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Mingling the Mind and Heart

November 27, 2014

There was an outbreak of ’Chinese fever‘ in this year’s Hay Fest. There were too many sessions on China. Scholars, exiled writer, historian and former diplomat took part in these sessions.

I missed one or two sessions but attended the rest.

Jung Chang and Firdous Azim

Jung Chang

On day 3, exiled Chinese writer Jung Chang read out excerpts from her latest book ‘Empress Dowager Cixi’; she briefly narrated the bio of Empress Cixi and modernization of China with the help of slide shows.

Earlier, on day 2 in another session, Harvard professor Michael Puett had delivered a long lecture, followed by a conversation with historian Patrick French and a Q&A session. Professor Puett portrayed the future course of China, its formation and the role of traditions in its present formation.

Michael Puett

Michael Puett

There are two possibilities about the future China: first, it will become a dominant capitalist power like US; second, it will become an authoritarian military force.

Michael Puett thinks it will become an unpredictable force where traditional past will play a greater role in its formation. In the past, the rule of law was decided by the traditional society. Traditional Chinese philosophical views stress on closer look at the tiny little things in one’s daily life to understand oneself. Paying attention to tiny things ultimately makes oneself a complete human being. This argument holds equally true for becoming a successful nation.

Like the words ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’, the Chinese use the same character for ‘mind’ and ‘heart’. So one should do what one loves to do instead of sticking to ‘rational act’ or one’s area of specialization. Through self cultivation— lots of practice—one becomes good at the thing one likes to do. Sharpness of a knife rests on its frequent use.

Professor Puett observes a meritocratic world will be created in China and in that world, those controlling the political sphere will be separated from those controlling the economic sphere. Moreover, there will be conflict of interests between these two spheres in terms of making decisions.

Both the sessions were thought provoking and generated a lot of interest on China’s modern history and its traditional philosophies.

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