The Master who Drowned Himself --Wáng Guówéi

Wáng Guówéi, or 王国维in Chinese characters, was born on December 3, 1877 at Yán Guān town of Hǎi Níng city, Zhéjiāng Province. His father, Wáng Nǎiyù (王乃誉), was a poor intellectual working at the County Magistrate’s office as a clerk for over ten years, he also wrote a few books of his own and was very good at appraising artifacts. Yet, his ancestor Wáng Bǐng (王禀) was a famous general in the Song Dynasty, was defending the city of Tài Yuán in the year of 1126 against the invasion by the Jīn troops, and when the city was lost, he and his son jumped into the Fén River and drowned themselves. The Song emperor then gave him a posthumous title recognizing his loyalty and bravery. A Temple was built at Hǎi Níng for his posterity to remember him.

Wáng Guówéi began his home school with a private tutor in 1883. This was where he received his enlightening education, usually with such texts as “The Writing of One Thousand Characters” (千字文) and “The Three-Character a Line Chant” (三字经). He then, after completed his primary learning, began his studies of the “Four Books” and “Five Classics” (四书五经). His father moved him to another home school when he was 11 years old and he had a new tutor. During this period, aside from classical works, he read more literary books and laid a solid foundation in literature.

Wáng Guówéi took the annual imperial examinations when he was 16 at the county and ranked No. 21 and qualified for the next round of examinations at the prefecture level. His father and family were excited about this great news. One important event at this time was that he bought four historic books, namely “The Record of History”, “The History of Han”, “The History of Later Han” and “The History of the Three Kingdoms” and read them all. This event marks as a beginning of his proactive studies, the time before this event he studied passively with his tutor. The study of these four books laid a solid foundation in his knowledge of history, and in his later years he was able to show off his firm grasp of historic incidents, and often in great details.

At the age of 17, he was forced by his father to take part in the prefecture imperial examination. He went, but handed in the paper before he finished it. He was extremely annoyed by the “eight-legged way of writing”. His father didn’t blame him, knowing what he wanted to do was to study abroad. But the family didn’t have enough money to support such an idea. At this time, he got hold of the first issue of the newspaper “Current Affairs” and was exposed to ideas of reform and was excited after reading “A General Presentation of Reform变法通议” written by Liáng Qǐchāo. He married a girl from the Mo’s family at the age of 20. He also took up a job of tutorship at two occasions in order to support the family. Soon afterwards, his father accompanied to him to Shanghai to explore some new opportunities.

The first letter appeared in the part of letters in the “Complete Works of Wáng Guówéi” was dated February 17, 1898, and it was addressed to Mr. Xǔ Jiāxīng (许家惺) who introduced him to the office of “Current Affairs” where he worked as a secretary and a receptionist. Xǔ was from the same province and four years senior. Xǔ was not important at all in Wáng’s life, yet he connected Wáng with reformists. By the time Wáng began working at the “Current Affairs”, Liáng Qǐchāo had left. Mr. Wāng Kāngnián (汪康年) was in charge of the paper.

Wāng Kāngnián was born in 1860 in Hang Zhōu, Zhéjiāng Province. He was a descendant of the famous book collector family of Wāng. He was an assistant of the Governor of Húnán and Guǎngdōng, Mr. Zhāng Zhīdòng. He also compiled textbooks at Zìqiáng School and taught history at the sub-school of Húnán and Húběi.

While working at the newspaper, Wáng Guówéi got to know Luó Zhènyù (罗振玉) who became a life long friend and most influential person on his career. Luó was running the Eastern Literature Society at the time in Shanghai. Wáng Guówéi studied Japanese, English and modern sciences at this society in his spare time. In 1901, supported by Luó, he went to Japan to study.

Wáng came back only four months later because of health problems. With the help of Luó, he taught philosophy, psychology and ethics at two normal schools. From this period on, he started what he called his “lonely studies”—philosophy. He bought Arthur Fairbanks’ “Sociology”, “Logics” by W. Stanley Jevons, “Psychology” by Harald Hoffding, “Introduction to Philosophy” by Friedrich Paulsen and “History of Ancient Philosophy” by Wilhelm Windleband, all in their originals. After serious studies, he rendered “Logics” and “Psychology” into Chinese; these are the earliest translation of important foreign academic books in China. We can say that all his academic achievement came from his “lonely studies”, which nurtured a master who blended Chinese and western academics, which also tempered his progressive will and his honest and solid style of studies. He wrote “Puzzles of Philosophy” (哲学辩惑), which was published on the 55th issue of “The Education World” (教育世界) in July, 1903. He also wrote “The Portrait of Schopenhauer” (叔本华像赞) and “The Portrait of Kant” (康德像赞),which were published in the 77th and 81st issued of “The Education World” in June and August of 1904 respectively. In July the same year, he wrote the brilliant work: “Comments on ‘The Dream in the Red Mansion’” (红楼梦评论). He went to Beijing with Luó in 1906 and was working as an officer in the General Department of the Ministry of Education, compiler and translator in the Ministry’s library and an assistant in the office of Terminology. During this period, he wrote “A Talk on Verses for Singing” (人间词话), which was published in 1908 on “Journal of National Treasure” (国粹学报) in Shanghai. Because of this book, Féng Yǒulán regarded him as the “founder of China’s modern aesthetics.”

After the 1911 Revolution, Wáng went to Japan with Luó, who was now the father of his daughter-in-law. Since then they kept their lives as remaining citizens of the Qing Dynasty. During the four-year stay in Japan, he made headways in his studies. He completed “Survey of the Traditional Singing Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties” (宋元戏曲考), he also made remarkable achievement in the studies of inscriptions on oracle bones, metals and Han Dynasty bamboo slips.

They came back to Shanghai in February 1916. At the invitation of Sileh Aaron Hardoon , Wáng edited for Hardoon “The Academic Series” (学术丛刊) and became a professor at the Saint Cāng’s Intelligent University (仓圣明智大学) which was also funded by Mr. Hardoon. In his seven years in Shanghai, he made Shěn Zēngzhǐ and Zhū Zǔmóu his good friends and collaborated closely with Jī Juémí . In his seven years stay in Shanghai, he wrote “Examination and Explanation of Duke Máo’s Bronze Tripod”, “On the Social Systems of the Yīn and Zhōu Dynasties” and “Explanations and Examples of the Entries of Plants, Tress, Insects, Fishes, Birds and Beasts in ěryǎ ”

In 1923, Wáng was appointed tutor of the denounced emperor Pǔ Yí (溥仪). He came to the capital to take up the post in the summer. While on the post he was able to get access to the ancient texts kept at the imperial library and utensils used in sacrificial ceremonies. He also got to know such celebrities as Fù Zēngxiāng and Yang Zhōngwǒ . During this period he concentrated on the studies of Dūnhuáng , inscriptions on Han Dynasty bamboo slips, the history of the Yuán Dynasty and geology of the northwest. However, in November 1924, General Féng Yùxiáng sent Lù Zhōnglín to drive out the repealed emperor out of the Forbidden City. Wáng regarded this as a burning shame and crying humiliation, he could not put up with it and tried to drown himself in the moat together with Luó and other remnants of the Qing Dynasty; they failed to do so only because of strong family intervention. In February 1925, Wáng was invited by the School of Qīng Huá to be a master tutor at its Institute of China Studies. He moved to the Qīng Huá campus and taught “Documents of History”, Ceremony and Etiquette, Explanations on Writings and New Evidence on Ancient History.

At noon, June 1st, 1927, Wáng took part in the graduation ceremony of the 36 students of the institute. At around 10 the next morning, he went to the Summer Palace and sat for a while on the marble boat, he then jumped into the Kūn Míng Lake from the Hall of Fish and Algae near the west end of the Long Corridor and drowned himself. From his pocket a letter wrote to his son was found, it says, “The only thing that is overdue in my fifty years is my death. Having gone through such incidents I could no long put up with any insults…” A memorial was held on June 16 at the Zhejiang Club House in Beijing, several hundred condolence poems and couplets came in. He was then buried on August 14, 1927 on the east part of Qīng Huá campus. On September 20, three days before the new term, Liáng Qǐchāo gave a speech to students who came to show respect to the deceased. At the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of his death, the teachers and students of the institute erected a new stone tablet, designed by Liáng sīchéng, for his tomb, and Master Chén Yínkè wrote the content of the inscriptions on the tablet.

Disputes on Why Wáng Guówéi Drowned Himself

There have always been disputes on why Wáng Guówéi committed suicide. Most people agreed with both Liáng Qǐchāo and Chén Yínkè that the cause of his death was the social system and culture he identified himself with was been totally ruined and, having been humiliated once, he saw the chance of more serious humiliation, and therefore decided to die instead of being insulted.
We should remember, first of all, he was opposed to the 1911 Revolution. He regarded the Qing imperial court as a continuation from the Zhou Dynasty and Confucian systems. After the break out of the 1911 Revolution, he fled to Japan as a remnant of the Qing society. 11 years after the revolution, he agreed to be a tutor of the Emperor who had already been repealed. Originally, the revolutionary army agreed to provide preferential treatment to the royal family, but they drove the emperor out of the Forbidden City in 1924. He was furious, he was hurt, and he felt being immensely insulted. He wanted to die; he wanted to drown himself in the moat. Had there been no resistance and close watch, he would have died three years earlier. Two incidents stung him, one was the death of Yè Déhuī, a supervisory official of the Qing Dynasty, was humiliated first and then put to death by the North Expedition army, which was approaching Beijing; secondly, the confiscating of Zhāng Tàiyán’s family assets, Zhāng was a staunching fighter against the Manchu rule and who only criticized changing the originally chosen national flag. So, his fate would be any better than Yè and Zhāng. The only way out was to die. Much earlier, in 1912, the first Minister of Education of the Republic, Mr. Cài Yuánpéi issued an order to stop teaching of classics in primary schools, and in May of the same year, Cài stopped teaching of classics at normal and middle schools, and in July of the same year, Cài banned school from holding sacrificial ceremonies to Confucius in various schools. So, his culture was gone. He saw no hope of life.

A small number of people held that his death was cause by the break up of relationship with Luó, or the decease of one of his sons, or his serious illness.

A Brief Account of Major Works of Mr. Wáng Guówéi

1, “Comments on ‘The Dream in the Red Mansion’” (红楼梦评论) was carried in the 76th, 77th, 78th, 80th and 81st issues of “The Education World” in between June and August of 1904. He started this essay with such words as: “People would love to see in arts what could make a person feel sad.” Wáng said all singing drama, stories used to begin with something sad and end with something happy, or start with parting and end with union or start with difficulties and end with success. But “The Dream in the Red Mansion” ends in tragedy. He held that the aesthetic value of the novel lies in the tragic spirit that dislikes the world and wanted to be extricated from it.

He compared the novel with the singing drama “The Peach Flower Fan” and said, “’The Peach Flower Fan’ has more of a political, national and historic touch, while the “Dream in the Red Mansion’ is more philosophical, universal and literary.”

He confessed the entire writing of the commentary was based on the thoughts of Schopenhauer, in particular, the thoughts on the world of will and the world of idea, and the will to live.

He also compared “The Dream in the Red Mansion” to “Faust” by Goethe. He said among all recent European works, “Faust” by Goethe was the best one he admired, because the novel described the pain of Faust, and how he relieved himself in a very explicit way, and that there isn’t much difference from the way Jiǎ Bǎoyù was described in the Chinese novel. He also said that the pain of Faust was a pain of a genius, and that of Jiǎ Bǎoyù was common to everyone. Because the pain was so deeply rooted, the wish to relieve from it was very imperative. The hero said in the novel that if his loved one is dead, he would become a monk at a temple. Wáng Guówéi held that this is a way to punish himself for his sins, his own way to repent and to extricate himself. He thought this is a way to uphold the justice of the world, and further more, he concluded that “The Dream in the Red Mansion” is a great work of the universe.

2. “A Talk on Verses for Singing” has been regarded as a corner stone for China’s contemporary studies of Cí—verses for singing, which is a unique form of poetry in China, and has a number of titles, each title has a set tune, and is broken into upper and lower halves with a fixed number of characters. The entire talk is composed of 156 paragraphs, among which 64 paragraphs are regarded the principal part, the author’s translation of this part is herein attached below. The article was first published in November 1908. In the 103 years since its birth, all who study Chinese poetry and Cí must read this master piece The other paragraphs are 49 in “Deletions from the Principal”, 29 in the “Attachment” and 14 in the “Supplementary”. The paper, for the first time ever, puts forward the theory of “the state of mind” of the poet, saying that “Any “Cí” that has a state of mind would naturally have a good taste and produce famous lines.” So, a state of mind is a yardstick to measure “Cí”. Wáng also linked his theory of the state of mind with great causes, he says, “Since the ancient times, anyone who accomplished something great and who are masters epistemologists must go through three stages in their state of mind: “when the dew is withered and wounded, and the autumn wind rises, I am sleepless all night. I scale up the high tower and look at all the roads to the far destinations” is the first stage; “I look so worn and haggard from missing her day and night, I wouldn’t regret till the last day of my life that my clothing is getting bigger daily while I become thinner with each day because of thinking of her” is the second stage; “I looked for her over and over again in the crowd, when I looked back all of a sudden, she was there standing under a cold lamp” is the third stage. Such language could only be produced by great Cí poets or master writers.” The paper also dealt with two others points: one, “Cí” composition in the Northern Song is better than that in the Southern Song; the other,his way of composing “Cí”, which laid stress on the relations between “self” and “the thing”. Because of the unique and original thinking contained in this paper, it occupies a very important place in the Chinese literature and Wáng has been considered as one of the two who created his own theory in literary studies in the last 100 years in China (the other person is Hú Shì [胡适] whose theory is “a bold thinking with discreet proof”.)

3, “Survey of the Traditional Singing Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties” (宋元戏曲考)is a pioneering work which laid a foundation for China’s studies of drama and opened up a new road for the studies of the history of Chinese literature. The book was written in the three months between November of 1912 and January of 1913. It was published on the “Orient Journal” owned by Shanghai Commercial Press in its 10th and 11th issues of the 9th volume, the third, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th issues of the 10th volume. In 1915, the press published it in the form of a book. Prior to this book, Wáng already wrote the following: 6 volumes of “Records on Singing曲录”, 1 volume of “Survey on the Source of the Singing Drama戏曲考原”, 1 volume of “Survey on the Big Pieces of Singing of the Song Dynasty宋大曲考”, 2 volumes of “Sayings from Tang and Song Comical Plays优语录”, 1 volume of “Survey of Roles in Ancient Plays 古剧角色考” and one volume of “A Table of Origins of Singing曲调源流表”. Naturally, “Survey of the Traditional Singing Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties” was an ultimate result of all those unprecedented works in the study of the history of Chinese singing drama. The book can be divided into four units. The first unit is its first chapter, which records the development of the singing drama from witch craft and acting in the ancient times, then from the wrestling performance in the Han Dynasty and the comical play and singing and dancing in the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties. The second unit starts from the second chapter and ends with the seventh chapter, which explains that the true drama started from the Song Dynasty with the drama depicting stories while true singing drama started from the Yuan Dynasty with the rise of 杂剧,zájù—“assorted play”. The third unit covers from the eighth to the thirteenth chapters, which focused on the “assorted play”, a combination of acting, dialogue and singing; gave an account of the four great play wrights—Guān Hànqīng (关汉卿), Bái Pǔ (白朴), Mǎ Zhìyuǎn (马致远)and Zhèng Guāngzǔ (郑光祖) and pointed out that the “assorted plays” are the most natural literature of China. The fourth unit includes the fourteenth and the fifteenth chapters, which illustrated the relationship between the southern plays and the Yuan Dynasty “assorted plays”. The sixteenth chapter gave a summary in four points: in the Han and Wei periods, drama was mixed with “a hundred forms of plays” and in the Tang Dynasty, drama broke into song and dance and comical plays; the development of drama climaxed in the Yuan Dynasty; there have been different definitions of “assorted play”, scripts and legends; Chinese music was closely linked with bordering countries and the creator of the Yuan “assorted play” was people of the Han origin. Before Wáng there had never been studies of the history of Chinese drama, ever since “Survey of the Traditional Singing Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties”, Chinese drama entered into the hall of literature, and as a matter of fact, “The Wronged Case of Dòué窦娥冤” and other Yuan “assorted plays” are just as good as the four tragedies of Shakespeare. The book also surveyed the evolution of drama with other forms of art, the book also marked the beginning of the studies of drama literature in China. This book, together with Lǔ Xùn’s “A Brief History of Chinese Novels中国小说史略”, have been regarded as a pair of jade in the history of Chinese arts and literature. Some scholars even said that Wáng’s writings set a precedent for the New Cultural Movement led by Hú Shì (胡适).

4. Fruitful studies of inscriptions on turtle shell and animal bones are reflected in three articles, namely “Survey on Inscriptions of Divination in the Yin Ruins about the Earliest Duke and Kings殷卜辞中所见先公先王考”, “A Continuation of the Survey on Inscriptions of Divination in the Yin Ruins about the Earliest Duke and Kings” and “On the Systems of Yin and Zhou殷周制度论”. Having reviewed over ten thousand pieces of inscriptions on turtle shells or animal bones, having studied the inscriptions on bronze tripods unearthed and relied on his proficiency in classics and his deep knowledge in literary works, he was able to utilize what had been known from excavated cultural relics and material on paper to analyze literature and proof historic facts, and then in February 1917 he finished the first article mentioned in the foregoing and shock the academic world. In the article he said he came across with the name of Wáng Hài (王亥) many times, he then pointed out Wáng Hài was the earliest Duke and King of the Yin. He also proofed Wáng Hài appeared in other books like “Records of History”, “Questioning the Sky” (by Qū Yuán) and “Mountains and Regions Beyond the Seas山海经) in other names, but was the same person. The academic world hailed this result as a major discovery. Wáng was the first to use inscription on oracle bones to proof history. In the continuation of the first article, he proofed what was listed in “Records of History” as the order of the ancestor kings being offered sacrifice was by and large correct. “On the Systems of Yin and Zhou” was reputed by Guō Mòruò as a “big essay that caused a sensation in the world”. Before this article, no body had described clearly how the systems in the Yin and Zhou were. Wáng did, and in a very clear way. Unlike the Yin, the Zhou established a system to pass down ruling power to the eldest son of the legal wife, a system of offering sacrifice to ancestors in ancestral temples and a system not allowing person of the same sir name to marry. Wáng regarded these systems as a major way to secure a long term rule. All these writings are included in the “Collected Writings of Guān Táng观堂集林”, which was compiled by Wáng himself, and Guān Táng is another alias of his.

5. “An Outline of the Studies of the Classics经学概论” was written as a teacher’s manual at the Saint Cāng’s Intelligent University (仓圣明智大学) in between 1920 and 1922, which was later used at the Qinghua Institute. The manual is consisted of 11 parts. Part 1 is the pandect, part 2 deals with “The Book of Change”, part 3 “Documents of History尚书”, part 4 “The Book of Songs”, part 5 “Rites”, including “The Book of Rites礼记”, “The Book of Etiquette and Ceremonies仪礼” and “The Rites of Zhou周礼”; part 6 “Spring and Autumn”, including “Spring and Autumn Annals with Zuo’s Commentary”, “Spring and Autumn Annals with Gōngyáng Gaō’s Commentary” and ““Spring and Autumn Annals with Gǔliáng Chì’s Commentary”; part 7 “Analects of Confucius”, part 8 “The Classic of Filial Piety”, part 9 “The Erya Dictionary”, part 10 “Analects of Mencius” and part 11 “Studies of the Classics in Various Dynasties.” A section of his pandect goes like the following, which, as a matter of fact, serves as a guideline for study of classics: “Before Confucius, ‘The Book of Changes’, ‘Documents of History’, ‘The Book of Songs’, ‘The Book of Rites’, ‘The Book of Music’ and ‘The Spring and Autumn Annals” already existed, and they were not labeled as classics. In the “Book of Rites”, the Chapter on Interpreting Classics listed six of them, saying, “The Book of Songs would teach people to be gentle and honest, Documents of History would enable people to know things happened long before, The Book of Music would make people broad and simple minded and kind hearted, the Book of Changes can make people calm and delicate, the Book of Rites can make people respectful and dignified, one has to study the Spring and Autumn annals if he wants to analyze or compare incidents.” Some people take the foregoing as a saying of Confucius, this may not be right, yet at least, it was spoken by one of his seventy disciples. “Land under the Sky” in “Zhuangzi庄子” says, “The Book of Songs talks about will, Documents of History talks about things, the Book of Rites talks about behavior, the Book of Music talks about harmony, the Book of Changes talks about yin and yang, the Spring and Autumn Annals talks about name and status.” Such a saying is an eternal truth of the Confucian school. By the time of the Warring States, the six books had been tagged as classics. Among them, “The Book of Songs,” “Documents of History”, “The Book of Rites” and “The Book of Music” were handed down from before. Masters of other schools rather than the Confucians adored “The Book of Songs” and “Documents of History” while the “Book of Rites” and “The Book of Music” were strictly Confucian works. “Xunzi荀子” said repeatedly that they “take ‘The Book of Rites’ and ‘the Book of Music’ seriously, and not so much of ‘The Book of Songs’ and ‘Documents of History’”. “Zhuangzi庄子” said that when talking about “The Book of Songs,” “Documents of History”, “The Book of Rites” and “The Book of Music”, most scholars and the gentry in the States of Zōu and Lǔ could understand them. “The Book of Changes” is one about divination; “The Spring and Autumn Annals” is the history of the State of Lǔ. Before the time of Confucius, these two books were not spread as far and wide as the other four books. The Confucian school took “The Book of Changes” and ‘The Spring and Autumn Annals” as classics because Confucius himself adore the former and revised the latter. The other four books belonged to public studies, and were regarded by the Confucian school as knowledge from the outside while “The Book of Changes” and “The Spring and Autumn Annals” were exclusively Confucian school and regarded as its internal studies. They took them respectfully as classics, because Confucius himself left a person mark on them. The Confucian school held that Confucius made some deletions from “The Book of Songs” and “Documents of History”, gave a final proof-reading to “The Book of Rites” and “The Book of Music”, praised “The Book of Changes’ and revised “The Spring and Autumn Annals”, since Confucius left personal marks on all of them, they therefore could be regarded as classics.

The Six Classics were also referred to as the Six Arts. Since the “Book of Music” got lost at the beginning of the Han Dynasty, they were also termed as ‘The Five Classics”. So in ancient time, the classics were confined within these six books. Other sayings of Confucius were recorded by his disciples, for instance, “The Analects of Confucius” and the “Book of Filial Piety” were not included in the Six Classics, and they were regarded as explanations or commentaries by people in the Han Dynasty. In this context, the “Erya Dictionary” is one to explain the classics. Works by other masters included “Mencius” and “Xunzi”. Later on, the “Rites of Zhou” and “The Book of Rites” were classified as the “Rites” category and termed as classics; commentaries made by Zuǒ Qiūmíng, Gōngyáng Gaō and Gǔliáng Chì were attached to “The Spring and Autumn Annals” and were also termed as classics. Therefore, since the Tang Dynasty there had been a list of nine classics, and “Analects of Confucius”, “The Book of Filial Piety” and “The Erya Dictionary” were regarded as “three commentaries” as what the Han people did. Confucian scholars of the Song Dynasty singled out “The Great Learning” and “Doctrines of the Mean” from “The Book of Rites”, they listed these two books with “Analects of Confucius” and “Analects of Mencius” as the “Four Books” to correspond to what people of the Han Dynasty did…so, therefore, since the Song and Yuan Dynasties, there had been a list of thirteen classics, and what the ancient people regarded as “commentaries” became “classics”, yet, we have to be aware that originally only what left with a personal mark of Confucius himself were taken as classics… We should note that Wáng’s introductions of all the classics reflected his own thinking. However, Wáng himself didn’t include this book into his collections. That doesn’t mean this book is not important. On the contrary, he tried to serve his historic studies with his research in the classics. This book has been regarded as a treasure and a legacy by the academic circle in China. This book together with writings of same nature, in particular, a letter entitled “Discussions with Friends of the Phrases in ‘The Book of Songs’ and ‘Documents of History’” were reputed by Hú Shì as “a declaration of new ways of studying classics.”

His Last Days with the Qinghua Institute

Wáng and his family moved to the Qinghua Compound on April 18, 1925 and began his career as the master and tutor of China studies there until his death. The other three master chosen were Liáng Qǐchāo, Chén Yīnkè and Zhào Yuánrèn. 1925 was the year Qinghua School was upgraded into a university, and in that year under graduate students were enrolled. This was also the year the Qinghua China Studies Institute opened. The Charter of the Institute said that its mission was to engage in higher and deeper academic studies and at the same time to bring up special talents. As far as curriculum was concerned, there would be linguistics, history, literature and philosophy. The students upon graduation would engage in writing or research or be teachers of China Studies. The institute trained altogether over 70 students over a period of four years, and almost every one of them became either a famous scholar or a renowned professor. The school intended to appoint Wáng as the head of the institute; he declined this offer saying that would affect his academic life. Why Qinghua chose him as one of the masters were most probably because of the following: first of all because of his vision and vigor; secondly because of his firm academic self confidence, thirdly because of his independent spirit and lastly because of his scientific method and advanced concepts, for instance his “dual evidence” in studies—evidence from things excavated from underground and evidence in written material.

According to the division of labor among the four masters, Wáng’s scope of responsibility was “Documents of History”, “The Book of Songs” and “The Book of Rites” in classics; exegetics, ancient characters and phonetics in the primary learning; ancient history and Chinese literature. In his view, the post-script and the part of radicals in “Interpreting and Decoding Characters” must be emphasized, because they are stepping stones to China studies. He touched more on “Documents of History” among classics and in the part of “Rites”, he used to give detailed explanation to the seventeen articles in “The Book of Etiquette and Ceremonies仪礼”.

Masters were supposed to give open lectures. Those Wáng gave were “New Evidence for Ancient History” and “Exercises in Interpreting and Decoding Characters”. The former involved the history of the Yin and Zhou, inscriptions on oracle bones and inscriptions on bronze tripods, his survey and explanation were in such details that they were like a torch in the darkness. During the summer vocation of 1925, he gave a lecture to the students who chose to stay at school. The lecture was entitled “New Discoveries of Learning in China in the Last Two or Three Decades”, in which he listed the new discoveries as 1) inscription on oracle bones; 2) bamboo slips at Dunhuang and other western regions; 3) scrolls written by people in the Tang and the Six Dynasties stored in the caves at Dunhuang; 4) Books and archives in the warehouse of the Cabinet; 5) ancient writing of other nations inside the Chinese border.

Zhōu Chuánrú, one of the students, recalls that Wáng was always on time for classes, he never copied what others had said, never tried to devalue others. He was responsible for what he said and did. Because his house was on the way to the dormitory of the students, many came to his place to ask questions, he was always ready to help. When there were questions he could not answer, he never tried to cover up but would say, “Sorry, I don’t know.” Another student Yáo Míngdá recalled how Wáng taught him about ways of study: he said there were two ways of research, one is to trace up the origin and then compare; the other is to read intensively without any purpose, and when you get some ideas from reading, you can then decide on the title, and then you can carry on the research and write the essay. There were 29 students in the first group. From the dissertations they wrote, we can see very clearly how Wáng had influenced them and the painstaking work he did for them.

Attachment: A Talk on Verses for Singing