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Homechinese poemsMy Correspondence with Celebrities by Gao Lusheng~ 高鲁生《与名人通信》with English Translations

My Correspondence with Celebrities by Gao Lusheng~ 高鲁生《与名人通信》with English Translations

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My Correspondence with Celebrities

When I was young, I was fond of having correspondence with celebrated persons. To be precise, I sent a lot of letters, but received not many replies. However, those who enjoyed the reputation of “masters” did write back to me.
Some time in 1947, I wrote to Mr. Hu Shi, then President of Peking University, and asked him what ideal and aspiration we young people should cherish. To my amazement, Mr. Hu replied with a remark of encouragement: “A man of virtue never wastes his life. Quoted from Lu Gu by Hu Shi.” I thought Mr. Hu might be hinting that I should learn from sages so as to become virtuous. However, it is a pity that I still have not found out the secret to a worthy life, even at an advanced age.
Once I wrote to Mr. Xu Beihong, the great artist and then President of Peking Art College, asking him what goal young people should strive for. Instead of an encouraging remark, Mr. Xu sent me his picture. The small picture shows a few lifelike sparrows with wings spreading as if to fly, and there is also the artist’s signature “悲鸿”(Beihong). As far as I could understand at that time, the picture conveyed a message: young people should learn to survive as those little birds who, with tender wings wide-spread, would launch into the sky and practise flying skills against winds and storms. I really loved this picture, and perceived from it Mr Xu’s concern and expectations for us young people.
Another time, I wrote to consult Mr. Feng Zikai, the well-known cartoonist in Shanghai. He sent me neither remark nor picture, but only his autograph “丰子恺” (Feng Zikai). As Mr. Feng was a cartoonist with a good sense of humour, I thought he might have imbedded some well-considered message in it for me to discover. So I racked my brains and worked out the following implication: “丰”, meaning “abundance”, refers to an abundance of knowledge; “子”, meaning “child”, refers to young people; as for “恺”, it certainly means “joy and happiness.” Ah, yes, I had got Mr. Feng’s message—”Only by acquiring an abundance of knowledge and skills, can young people have a bright future and a happy life.”
In October, 1949, I wrote to Mr. Guo Moruo, the great writer and historian, to seek advice. He had just come to Beijing (Peking) from Hong Kong by a detour via Dalian, to attend plenary session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. While still staying in Peking Hotel, Mr. Guo managed, out of his tight schedule, to send me a warm reply with some remarks of encouragement: The ancient saying “Approach an encounter with apprehension, and strive to succeed by strategy” is very enlightening. As apprehension arises from anxiety about one’s own incapability, the saying calls for caution and vigilance. One will eventually succeed if he takes pains and devises ways to do everything without negligence. As a matter of fact, Mr Guo’s quotation comes from the Chinese classic The Confucian Analects, as the part of the text goes, Zilu said, “If you, Master, were given command of all the three armies of a great state, whom would you take to help you?” The Master said, “The man who would fight a tiger bare-handed or cross a river without a boat, and even die without regret—that sort of person I would not take. My associate must be one who would approach an encounter with apprehension, and strive to succeed by strategy.” So you see, Mr Guo had not only quoted “approach an encounter with apprehension, and strive to succeed by strategy”, but also briefly illuminated its implication. He emphasized caution and vigilance as against rashness and negligence, and advocated the spirit of trying to win success by deliberate, painstaking efforts. His advice greatly inspired me.
1949年10月, 我向大文学家、历史学家郭沫若先生写信求教。当时郭老刚从香港绕道大连转赴北京参加全国政协会议,他尚住在北京饭店内,虽然很忙,还是很热情地给我回信,并题词:“临事而惧,好谋而成,这两句古话是很好的。惧是怕做不好,有警惕的意思。做事不掉以轻心,肯用苦心思索办法,自然是可望成功的。”郭老引用的这两句古话出自《论语》,原文是:“子路曰:子行三军,则谁与?子曰:暴虎冯河,死而无悔者,吾不与也。必也临事而惧,好谋而成者也。”郭老引用了“临事而惧,好谋而成”八个字,又在后面加了一段精辟的注解,特别强调了遇事要有警惕,不要掉以轻心,肯用苦心想办法,可望成功的精神,使我深受启迪。
It was worthwhile corresponding with celebrities, but nevertheless I did not keep it up. After I had taken a job in early 1950, I stopped writing to celebrated persons, so as not to inflict inconvenience. It was not until the 1980s that I resumed that interest. Over the years I have received from various celebrities more than one hundred letters, and have preserved them carefully. When I sometimes browse through them, I feel great delight and satisfaction.

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