Scholar Yu Dan Shares Even Most Personal of Experiences in New Book

January 20, 2015
Editor: Tracy Zhu
Scholar Yu Dan Shares Even Most Personal of Experiences in New Book
Yu Dan's newly published book. []

Famous female scholar Yu Dan, who is also a professor at Beijing Normal University, recently caught people's attention once again with her newly launched book: a collection of the essays she composed over the past three years, reflecting her transformed perspectives in experiencing and seeing the outside world and turning to look at her own life.

Yu — who became famous many years ago for her unique interpretation and commentary on the Confucian Analects, lectures that were broadcast for seven days on China Central Television (CCTV) — is well known for her ideas on philosophy, classical works, and traditional Chinese culture as well as her many ideas on women's career development, women's life choices, work-life balance, and children's education. She has been invited as a scholar to give lectures everywhere in China, which has helped to make her one of the most popular scholars in China.

But this occasion seems to bear a different air, with many of the ideas in her new book surprising readers in their uniqueness. Yu talked about these differences in a book launch ceremony held in the Zhongguancun area of Beijing at the beginning of the new year, in 2015.

The book, in Yu's words, features a first-time account of Yu's experiences growing through her adolescent years, which Yu has never shared before.

Yu said that when she was young, she liked to drink coffee by the pot while she drove herself to write as many essays as possible. She liked the strong aroma of coffee and, interestingly, even wondered why so many people liked drinking green tea, which, in her eye, was as weak as water at that time. However, now in her early 50s, Yu has taken a keen liking to green tea and the generally light aroma that tea has in contrast to coffee.

On this change in her tastes, Yu explained that this is just like the life experience of a person: When people are young, they seek extreme success, extreme happiness or even extreme feelings of pain, all of which young people see as the reality — to them, that is real life. But as people older and more mature, after experiencing these various extremities, they would come finally to know that peaceful — less-aromatic, water-like — living is the true essence of life.

It was on this idea that Yu based the title of her new book, using a line from one of the verses of Su Shi — one of the famous poets from China's Song Dynasty (960–1279) — to express her enlightenment, her new perspective on life.

In the book, Yu also shared with readers her traveling experiences of the past three years through her essays, which Yu said were originally her diaries during her journey abroad. She admitted that these essays are very personal — as they were not written with the intention of later being shared within a book but rather simply as a means of self-expression — and were said to have even brought her to tears given the strong emotions with which she penned them.

One incident Yu recalled while writing about the unexpected nature of fate was in fact a very sad story:

When Yu was in her 30s, she needed to undergo a minor surgical procedure on her leg. Luckily, she had a friend, a surgeon who was in his early 40s at that time, who could potentially perform the operation for her. She discussed the surgery with this friend, and they agreed that it would be this friend of Yu's who would perform the operation. Because neither of them viewed the surgery as being overly demanding — perhaps because both of them were young — Yu didn't take this on her mind as an urgent task.

However, one day, after Yu returned from her journey abroad and decided finally to go through with the procedure, she tried to re-connect with her friend, the surgeon, and was shocked to find out that he had been killed in a serious car accident.

The incident stirred in Yu strong emotions of sorrow and grief for her friend, who was still so young and was viewed by everyone as having such a wonderful life and future ahead of him. This truly reflected the cruel, ruthless nature of fate but also made Yu cherish every common day in her life since that fateful one.

All of these moving life experiences have been documented in Yu's new book, which she hopes will be well received among readers for its honest, raw reflections her own feelings and life.

(Source: Translated and edited by Women of China)


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