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Maintaining a preference for practical over
theoretical scholarship runs against the essential
significance of culture. Culture should be inclusive at its
core. It should embrace warmth and kindness among people. It
should be reflected in local customs, art and culture, and
be equally present in what we recognize as the true, the
good and the beautiful. We become true people of culture
when we show the same regard for those who live in the city
and those who live on the farm—equally and without
prejudice; when we learn from the classics and practice the
teachings within; when we benefit from the experience of
others and show compassion for others; when we respect the
life situations that are different from ours and forgive
them their mistakes, while protecting their cultural
achievements with awards and recognition. When we put these
ideals into practice, we become people of culture.