Back to some years ago, I wrote down in the preface of my doctoral dissertation,
"In order for a mathematician to qualify being an intellectual (in Chinese shih), i.e. a member of the vast and complex array of professionals entrusted with the preservation and perpetuation of certain specific knowledge or ideas and privileged to be the most indoctrinated members of society, one has to possess an ultimate concern toward one's nation, society, and the entire humanity. This concern is for everything pertinent to the public benefits and must transcend self as well as coterie interests..."

It's not that intellectuals are more intelligent (or elite), so that they own the privilege to be responsible to the society. As a matter of fact - just because intellectuals are privileged to be the most indoctrinated individuals, or more blatantly the most intelligent ones, they are especially obligated - compared with ordinary people - to take more liabilities.

In contemporary Chinese ethos, cynical thought has been widely embraced, particularly among young people (therewith it's really not much better as for older generations). The tradition is largely lost. People doubt the existence of real moral values; practicalism prevails. One the other hand, in theology, we know that whenever one converts to a religion, s/he has to believe in it first.

While I grew up in a fairly big city, my grandfather was a peasant. He passed away before I was 2, but I remember him. I am not oblivious, actually just to the contrary. Thus I consider myself a descendent of Chinese peasants (and I am it indeed). In principle this fact is also true for most Chinese: only very few people have ancestors never down to the earth. As an extremely retentive person, I have a grassroots self-perception profoundly embedded in my blood.

I spent most of my 20's overseas. However, whatever wonderful things I encountered in the U.S., I never thought I deserve them. I like them, but I would rather take my old life. If it's really some super stuff, then I think my poor countrymen should really have it - only then shall I be comfortable in possessing it. When I ride on an extra jammed bus in Beijing, I feel happy. Sometimes I can not get on one, then I'll wait for the next. Sometimes my shirt is made dirty on the bus, but I am never upset. I enjoy watching the faces of my countrymen, dirty or not, even during the times that they are unhappy - I always wish that they will be happy soon, though.

Right before the X-mas of 2002, a friend and I, and families, went to visit a private lamp festival in the state of Delaware. This kind of activities is popular in many parts of the States. During the holiday season, rich people arrange lamps and decorations of all different styles and themes outside in their gardens. It's a nice thing to share their joyfulness with the neighborhood. Usually the celebration is open to the public, and is free certainly. The one that we saw in Delaware is the best. That's like a big park, with hundreds of people walking in every night to discover the beautiful scenes. Not every family in the U.S. is able to do this, but many could. When we were appreciating those beautiful lamps: crystal Santa, reindeer team, St. Mary, and so on, both my friend and I were thinking of the same thing:
How we wish our countrymen will all enjoy this kind of delighted life!
This thought was actually formulated by our old saint 1250 years earlier:

There are many other places in the world still under development, for instance a considerable proportion of the land of Africa. Living abroad for almost a decade and getting across a variety of distinct ethnic groups, I eventually developed an extensive love toward all of our poor humankind beings. Nonetheless, at least for the present stage, I am still limited so as to devote the deepest affection onto my own countrymen. This indicates that intellectuals are rated too, and I need to improve myself - in many aspects.

Man's thought. However I encourage women to be no less lordly; at least to me, aspiring ladies are the most admirable. I wish our younger generation will be as strong and as responsible as well. When I was a teenager, I also thought that mathematics was virtually my world. That could be sufficient for a mathematician, but not yet for an intellectual.

Prof. Yan Buke's concerns

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