Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培) on 重陽節

As usual, I went with my relatives to Aberdeen Cemetery to “sweep the grave” of my grandparents yesterday. I have fond memories of my grandma, even though she was practically blind.

And as usual, I sneaked off afterwards for a few minutes to pay my respects at 蔡元培‘s grave. Someone had placed flowers at his grave. As I stood there, a man and a woman came, bowed their heads, and took off. Cai died in Hong Kong in 1940. What makes people come to his grave today even though he has been dead for 69 years? We are not his descendants. We have never been taught by him. We have never even met him.

For me, it is because he was one of the (many would say simply THE) greatest educators of modern China. Because he was the president of Beijing University during the May 4th Movement (五四运动). That he supported the students and tried to help those arrested, and was forced to resign from Beijing University because of it. There are not too many people like him, particularly in modern China.

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