Liu Pujiang: Life devoted to the great work of Liao and Jin history
Peking University, January 18, 2015: On January 6, 2015, Liu Pujiang died in his hometown Dianjiang, Chongqing at the age of fifty-four. He is a professor in the Department of History at Peking University and a respectable scholar in Liao and Jin history, to which he devoted his life.
The news made all his family, colleagues, students and friends feel deeply sorry. “This is the greatest loss in thirty years in the Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History,” said Luo Xin, a professor in the Department of History.
Liu was born in 1961. He was the first student admitted by PKU after the resumption of College Entrance Examination in his hometown in 1979. In 1983, he got his bachelor’s degree in history.
In 1988, after a two-hour talk with Liu, the renowned historian Deng Guangming determined to offer him a position in the Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History, where Deng was then the director. With only a bachelor’s degree and no big achievement in historic research, Liu appreciated that Deng had found his talent very much.
Deng was right. Liu later became the pioneer in the research on Liao and Jin history in China, owning to his talent, diligence and devotion to the study.
With the guidance from Deng, Liu had been deeply engaged himself in the research on philology, Liao and Jin history, and ethnology for about thirty years. He composed two books based on his research and made breakthrough in historic study. He put Liao and Jin history in a broader context–in relation to the politics, mindset, and culture in ancient China–and developed insightful ideas. His research had great influence on the field, and some of them were translated into Japanese and English, which are valuable resources for scholars home and abroad.
In order to probe into Liao history, Liu studied Qidan language by himself, which is considered the most difficult “dead language” in linguistic community. By closely combining linguistics, anthropology, and history, Liu carried out a series of interdisciplinary research.
In addition, Liu compiled a dictionary–an index of a certain kind of words in Qidan language and it greatly facilitated the research on Qidan language, and provided other historians with great convenience utilizing historic materials written in that language. The dictionary was finally published by Zhonghua Book Company after a couple of years waiting, which was one of his wishes.
Liu as a professor
For Liu, research and study was always prioritized. In a letter to his family, he said: “I would rather lives ten years less if I could do amazing research”. The word has unfortunately come true.
One of Liu’s colleagues, Deng Xiaonan, also a professor in the Department of History, regarded Liu as “a pure scholar”–committed, responsible, and virtuous. He never craved fame. Qiu Jingjia, from Renmin University, had been Liu’s student for seven years. “He never strived for any glory,” according to her, Liu didn’t compete for any award during his term as the deputy dean, “He had only two wishes in his life, one is to make more progress in Liao and Jin history research; the other is that his students have better performance in this field.”
Liu was also well-known for his sense of responsibility. Every year when the department enrolls postgraduates, he was always the only one to review all the materials handed in by the perspective students. “He knew every student so well that he could tell who had great critical thinking, who had good usual performance, etc.” recalled Rong Xinjiang, director of Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History. “I have never seen such a responsible professor.”
From 2006 to 2010, Liu served deputy dean, and had done considerable work to the department, both qualitatively and quantitatively. “He was very devoted–his work is an essential pivot for our department to maintain the leading position,” said Rong.
Liu once gave lectures of ancient Chinese history for students in Department of Chinese Language and Literature, and was regarded as “the favorite professor of the Department of History to the students in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature”. Students paid tribute to their honorable mentor online after they got the news. He Yunqi, wrote an article in retrospect, “I was cultivated and enlightened by Professor Liu.”
The Last Will
In April, 2014, Rong received an email from Liu, saying that he was not feeling well, and would leave for a period of time to have a surgery. Liu’s colleagues knew that stomachache has been bothering him for a while, but unfortunately he was diagnosed with cancer before the surgery, which had irrevocably spread.
Knowing how terrible his health was, he was still busying in grading the assignments from students before chemotherapy. Liu’s wife said that after he was diagnosed with cancer, he was aware that he had limited time and started to make plans for his students and work.
It has been a routine to read Liao History together with his graduate students on Saturday for many years. Liu and his students worked very hard to verify every source of history detail and finished the revision of Liao History..
Rong told the journalist, “Liu recommended his students to Professor Zhang Fan and hoped he would guide them to finish the revision of Liao and Jin history, and then start working on Yuan history.”
After his first chemotherapy, Liu went back to Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History to meet his colleagues and students. For him, the most important thing is to meet all his students and talked with them about the work in the future. In the end, he said, “This is the farewell.”
On January 7, bad news came, grieving the whole Department of History and Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History.
His fellow professors and students paid tribute to him. “The loss of such a respectable friend is such a tragedy that brought about sorrow from the bosom and tears down the face,” wrote Professor Xin Deyong.
A beloved and admirable professor left us for good. “He was like a candle, illuminating, and burning down and down to a stump eventually,” Deng Xiaonan said gravely.
A virtuous man, responsible professor, and dedicated scholar–Liu Pujiang, with all his contribution, is to be remembered and revered by generations.
Reported by: Wu Zhangxin'an
Edited by: Zhang Jiang