AN article written by Yang Guorong, a tenured professor of the Philosophy Department of ECNU, has appeared in the examination paper of the National College Entrance Examinations (NCEE) as a reading test material. It was extracted from Yang’s previous work “Doctrines of Scholars in History” published in China Reading Weekly on May 8, 2013.
The news evidently took Yang by surprise: “Normally, the non-academic community tends to believe that academic essays use too many arcane words and is too hard to understand.” He then went on to describe his opinion on why he won this time. “As an old Chinese saying goes, writing lacking polishing cannot spread too far. I paid special attention to the choice of words in my writing. Maybe that is why my article was chosen this time.”
Yang was among China’s first group of university students after the resumption of the NCEE in 1977. In retrospect, Yang said college students of his generation were deeply concerned about the reality, cultural inheritance, world vicissitude and human destiny, and a strong sense of mission to shape his own way of thinking towards humanistic studies.
As early as May 2011, ECNU’s top leader Tong Shijun, who was then vice Party chief of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Head of the Philosophy Institute, made a speech titled “From a Porter to a Philosopher” at the opening ceremony of the 1st Philosophy Analysis Forum, whereupon he introduced Yang’s life story - including his background as a porter, admission to ECNU in 1978, and his later philosophical research.
Tong said that after entering the university upon passing the NCEE, Yang not only left behind the reality of his life as a porter but also refused to submit himself to the traditional philosophical works and theories that had been put in place for centuries. Tong praised Yang as a creator of thoughts, a philosopher in the true sense of the profession.