Interview | Zou Zhenhuan: The Fundamental Method of Scholarship

2020-07-05 | By Historian | Filed in: District.

Zou Zhenhuan was born in Shanghai in 1957. He was admitted to Fudan University’s Department of History in 1978. In 1982, he studied for a master’s degree in history from Mr. Zhu Weizheng. His research direction was “Chinese Cultural History (Ideological and Cultural History of Ming and Qing Dynasties)”. He stayed in the school to teach in 1985. In 1995, he studied for a doctor’s degree in historical geography (cultural geography) from Mr. Zhou Zhenhe. In 1999, he received a doctor’s degree. His doctoral thesis was rated as one of the best in the country.He is currently a professor in the Department of History of Fudan University and a doctoral supervisor in ancient Chinese history and historical philology.


The Initial Impression of “Seriousness”


The initial contact with Zou is still fresh in my memory. At that time, when I was choosing courses, I mistakenly chose Zou’s course “Cultural Exchange between China and the West Since Ming and Qing Dynasties”. Before that, I had never met Miss Zou. When I entered the classroom, I saw a very tall middle-aged man standing on the platform. When the bell rang, the man introduced himself with a vigorous baritone: “Hello everyone, I am Zou Zhenhuan, and I will give the lecture.” The speed of his speech was not very fast, but the amount of information was very large. After one class was finished, unconsciously, my notebook had already written 4 pages, which was a situation that had not occurred in all previous courses. After class, I summoned up the courage to talk with Mr. Zou. I didn’t expect Mr. Zou to step down from the platform, with some smiles, and patiently listened to one of my undergraduates talking incoherently about his inner perplexity and incomprehension. Later,In an article by senior students, I read the following sentence: “Zhenhuan is simple and humble. There is a lot of content, and funny is occasional.” The first impression that Teacher Zou gave me was no different from this.


A few years later, I applied for Mr Zou’s doctor. Once I talked with my classmates about my first meeting with Zou, everyone’s impression was surprisingly similar. Some people said that he paid a special visit to Mr. Zou at Fudan University before taking the exam. After Mr. Zou seriously raised several academic questions, he was surprised to find that he had never really read a book and left the office faltering out. Later, he worked as a teaching assistant for Mr. Zou in “Introduction to the Original Classics of History”. When he saw Mr. Zou interpreting the articles in “Selected Works of Chinese History” revised by Zhou Yutong’s editor-in-chief and Zhu Weizheng word by word for more than 200 students, he heard someone sigh with his own ears: “This teacher’s attitude in class is really straight-forward!”


Others said that when she first contacted Teacher Zou, she had just entered the master’s stage and was still studying at Sun Yat-sen University. In a meeting hosted by the department, she was responsible for receiving scholars from afar at the station, one of whom was Miss Zou. Miss Zou, who had just alighted from the bus, saw that she was holding a famous brand and strode up immediately. Then she stood up very formally and shook hands with her. At the same time, she said, “hello, I’m Zou Zhenhuan”. Of all the scholars received at the meeting, Miss Zou was the only one who solemnly said hello to her and introduced herself, and was also the only one who asked about the topic of her undergraduate thesis. The short dialogue of two or three minutes made her feel that she was not regarded as a young and ignorant student, but as a scholar who was also committed to historical research.Several of our graduate students agreed that if one word is used to describe Mr. Zou, then the word “serious” is the most consistent.


To study “seriously”


I further realized that Zou’s seriousness was in the process of asking him for advice. Before graduating from college, I asked him to be my undergraduate thesis instructor. I didn’t think Mr. Zou would take an undergraduate thesis very seriously, but I didn’t think he would come to me every week to let me report the latest data to him and ask me how the data could produce what’s ideas and talk to the existing research. When he communicates with me, he seldom expresses his opinions directly, but listens to my words and occasionally makes some supplements and corrections. He said that academic viewpoints must be understood by oneself, otherwise, even if others speak well, they are instilled by others, and they will forget when turning around.


After communicating with him several times, I presented the first draft of the paper. A few days later, he returned the manuscript to me. I had a rough look and found that the manuscript was full of red-pen annotations, some of which were “further elucidation is needed here” and “not clear enough here”. Some were simply corrections of typos, even punctuation mistakes. Later, I asked some students who were taught by Mr. Zou.Most people have had the experience of being changed by Mr. Zou, ranging from opinions and ideas to white characters and punctuation. It seems that no mistake will escape his eyes. Some people lament that Mr. Zou really has a golden eye. Those who write it can’t see the mistakes, but those who read it are clear.


I have always been curious that it was how who cultivated Zou’s wisdom. It was not until later that I was lucky enough to proofread Mr. Zou’s articles that I understood how he treated his articles. In fact, the article at that time only needed some minor adjustments in format, which could be proofread by me with the consent of the author. However, after receiving the email, Mr. Zou said that he would proofread and revise it in person and send it to me within a few days. A few days later, the revised version I received was not only accurate in format, but also could not pick out any flaws in the original text and the notes.


Later, I mentioned this matter with a teacher I knew well. The teacher nodded and said, “I really deserve to be Mr. Zou Zhenhuan.” The words were full of approval and not surprised at all. There are many such examples. At one time, the Department of History held an academic seminar and announced that it would publish a collection of essays after the seminar. As a proofreader, I received most of the essays of the participating scholars without any revision.Only Mr. Zou, who not only revised according to the suggestions of other scholars, respectfully wrote down the taboos of all scholars in the annotations, but also made substantial changes in the content, making the article full of content and rigorous in structure. When I asked him why he had to take pains to change the article, teacher Zou said: “every article is your face. If it is not written well, others will not say it in person, and their evaluation of you will be greatly reduced. In particular, famous scholars should take every article with their own names seriously.” He once again showed me what “seriousness” is!


I once asked Mr. Zou how he developed a serious and rigorous style of work. Mr. Zou nodded slightly and talked about his past experience of studying with Mr. Zhu Weizheng. As soon as Mr. Zou was admitted to graduate school, Mr. Zhu asked him to go to Fudan Liberal Arts Library to read all the ancient books and old paperback catalogue cards. Although Mr. Zou did not understand the meaning, he still spent 3 days carefully turning over all the catalogue cards. Only later did he find out that this is a very effective bibliography training method. He knows what book resources there are in his place. First Fudan University, then Shanghai Library, and then he will get twice the result with half the effort in searching for information. This is the most basic academic training for a scholar of literature and history. Mr. Zhu is a well-known master of Chinese ideological and cultural history at home and abroad. Naturally, his requirements for his disciples are stricter and stricter. According to Mr. Zhu’s request, Mr. Zou carefully reads an ancient classic every week, writes a book report, and then discusses with Mr. Zhu in class. This reading method of reading the original book and learning from teachers and students has greatly benefited Teacher Zou. The rigorous and meticulous style of work has been developed bit by bit in the process of consulting cards and studying books.


Be a “serious” person


Teacher Zou not only teaches students how to learn, but also teaches people how to be human. He never talks about the truth of being a human being, but practices it and tells students how to become an honest and upright person with his own practical actions. I have heard people say admiringly more than once, “Teacher Zou is really a good teacher”. I think that behind this “good teacher” is not only a good knowledge, but also impeccable in the quality of being a human being.


I have lamented the impetuousness of academia and the depravity of some experts.However, under the wings of Mr. Zou, it seems that the world is so pure that it turns a deaf ear to what is going on outside the window and is steadfast in learning. The communication with Mr. Zou is not only academic, but also academic. He seldom talks with you about various social events. He will only ask you what information you have found after reading what’s book recently, or advise you to spend time learning foreign languages and communicate more with foreign scholars. He told the students many times that he should not worry about other people’s what or complain about what casually. First, he should think that he has achieved what and what. The world will eventually give opportunities to those who work hard.


He told the students with his own experience that he was only a worker in his early years and began to receive college education in his 20s. When everyone else had the opportunity to exchange abroad, he was just a green lantern and a thousand volumes of books. He silently stayed in his study, sat on the bench and wrote what he saw, heard, thought and thought. All the achievements he was able to achieve later were achieved step by step. Naturally, the achievements he made through his efforts are more worth cherishing and pondering. I have always remembered his teachings and have always taken these words as my motto.


I still remember Mr. Zou’s speeches at various seminars. He never flatters some experts and saysSome flattering words, on the contrary, as long as he speaks, then various criticisms will follow one after another, sometimes very embarrassing to the other party. But if you think about it carefully,His criticisms are all very pertinent and never involve personal attacks. Instead, he uses rich historical materials and accurate thinking to correct each other’s views, which is quite useful to the listeners. Even some scholars told me privately that they were afraid that Mr Zou would “fire” and would like him to “fire”. Teacher Zou has repeatedly warned students to say less empty words and less rhetoric. As long as they express themselves, they must say something.I think these words are not only aimed at academic conferences, but also have a great guiding effect on real life.


In countless contacts, Mr. Zou’s impression in my heart became more and more rich:He is very strict and will mercilessly point out the shortcomings and problems of each student. He requires students to treat every paper, every homework and every academic discussion with the spirit of “cannon hitting mosquitoes”.He is extremely disgusted with fraud and will inquire about every research result mentioned in the students’ articles one by one to see if the students are lazy. When correcting students’ homework, once he found that any students quoted previous studies without any comments, they would fail no matter how long they were, and then he would indicate all the plagiarized contents of the students in the email, clearly stating that “if you have any dissatisfaction, you can come to me.” However, he is very tolerant and will always discuss academic issues with students on an equal footing. He will give students the greatest freedom in the choice of dissertation topics. At the same time, he will try his best to ensure that students are not entangled by chores and can devote their time to their academic research.


He will send a newly written paper to the students for reading, so that the students can give their opinions. After publishing a book, he will talk to the students about the writing process of the book, review the research process, earnestly teach and persuade them.He is an impetuous person. In his daily life, he is full of wind and fire, has a straightforward personality, and sometimes he is a little emotional. He speaks viciously. There are countless students who have been scolded and cried by him. However, in academic research, his every exposition is extremely steadfast, steady, rational and meticulous. All these impressions overlap, and a real Zou teacher slowly appears.


Teacher Zou once said: “To study is to seek knowledge, and to seek knowledge is to seek truth. Seeking truth is the core of studying and the foundation of being a human being. In order to learn, one must have doubts and be fearless. One must be honest and awed.”In his view, learning is not only an academic issue, but also a personality issue. His strictness towards students is well known in the history department, but behind the “high pressure” is the hope that students will understand that the attitude of learning is actually a good intention to embody personal accomplishment. It is precisely because he realized the meaning of life behind learning that Mr. Zou has always maintained an attitude towards learning and life. Self-discipline is as strict as autumn, and the works are rigorous and solid. People are treated like spring breeze, and there is the style of the elderly in life. I think he is a “spring breeze elder and autumn spirit scholar”. He is not only a strict teacher, who always makes me reflect on my own mistakes, but also a father’s generation. He often makes me feel the warmth of being cared for.


Zou seldom expressed his feelings, but his students showed great respect to the teacher. Some even said that his efforts and his intentions were all to make other teachers praise that “Zou Men Disciples” were all excellent, and Zou Zhenhuan really took the students. At this time, his heart was happier than he was praised.This is the teacher Zou in the eyes of the students, a person who values the word “serious” more than Mount Tai.



Instructor Interview


Slide Up to read

Q: How do you do, Mr. Zou? Can you talk about your early study life? How did you embark on the academic road?

A: I was born in Shanghai in the late 1950s. Although I grew up in an era of cultural desolation, I have a strong interest in reading. During the “Cultural Revolution”, I worked in the factory and often went to the Jing’an District Library near the factory to read books after the morning shift and before the middle shift. For example, “Steel Was Tempered by how”, “Gadfly” and “John Christophe” are all translations that have left a deep impression on me. At that time, my uncle, who taught in the history department of the university, often borrowed some books published internally at that time. Some are reprinted ancient books, such as Wang Anshi’s “Collection of Wang Wen’s Official Documents” and others are “internally distributed” books, such as “Two American Novels”, which include Richard Becky’s “Jonathan Livingston the Seagull” and Erich Siegel’s “Love Story”. The latter left a deep impression on me. My uncle knows astronomy above and geography below. He is not only knowledgeable, but also has extraordinary independent thinking ability, which makes me think it is really good to learn history and can turn myself into a wise person.


Q: When you were studying in Fudan, did you have a deep feeling from what?


A: When I was admitted to Fudan University, it happened to be an era when China was reopening its doors to the world. Various new ideological trends swarmed in. The works of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dewey and Russell were all in great demand for our students at that time. The first thing I did when I went to Fudan University was to read their various Chinese translations in the library. I remember that Mr. Chen Kuangshi introduced Liang Qichao’s “Bibliography of Western Learning”, Xu Weize’s “Bibliography of Eastern and Western Learning” and Gu Xieguang’s “Bibliography of Translated Books” to the students for the first time in the class of “Historical Materials of Modern Chinese History”. After class, I went to the library to find these three kinds of catalogues, and followed the introduction in these catalogues, and then went to find the Chinese translation of those western books to read. At that time, I felt very shocked, because there were many books in it that I had never heard of. Even many popular western books have been translated as early as the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China, such as Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and Rousseau’s “Social Contract Theory”. Freud, Russell and others’ translations, which were popular in the 1980s, such as the popular Introduction to Psychoanalysis, had Gao Juefu’s translation in the 1930s. At that time, it was really shocking. It was hard to imagine that these fashionable theories had been introduced into China as early as 50 years ago.


Q: Why did you choose translation history as the research object of your undergraduate bachelor’s thesis, master’s thesis and doctoral thesis?


A: My bachelor’s thesis is entitled “Translation of Books in Late Qing Dynasty and Its Characteristics”, my master’s thesis “Translation of Western Books in Late Qing Dynasty and Cultural Circles” and my doctoral thesis “Dissemination and Influence of Western Geography in Late Qing Dynasty in China” all fall within the scope of translation history. In my personal reading after my childhood, the translation occupies a considerable weight. After entering the university, I have an urgent mood, that is, I want to know the impressive novels I read before entering the university, such as “Steel Was Tempered by how”, “Gadfly” and “John Christophe”, as well as the Soviet Russian novels I have read, such as Turgenev’s“Hunter’s Notes”, “Father and Son” and Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” were translated into Chinese under the background of how. Because I couldn’t find the answer, I came to find the information and study it myself, which became the starting point of my research. Later, it gradually expanded from the field of literature to the scope of geography and history. Now that I think about it, it should also contain a kind of gratitude to the translators of the previous generation. With their hard work, they have brought us rich spiritual food.


Q: Do you still have any impression of Mr. Zhu Weizheng’s guidance to you?


A: I just got a master’s degree. The first time I went to see my tutor, Mr. Zhu took care of me to turn over all the bibliography card boxes in the graduate reading room of the liberal arts library teachers. At that time, there was no computer and convenient retrieval system as popular as today, so I spent several days going through the small drawers where ancient books and old paperback catalogues were stored one by one. At first, I didn’t understand what Mr. Zhu meant. Later, I often ran to the reading room of teachers and graduate students in the liberal arts library. I found that I was even more familiar with the storage and specific location of books on the shelves than the librarians. I even found the wrong cards in the card box. Only then did I realize the profound meaning of Mr. Zhu, that is, let me get familiar with the school’s retrieval system by reading the catalogue cards, so that I can master the methods of searching documents and understand the bibliography system more quickly. Mr. Zhu pursues “straight-through” and “horizontal-through” in order to master the specialty and do scholarly research seriously. He is very strict with himself academically and seldom praises students face to face. However, he encouraged graduate students to think independently and put forward their own different views. My reading interest and research purport of “omnivorous food” were greatly influenced by Mr. Zhu from the late Ming Dynasty to the late Qing Dynasty during the research period.


Q: You are famous for your “strictness” in the history department. Do you have the secret of taking students in what?


Answer: The fundamental methods of doing scholarly research can be summarized as one diligence, two availability, three more and four no. The so-called diligence means diligent reading, diligent reading of first-hand basic documents and second-hand research works, laying a solid foundation for research. Second, there is perseverance and perseverance. For a scholar, academic accumulation is another expression of time. Without long-term desk accumulation, long-term unknown work, three days of fishing and two days of net drying, there will be no achievement. Three more, that is, more check, more think, more ask. “Check more” is to make the best use of all kinds of reference books and reference books compiled by predecessors, which is the best way to achieve twice the result with half the effort. “Think more” means to think constantly and find problems on the basis of frequent reading and checking, and then read and think again and again with the problems. “Ask more” means to consult experienced teachers and classmates extensively and constantly to learn from each other in order to achieve further improvement. Four noes, that is, no fraud, no trickery, no arbitrariness, no kitsch. Academic innovation is the most important thing. Scholars should be clean, not resort to deceit, not deceive themselves and others, not eager for quick success and instant benefits, not opportunistic. Respect the academic achievements of predecessors and not draw conclusions lightly. Independent thinking, not catering to secular prejudice, has a deep sense of awe for learning. If there is a secret, this is probably my secret! I also hope that graduate students can share these experiences together.



This article is reprinted from the public number: Fudan Graduate Student


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