Professor Chi Pang-Yuan's speech for the Honorary Doctorate:
The Pursuit of Eternal Value
Dear all, I appreciate that you are here to share the honor of my Honorary Doctorate at National Taiwan University, where I spent the whole life working and living in. Standing here as an elderly, I feel quite emotional to be able to receive this highest honor to acknowledge my whole life. Looking back to the year of 1947, I was just finished my college education and came to National Taiwan University for the very first time. I was all alone and so young and brave without any hesitation to come to Taiwan with very few knowledge of the situation at that time. With the certificate of teaching assistant written in Chinese brush, I thought that was the beginning of my academic career. However, this is a long and tough path engaging academic research.
During the 64 years in Taiwan, I had the working experiences from the basic position to the retirement in National Taiwan University and thus witnessed the most significant change: the cross-culture changes to another culture and to another. The courses and lectures I've had in National Taiwan University are all about the international exchanges between the Western and the Chinese cultures, and those courses include English Literature, Advanced English, Graduate Institute English, Translation, and so on. I found it so blessed and fortunate that I had the opportunity to see the vitality and possibility of Taiwan and therefore helped create the prosperity of Taiwanese Literature during 1970 to 1999.
In 1972, Chinese Language and Literature Department and Foreign Languages and Literature Department of National Taiwan University established CLAROC (Comparative Literature Association of ROC) to promote Taiwanese literature globally. I served as the spokesperson to attend international conferences for Taiwan. After the political rapture in 1949, Taiwan remained the authentic Chinese culture with the best and the top academic environment and publication. Therefore, that's how and why I established the comparative association with the coworkers of both Foreign Languages and Literature Department and Chinese Language and Literature Department of National Taiwan University. I sensed the urge to promote and to present Taiwan. From 1960 to 1985, Taiwanese literature was the only text for the oversea scholars to work on the research of Sinology. My publication, Academia Anthology of Taiwanese Literature, was the only textbook then.
Why did we have to do that at that time? I've had experiences attending Fulbright Exchange Program and thus realized that we have to have something substantial and fundamental to present to the public. So I've been encouraging myself to be able to present my publication. This is also why we've shown the consistency publishing The Chinese Pen, the journal, for forty years. We do believe that culture and literature can remain eternal for its commitment and devotion to the public.
In 1949, it was the first time I left National Taiwan University because of my marriage and I stepped onto the most difficult path for a woman: a path of striking a balance between family and career. It seemed impossible to fully understand the difficulties I mentioned if you have never experienced any of that. As well, it was difficult for my children to forgive me though. President Lee called me "Ms." Chi Pang-Yuan, which is hard to be called. I'd rather have anyone call me teacher or professor. However, being a "Ms." means a complicated position, character mixed with the bitter-and-sweet happiness.
The former NTU president, Fu Ssu-Nien, announced this on the day of NTU anniversary ceremony in 1949, " Now we're establishing a real university. Why a real university? It is because we are living in Taiwan now without any retreat to set back. We have to devote to this university with the universal spirit!" At the times of the political rapture, millions of people were not allowed to go back home, and billions of people tried hard to look for their goals in the future. This universal spirit is not only an encouragement but also a confidence. It is the confidence that we believe we are capable of that. Many came all the way across the ocean to bring the precious and the worth learning to Taiwan. This shows how National Taiwan University has been getting more and more prosperous ever since 1949 and thus made itself the top university today.
The very first time I came to National Taiwan University in the late 1940s, there were probably only a thousand students and only twenty literature majors at that time. I was the only faculty hired from the Mainland China. I've been devoting myself to education within the hope of the "universal spirit" to achieve the goals of cultivating the next generations with our great responsibility.
I've been asking myself "what can we do?" and "what can we do for Taiwan to make a difference?" Over the years, the whole world's witnessed and experiences the differences and the cultures Taiwan has made, which are beyond words.
There must be something eternal with its own value rooted deeply this modern society within fast fashions and fast information. It seems that people focus on the topics of technology and all the significant achievements made by the public figures. The idea of "Change the world" has been promoted by those successful public figures. However, we've been working on it ever since we came to Taiwan. We've been tring to make a difference here, and we've been working on it with quite a consistency over the years. What I've been promoting here with my peers is the essential and fundamental core to firm Taiwanese culture.
Recently, everyone's been talking bout Steve Jobs, which made me read his biography in order to fully understand an era. I'm quite interested in reading his book. He certainly had the dream, just like the others in his generation. However, what makes him unique is that he developed his dream right from the in-between while our dream originated form the base in our generation. This is the difference here. They focus on the pursuit of beyond any others and beyond all secular success, which gave them the mania mixed with pleasure. What Jobs pursuit was something beyond any levels; however, he found it compromising that one could not really get the eventual success in such a immense universe beneath such a grand starry sky. He relied on someone trustworthy to do the biography for him. The writer asked, "You've been so protective for your privacy. How come you'd like to make you biography so detailed? Wouldn't you care about what I'm going to write in this book of many of your pros and cons?" Steve Jobs replied, "This is me. How I've been through and my dreams made me today. I'd like to tell my children why I was absent so often. And I'd like to let them know what I've done and what person I used to be through this book." I've just finished the book reading his response to the writer.
I found Job's success in the 21st century is exactly the same as my father and my grandfather's success in their generation. He tried to tell the next generation about what we do and how we do it. Also, he tried to convey that we work on it in anyway we can with all efforts. I learned a lesson from Steve Job's biography: humanity and science, none can be missing to create an era with culture achievement. This thus shows us why we couldn't get back to the barbarian ages ever.
Thus I realized that all the changes would eventually leave something eternal there, something worth valued. The human affections, love and understanding all stand for the eternal value. I truly appreciate that I have the opportunity of receiving this honor from National Taiwan University. This is where people understand what I've done to pursuit the eternal value. I've been promoting literature education with any ways all my life, trying to tell the next generations and the young people that we have to live like this to have the "universal spirit" in this big world no matter how small this place we live in it is.