Professor Tang Yijie has made it his mission to preserve the work of Confucius. The eighty-seven year old scholar spearheaded a monumental project aimed at doing just that.The first phase of the project, which consisted of 100 confucian works handpicked, proofread and annotated by scholars of Peking University, have been released to the public.
"My doctor doesn't allow me to talk much. But I'll say, as long as I live a day, I will contribute my bit to compiling the "Confucian Canon," Tang said.
Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are three major sources of traditional Chinese culture. But Confucianism hasn't had a complete compilation that includes all of its classics. Professor Tang proposed the project back in 2003, and compiling all the works has been going slowly, due to the professor's demands for impeccable quality.
"We proofread the sample book sixteen or seventeen times. This is not what other books go through to get published," Vice researcher of Editorial & Research Center of Confucian Canon, PKU, Gu Jian said.
The "Confucian Canon" is only part of professor Tang's endeavor to pass on ancient literary classics to the public. Back in 1984, he teamed up with scholars from several colleges to hold a series of lectures to popularize the ancient classics. In 1996, he initiated another lecture series with more celebrity scholars. The series has since been held annually, and has become the foremost authority on traditional culture. Now, despite his advanced age and weakened health, Professor Tang still teaches, to the acclaim of his students.
"I love Chinese culture so much, because I love my country. A country is hopeful only if it has its cultural roots and cherishes its own cultural traditions," Tang said.
In 2011, Tang began to work as the director of Shi Cha Hai academy. He plans topics for each forum and lecture, which are attended by people from all walks of life.
"He's spent a lot of time popularizing traditional culture. We've held thirteen training sessions attended by principles and teachers from around the country, Researcher at National Institute of Education Sciences Wu Anchun said.
Tang's grandfather Tang Lin was a scholar during the late Qing dynasty, while his father Tang Yongtong was a master scholar on Chinese literary classics. In his work, his grandfather once said, "do your responsibility despite its difficulty". Tang seems to have taken that saying to heart. In order to complete the Confucian Cannon, he and his team have to edit and compile another three thousand titles of Confucian classics. But with Professor Tang's example, it looks like they might make the seemingly impossible task possible.