By Katy Cheng
My father was born in the last century, well imbued with the traditional Chinese culture. But he was not weighed down by the old. He was open-minded, a tireless teacher, creating new ideas with full enthusiasm and keeping doggedly his principles in those fashion-filled times. After inheriting the past, he was a forerunner for the present, without being contaminated by the new heresies.
My father once wrote a poem :
“Rooted in watery soil, the lotus floats free and pure. Although humble, she surprisingly radiates natural truth. She laughs at my efforts to paint her eternal beauty And breathes her timeless fragrance on the hundred-year-old man.”
My father loved painting lotus. Every birthday he uttered poems and brushed lotus: Sunny lotus, rainy lotus; thousand arrangements at sunrise or sunset; creating an overabundance of beauty.
After dinner he often sat with my mother in a little garden house playing chess, both looking elegant and sublime like a celestial couple.
This is a poem of mine in memory of my father:
“Still I see my father’s face, hear his voice, feel his great love. The lotus glows in the sunset’s warm blush, Like a goddess dancing, her silk gown swaying in the wind; Yet, it’s the sweetness of the flower’s fragrance that reminds me of his beautiful poet’s soul.”
In relation with others, he was filial toward his parents, a good responsible man, a faithful husband, open and candid toward his friends, full of righteousness, an untiring teacher nurturing the next generation, a model father.
He taught us Confucius and Mencious Doctrines. He was strict with himself, tolerant of others. He followed Mencious’ sayings “Not corrupted by riches, not withdrawn on account of poverty, not bent by authority, those are big heroes”.
And he followed Confucius, “I examine myself three times a day. Do I work for people but am I disloyal? Do I make friends but am I distrustful? Do I instruct but not practice?”
Father’s words and deeds were endless models for us. He lived a simple, thrifty, but fruitful life. He managed things with order. He never envied nobility; never craved for fame or profit. He taught Madame Chiang painting for 14 years with respectful quietness. In short, he maintained that one’s stature rests with one’s inner worthiness, and he always felt satisfaction from everything, together with a grateful heart.
On his education: He lost his father while young. Three fires destroyed family property. At ten he suffered a severe head injury. Nevertheless he studied hard regardless of all those tribulations. He encouraged himself with the motto, “Deep and deeper sufferings make higher and higher persons”.
He sought progress endlessly and his talents overflowed. He traveled over mountains and rivers to associate himself with poets and literates. They called him “Southern Genius!”. At 14 he was already famous in Shanghai. At 18 he became a professor at Beijing Yu Wen University and School of Arts and Literature. At 25 he was head of the Arts Department, Shanghai Fine Arts College and an instructor at the Literature Department, Kee Nan University.