He is Professor of History, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies, Director of the Research Center for Comparative City Cultures at the Research Institute for the Humanities, and Director of the Research Center for Contemporary Chinese Culture at the Institute of Chinese Studies. His research expertise and interests include modern Chinese history, Confucianism and Christianity in modern China, overseas Chinese communities, and the urban cultures of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
We report below an excerpt from the interview with Professor Leung Yuen Sang:
– Excerpt of the interview –
First of all, let me talk about my relationship with the Institute of Chinese Studies. The Institute was established in 1967, and the current building was inaugurated in 1970. I arrived at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as a student in 1968. I have, therefore, witnessed the development of the Institute from its very beginning and we have grown up together. At that time, many of the teachers were researchers working for the Institute, such as Professors Chou Fa-kao and Li Yan from the Department of Chinese Language, Wang Dezhao, Mou Runsun, Chuan Han-sheng, Yan Geng-wang, and Chen Ching-ho from the Department of History. Professors Wang Dezhao and Chen Ching-ho were my academic advisors. In September 1972 I started attending graduate school. During this time I came to the Institute almost weekly to participate in discussions and to attend classes, such as Chinese Historiography with Professor Mou Runsun, or Wang Dezhao's seminar on Modern Chinese Thought. The research projects of these professors formed the foundation of the Institute's study directions, from studies about North China to those on South China, and from history to geography. In addition to research, at that time the Institute significantly contributed to the training of research students and young academic staff. At the beginning of 1970, there were many fellow researchers of history at the Institute. For instance, Professor Zhang Dechang's student Li Zulin, who later went on to the USA to pursue advanced studies; Wang Changsheng, who specialized in the history of Chang'an during the Tang dynasty; Li Longhua, who studied the economic history of the Ming dynasty; Zeng Huaman, who studied the history of development of the Lingnan region during the Tang; Wang Xiangmei, who focused on historiographical research; and many others. Apart from graduate students specializing in history, there were also young scholars at the Institute focusing on Chinese language, ancient Chinese, literature, and Dunhuang studies. They were happy to gather here at ICS sharing with each other their research experience and jointly develop their academic paths. Visiting scholars also came to the Institute to consult Wang Dezhao, Chuan Han-sheng, and the other professors. Later many of them had attained substantial academic achievements after returning to their own countries. At that time, CUHK provided much of the research funds for the Institute's scholars. The Institute's core studies were framed within the area of traditional Chinese culture, but later expanded to include modern and contemporary Chinese culture and history. The senior professors and research personnel here were the main force driving research in the humanities at CUHK. The Institute of Chinese Studies later discontinued the position of full-time research fellow, on the understanding that teaching and research must be tightly integrated, a principle that deserves to be continued.
Our group of young scholars paid much attention to training in the basic skills, emphasizing primary research and hard work. I started engaging in serious academic research as soon as I entered the Institute. The Institute served as the entrance door of the academy and strengthened my aspiration to become a dedicated academic. After I had obtained my master's degree, I chose to go abroad to pursue advanced studies, and in 1980 I was awarded my doctoral degree. At the beginning of the eighties I came back to CUHK to attend a conference, and that article I delivered at the conference became my first paper, published in the Journal of Chinese Studies by the Institute. Throughout the years I have been greatly influenced by my mentor, Professor Wang Dezhao who paid close attention to my academic development. I maintained contact and communication with my colleagues at the Institute when I came back to CUHK in 1992. In particular, I was very interested in the work at the Center for Translation established by Stephen Soong.
One of my research interests focuses on family histories and entrepreneurs. I would like to compile a series of biographies of Hong Kong businessmen and cultural leaders. Two volumes have a close link to the Institute for Chinese Studies. The first deals with the Mok family whose history goes back in five generations to the development of Hong Kong in the post-Opium War years. The second will focus the Lee family, which is already the subject of various family histories, and will focus in particular on two family members, Lee Quo-wei and J.S. Lee who had made great contributions to CUHK and the Institute. I hope this series will establish connections between the modern history of Hong Kong and the South China region. The project therefore is entitled "Business, Culture, and Society."
In recent years, I have taken charge of the direction of the Research Center for Contemporary Chinese Culture at the Institute of Chinese Studies, an institution that promotes the study of modern and contemporary Chinese thought and culture. We are currently carrying out many different projects, including, but not limited to, "Modern Transformation of Chinese Thought and Culture" and "Database on the Modern History of Chinese Thought". Twenty-First Century, issued bimonthly by the Center, is a scholarly platform for the publication of research papers and ideas that has established a good network of connections among many scholars, both in China and Taiwan. The Center has also published many academic works. Among these, there are some that have exerted a huge academic influence, such as Jin Guantao and Liu Qingfeng's ten-volume historical perspective series History of the People's Republic of China, of which we have already published seven. Gao Hua's How did the Red Sun Rise is another academic volume published by the Center. The establishment of the Research Center for Contemporary Chinese Culture and its activities have allowed the Institute of Chinese Studies to add a crucial focus on modern and contemporary periods to its core study of traditional history and culture, and ancient Chinese language. The "Database on the Modern History of Chinese Thought" collects the most important documents concerning the changes in modern Chinese thought between 1830 and 1930, including treatises, periodicals, and essays. This database has become an important source for specialist training. At present, I am recruiting staff dedicated to its proofreading and supplementation to improve this research system. We are also planning the future of the Institute for Chinese Studies, including how to implement and develop our research using Hong Kong and southern China as foundations for the thorough understanding of Northeast and Southeast Asia. I hope that every center of the Institute of Chinese Studies and the Faculty of Arts, along with all of the other CUHK departments, will join together in this endeavor.