Lin Ganquan, male and from the Han ethnic group, born in November 1931, is a native of Shishi, Fujian Province and a member of the Communist Party of China. He is a member of the Presidium of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Academic Divisions. In April 1949, he was an undergraduate student of the department of history of Xiamen University. He has served as a researcher of the Institute of Chinese History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and PhD student advisor, President of the China Guo Moruo Research Society, and consultant of the Qin and Han Dynasty History Research Association of China. His academic expertise is in ancient China’s social economic history. In 1984, he won the “Young and Mid-aged Expert with Outstanding Contribution” Award. Since 1991, he has enjoyed a special allowance awarded by the State Council.
In Search of History
Zhao Kai (hereinafter referred to as Zhao): Hello, Mr. Lin. I have learnt that when you were still young you had joined the underground organization of the Chinese Communist Party. You have transformed from a party member of the underground organization to a famous historian. As for me, one from the younger generation, such experience makes me feel peculiar more or less. Would you please talk about such extraordinary life experience of you?
Lin Ganquan (hereinafter referred to as Lin): The experience you mentioned just now is, as a matter of fact, a very ordinary for the people from our generation. There is nothing special for us. The people living in the old China were in the abyss of bitterness so many young people chose the way of taking part in the revolution. Even if someone who did not take part in the revolution in a direct way but chose to study, they also hoped to serve the country after they had made achievements in their study. However, after that I was engaged in the researches on the history and as a matter of fact it was an occasional choice to a certain degree. In 1948, in accordance with the arrangement of the Party organization, I was admitted to study at the department of history of Xiamen University. At the same time, I also took part in the student movements. In April 1949, right before the liberation army crossed over the river to the southern part of China, since the Fujian-Zhejiang-Jiangxi city construction department of the Communist Party of China which I was subordinate to ran into trouble, some colleagues and I were forced to leave Xiamen. We went to the North China Liberated Areas by way of Hong Kong and entered the North China University for study. In 1950, the Renmin University of China was founded and the Party organization assigned me to the research department of the school and to do the administrative works. In 1953, the Chinese Academy of Sciences set up the No. 1 Institute of History, the No. 2 Institute of History and the No. 3 Institute of History and started the magazine of A Study of History. I was transferred to the editorial department of the A Study of History to serve as an editor. Several years later, I was transferred to the No. 1 Institute of History and the Institute of History which was founded after that.
Zhao: I was told that the first article you published was the Discussion on the Stages Separated from the Slavery and the Feudalism in China that you written at the respect of the People's Daily. However, I noticed that you have not included this article in your collected papers that you created after that. Why did not you?
Lin: This is an academic report of the style of review article. It cannot be regarded as an academic thesis of research. However, it has the significance of being a commencement in my academic career. At that time, the overseas version of the magazine People's China translated this article into English and Japanese and reprinted it. It was a kind of encouragement for me on my academic works. What this article consoled me is that though I agreed with Guo Moruo on his “Warring States Feudal Theory” at that time I consciously laid emphasis on the “Wei and Jin Dynasties Feudal Theory”, even though the latter did not gain the support as much as the former gained. I did not unite with those of the same views but alienate those with different views and after that it has been the academic concept that I am consistent in.
With respect to the people from our generation, we did not have a systemic process of study due to the reason that is known to all. Our accumulation is limited and “have an inadequate natural endowment while our acquired disposition is imbalanced”. The number of our research achievement which can stand the test of history is small for this reason. The young scholars from your generation attend the university and attend graduate school before learning for the doctor’s degree. You have a lot of time to pursue study and the conditions for the scientific research are good as well. Therefore, it is easy for you to make achievements. I hope you can cherish the good time and good condition today and make more contribution to the researches on history.
Zhao: Mr. Lin, you have a very extensive field of pursuing studies and doing researches, from the history of the pre-Qin period, the history of Qin Dynasty and Han Dynasty, the history of politics, the history of economy and the history of society to the theory of historical science and the history of historical science. You have published a great number of works with significance in nearly every field. It can be said that you have a wild range and great highlights in your study. Would you like to talk about your experience with respect to this?
Lin: It cannot be referred to as experience however I have some realizations with respect to this. As a scholar engaged in the historical researches, I used to “have an inadequate natural endowment”. I only have studied at the department of history of Xiamen University for one year, and I gave the greater priority to the student movements. To be honest, I used to have not enough time to read even the basic works such as the Records of the Grand Historian and the Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government. At the beginning of the 1950s, I entered the Chinese Academy of Sciences and served as an editor in the editorial department of the A Study of History. During the several years when I was working as an editor, I have gained a lot. At that time, the chief editor was Ying Da and the associate editor was Liu Danian. There were only three people who were engaged in the specific works, including me. The pieces of writing for publication that the A Study of History received covered a range of the history of ancient China, the modern and contemporary Chinese history and world history. This situation forced me to do more readings and read a variety of materials. It can be said that I have completed the basic academic accumulation during the process of editing.
An advantage of the editorial department of A Study of History was to learn from the experts who examined and approved manuscripts. At that time the editorial advisory board members took part in the works of examining and approving manuscripts of A Study of History. All of them were famous historians. Take Guo Moruo for example. At that time, he was the director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and held a concurrent post of the director of the Institute of History. He also served as the convener of the editorial committee. In addition, he also took part in the works of examining and approving manuscripts of the publication in person sometimes. The academic points of view, the methods of doing researches and the virtue of pursuing studies of history that shown from the scholars of the older generation in their opinions of examining and approving manuscripts made me benefit a lot. In addition, during the process when I was working in the editorial department, I concentrated on the manuscripts and my vision was broadened with respect to academics.
As I recall now, the several years when I was working at the editorial department of A Study of History can be referred to as my staring point and foundation for me when I am engaged in the scientific researches in the future. I am very thankful for the arrangement that the organization prepared for me at that time. Some people said that to be an editor is to fulfill someone else's dream. However, I do not think so. Several years ago, one of my students was in search of a job and he asked for my opinion on whether he should take the post of an editor of an academic publication. I told him about my experience in this period. The job of being an editor is a great challenge for them and it is also a chance for them to develop themselves. When one is serving others, the job can be conducive to his own progress. To use the term that is popular nowadays, it can be a “win win situation”. However, only if one has the firm belief in terms of academics and the persistent pursuit of academics as well as has the spirit of “ not insisting Castle relax”, can he gain the results of the “win win situation”.
Zhao: Mr. Lin, in your academic career which is several decades long, you have paid attention to and doing researches on the history of the land system in ancient China for a long period of time. In addition to the works of serving as the chief editor of the first volume of the History of Land System in Feudal China, you also published many theses of great influence. Would you please talk about your achievements and researches at this aspect?
Lin: I involved in the researches of the history of the land system in ancient China derived from the relevant discussion with Mr. Hou Wailu. Mr. Hou Wailu used to be the deputy director of the No. 2 Institute of History (which was merged with the No. 1 Institute of History afterwards). It was very helpful for me with respect to my academic development. He published a thesis in the Issue 1 of A Study of History issued in 1954 and he put forward that “the mediaeval times system of feudalism in China featured the land monopoly system of the landlords of imperial lineage however the legal concept of right of private ownership of the land was relatively rare”. The conclusion drawn by him was in accordance with the “Asian form of land ownership” which was referred to in the original works written by Marx. The “land monopoly system of the landlords of imperial lineage” here is, as a matter of fact, the land ownership of feudal state. This article has a great influence at that time. I wrote an article under the title of On the Land Ownership in the Han Dynasty and put forward the different point of view. In the light of that the land ownership of the feudal landlords which took the dominant position was the ordinary state of the land ownership of the feudal society in China. Only after the large scale chaos caused by war, could the state ownership of land take the dominate position in a certain period. With the recovery and development of social economy, the land ownership of the landlord will make a rapid expansion again and take the place of the state ownership to become the main stream. The judgments made by the writers of the classic workers of Marxism are only applicable to the primitive commune ownership of land before the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. However, if it is applied to the period after the Qin and Han Dynasties, it will be inconsistent with the historical truth.
My researches on the history of land system started from this. In 1963, I published an article in A Study of History and made a further exploration and discussion with respect to the process in which the land ownership of the feudal China came into being. In 1986, I published an article under the title of the Specific Approaches of the Privatization of Land in Ancient China. In line with the archaeological studies materials that was newly discovered, such as the bamboo slip found in Yianque Mountain and the bamboo slip found in the tomb of Qin Dynasty in Shuihudi as well as combining with the traditional literatures, I pointed out the approaches of the privatization of land in ancient China: one of the approaches was to change the land of peasants of the primitive commune into the private land of individual small peasant; the other approach to use the land that belonged to the landlords and change the land into their private land as well as the land that the country rewarded to the people with military exploit and the noblemen as well. It is every important to distinguish the two kinds of land ownership of labors from the land ownership of non-labors. The process of the land privatization in China not only is in line with the common law of the historical development in all countries in the world but also has its own features. In this article, I wanted to specify the other point of view that the land ownership of primitive commune has the dual nature of state ownership and private ownership. The growth of the factors of private ownership is certain to facilitate the disintegration of the state ownership. The fact that the private ownership of the land took the place of the state ownership is the progress of history, however its consequence was the polarization between the rich and the poor and it was too big a price for the peasants to pay.
By means of a series of researches, I found that in the feudal society of China, there was not the demarcation line that cannot exceed between the state ownership and the private ownership. On the contrary, they often transformed into each other. The private ownership of land in the feudal society is a kind of feudal private ownership which was “not free”. Some scholars pointed out that the land could be bought and purchased with freedom after the Qin and the Han Dynasties, which is inaccurate. I also pointed out that the powers and functions structure of the land ownership are reflected at different levels: the rights of possession, the power of operation, the right of use, the right to earnings and the right of disposing and so on. The distinguishing and definition of these powers and functions are becoming more and more clear and definite with the increasing improvement of the development and the legal system of the commodity economy of a country. In the pre-capitalist society, it was impossible for the connotations and distinction between each of the powers and functions of the land ownership to be rigor and definite. In the real life, they were often promiscuous with each other. These points of view and opinions of mine were specified in the first volume of the History of Land System in Feudal China.
Zhao: Mr. Lin, from the process in which you do researches on the land system we can see that you attach great importance to the possession of the historical materials that can have a great number as far as possible and the usage of historical materials that that can be profound as far as possible. You insist on taking the theory of Marxism as your guiding ideology but you do not have a dogmatic understanding of Marxism. Would you like to talk about what you know from experience with respect to this?
Lin: This point that you mentioned is, as a matter of fact, how to treat the issue of the integration of the theory of Marxism and the historical materials. With respect to this question, the academic circle is keeping on discussion over it. It can be said that so far the question has not been solved completely. As a scientific theory and method, Marxism is the guidance that claries the development of history. However, it cannot be used as a ready-made formula for cutting the history. The researches with real evidence and the collating of historical materials are both necessary for the researches on history. However, with respect to clarifying the historical issues that are relatively profound and in-depth as well as relatively macroscopic, it is impossible to only depend on setting out the materials without any theoretical direction. Those who are engaged in the researches on history shall constantly improve their own theoretical foundation on the basis of the procession of the detailed materials.
Zhao: During the process when you are pursuing studies, you keep highly sensitive to and pay much attention to the frontier issues with respect to academics and the hot issues as well. With respect to the attention you have paid to the frontier issues and hot issues, the three articles under the tile of How to Treat the Karl August Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism, the Prototype and the Historical Process on Early Stage of the Stratum of Intellectual in Ancient China and the From the Eurocentrism to the Sinocentrism: Ponder over the New Trend of Western Scholars’ Researches on Economic History of China that written by you. The objects that the three articles were aimed at are respectively the Oriental Despotism: the Comparative Study on Centralized Power written by Wittfogel, the Scholars and the Chinese Culture written by Yu Yingshi and the Silver Capital – Attaching Importance to the East in Economic Globalization written by Gunder Frank as well as the Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy written by Peng Mulan. The several works and the points of view of the scholars had great influence on the academic circle in China in the 1980s, 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century. Would you please make a summary to set forth you opinion on the relevant issues?
Lin: Since the Oriental Despotism written by Wittfogel was published, it has been a very controversial book. It has influence all over the world to a certain degree. At that time, on some international forums, there were a lot of scholars who would quote the opinions in this book as long as the issues related to the Asian mode of production and the road to development of the third world and so on were discussed. Some people mentioned it in the same breath of the Economy and Society written by Max Weber. In 1989, after the Chinese translation version of this book was published, there were a lot of scholars in our country who were influence by it. As far as I am concerned, the Oriental Despotism written by Wittfogel seems to be a theoretical and academic works but as a matter of fact it is the product of the cold war policy of the imperialism. It was aimed at explaining that the “totalitarian rule” and the “tyranny of government” of the Communist Party have their historical tradition. Wittfogel praised himself that he had made in-depth studies on the theoretical heritage of Marx, but as a matter of fact there were full of the misrepresentation of Marxism in this book. He took China as the specimen of so-called “Hydraulic Society” however some basic points of view of his cannot bear closer analysis of the real evidence. He explained the history of China in a random way. Lee me tell you an example. As he said, under the governance of the Oriental Despotism, the merchants did not dare to have the consumptions as exquisite and luxurious as the European merchants in the Middle Ages did. As it known to all of us who are engaged in the researches on the history of the Qin and Han Dynasties, by the end of the two Han Dynasties, the trend of merchants to pursue the luxurious life had been increasingly fierce. There are a great number of examples that are recorded in the historical records. Yao Cuo said that the merchants “travel for a long distance and there is a gathering of dignitaries. They ride on a strong carriage and whip fat horses. They wore silk shoes and draggle-tail long gowns.” In such a condition of materials at that time, if it was not “luxurious” enough, what can be referred to as “luxurious”? In a word, the Oriental Despotism written by Wittfogel that was in the attractive clothing of theory and academics, however it was the calumniation and attack to the Soviet Union and China in nature. In both of my article How to Treat the Karl August Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism and a small article I published in the Guangming Daily on September 14, 1990, I put forward my opinion of criticism.
The Scholars and the Chinese Culture written by Yu Yingshi has a great influence in the academic circles at home and abroad. Since the 1980s and the 1990s, the “scholars” in ancient China was the hot issues in the academic circle. A great number of works appeared and the Scholars and the Chinese Culture written by Yu Yingshi was one of them. It is good enough to be regarded as the most influential work of them. There are some thought provoking points of view in this book, such as the relation between the formation of the scholars in the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States Period as a stratum of intellectual and the social changes and so on. However, there are a lot of contents which are debatable in this book. As far as Yu Yingshi is concerned, the “scholars” that appeared on the historical stage in the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States Period all regarded the “principle” of “criticizing the political society and fighting against the princes and marquises” as their “spiritual wellness”. They not only represented the “doctrine” but also believed in that “the doctrine is more important than the power”. The rulers of the Qin Dynasty “only knew there is political order but they do not there is also the cultural order”, thus the dynasty only lasted for two generation before it was destroyed. The Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty respected the Confucianism, the reason of which is that the political authority had to come to terms with the cultural power in the end rather than that the Confucianism is to the benefit of the absolute rule”. As far as I am concerned, the statement made in this book on the status and function of the intelligentsia in Chinese history is inconsistent with the historical truth. In addition, the purpose of the author to apply colors to the intelligentsia in the history that have the “character” of fighting against the political power and criticizing the social reality on purpose is very obvious as well. After that, I wrote the article under the title of Prototype and the Historical Process on Early Stage of the Stratum of Intellectual in Ancient China and pointed out that the stratum of intellectual represented by the scholars in the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States Period demonstrated the trend of diversification at the very beginning. The so-called “the doctrine is more influential than the power” Narcissus complex of the Confucian elites. The Qin Dynasty only has held the power for a short time before its destruction as a result of that a variety of social contradictions assembled and intensified rather than for the reason of the sharp conflicts between the official concepts of the Legalism and the doctrine concept of the Confucian. The reason why Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty applied the “Overwhelming Confucianism” is not the compromise of the “political authority” to the “cultural forces” but the political necessity of the imperial power or authority in feudal society to strengthen the absolutism centralization of authority. With respect to the overall social status of the stratum of intellectual in the feudal society of China, it leeched on to feudal ruling class. I still take the view that the society is complicated and the traditional cultures of China are full of variety. The orientation of the political ethics and the values of the ancient stratum of intellectual were diverse as well. Perhaps the ideal and perfect things are more attractive however the historical truth and they are often antinomy to each other.
The article under the title of From the Eurocentrism to the Sinocentrism was a reading note that I wrote after I took part in the symposium organized by the editorial department of Researches on Chinese History of Economy with respect to the Silver Capital and the Great Divergence and had some feeling and thinking. The Eurocentrism is a kind of prejudice of the western scholars for a long period of time. It is reasonable for Frank to criticize the Eurocentrism however he also criticized Marx as the Eurocentrism, which was to pin label on him indiscreetly. The Sinocentrism put forward by Frank, namely that before the Industrial Revolution in Europe China took the central position in the world economy, was also an untenable argument as well. Why say that? This point of view is in lack of the support of real evidence. The feudal economy of China used to develop greatly in the history and it used to exert a great and positive influence on the Southeast Asia. However, China has ever been the center of the “economic system of the world” as Frank said. I even take the view that the so-called Sinocentrism is, as a matter of fact, a trap. It is a new trend that the western academic circles of the economic history deny the theory of Marxist social-economic formation. With respect to this, we have to raise our vigilance.
Zhao: Mr. Lin, the works such as the Comparative Study between the Socialist Industrialization and Capitalist Industrialization, the Silver Capital – Giving Priority to the Researches on the Theories of Socialist Industrialization, and the Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy and so on you mentioned just now are all introduced to China from foreign countries and all of them have great influence on China as well. They have leaded to the discussion on a certain scale. The articles with pertinence that you wrote show your opinion on the foreign academic results to a certain degree. Would you like to make a summary that with respect to using the foreign theories and methods of historical science and absorbing the foreign research achievements of historical science what we shall do?
Lin: I remember that when Deng Xiaoping referred to the reform and opening up, he said that, “we shall sum up the historical experience. One of the important reasons for China to be at the status of stagnating and falling behind for a long time are that it closed the country to international intercourse. The experience proves that if we concentrate on construction behind the closed door we will never succeed. The development of China cannot do without the world.” The conclusion has the same significance if put in the field of historical studies. I advocate that we shall treat all historical research results by an attitude of open mind and contention of a hundred schools of thought. We shall absorb the useful part of these research results; with respect to the unreasonable or even wrong part of the research results, if we accept them without any consideration it is a kind of introduction without digestion as far as I am concerned. Though the works such as the Silver Capital and the Great Divergence that I mentioned just now may not be accepted by the Chinese scholars, their theoretical courage of posing a challenge to the old statements, their extensive academic vision and their strong sense of times all give us a lot of inspiration and have the function of improving us to deepen the thinking of Chinese economy and the researches on the social history in the context of economic globalization. If we make inspection on these works from a perspective of real evidence, we will be certain to find out that some arguments are in lack of the support of the real evidence or there are misunderstanding of the historical materials. However these shortcomings are all in the day's work. The theoretical value and academic value of the two works will not be obliterated as a result of the shortcomings.
Primarily, the purpose for us to use the foreign theories and methods in the field of historical science for reference and to absorb all outstanding academic results of the foreign countries is to develop the construction of Marxist historical science with Chinese characteristics.
Zhao: Since 1949, the Marxist historical science has always been the main stream of the historical science in China. In recent years, there is a trend of thought that weaken the value of Marxism as the theoretical direction in the academic circle. What is your opinion with respect to this?
Lin: From the past to the present, I always believe in Marxism and believe in the historical materialism since as far as I am concerned the historical materialism is a kind of theory that is open and developing. It attaches great importance to enriching its system by means of new thoughts and materials as well as new research results so as to maintain its theoretical vitality all along. Barraclough who used to hold the post of the president of the British History Society said, “There is no doubt that the only ‘philosophy of history’ that still keeps its vitality and internal potential at present is the Marxism”. Some famous western bourgeois historians including Faivre, one of the founders of the Annales School think highly of Marxism. Can the people who “weaken the Marxism” in our country learn something from these evaluations of them? As for me, I believe in Marxism all long.
The Marxism is not something that cannot be criticized. However, the criticism shall be reasonable and supported by evidence. We cannot make subjective assumption let alone go with the tide. Some people have never have a systemic and careful study of Marxism or even have not come into contact with the most classic works of Marxism, but they make indiscreet remarks or criticisms on Marxism and make an arbitrary attack on it. There is no doubt that this attitude is undesirable and the research results obtained in that way are certain to be not convincing.
Zhao: The 17 years from the establishment of the new China to the Great Cultural Revolution is a special period in the history of the People's Republic of China. There is a specific term of “the 17 year literature” in the literary circles and there is also the discussion of “the 17 year historical science” in the circles of historical science. Some take the view that the 17 years is the period when the Chinese researches on historical science stagnated or even retrogressed. What is your opinion?
Lin: The establishment of new China put an end to the war and turmoil in China that had lasted for a long time and it should have been a great chance for the development of historical science. At the beginning of the 1950s, the Party and the government put forward the policy of “all flowers bloom together and all schools of thoughts contend for attention”, which, to a great degree, facilitated the formation of the vivid and lively situation in the circles of historical science at that time. However, the political movements that took place after that one after another had a server impact on the implementation of the “Two Hundred” policy (the policy of “all flowers bloom together and all schools of thoughts contend for attention”) and did great harm to the historians’ academic enthusiasm. I still remember that in the anti the Right movement that took place in 1957, Mr. Lei Haizong put forward the point of view that the slave society “can only be an exception and it is impossible for it to be a common practice” and this opinion was wrongly regarded as the attack to Marxism done by the Right and thus was criticized. Mr. Xiang Da and Mr. Rong Mengyuan expressed some normal opinions with respect to the researches on history but they were also put the label of the “Right” on and criticized as well. By 1958, a great number of famous historians had been found fault with for no reason in the movement of criticizing the bourgeois academics. The interference of political movements as well as the historians’ undue understanding of Marxism encouraged the development of the wrong tendency in the historical studies and the history teaching. For example, the Marxism was simplified, formulized and dogmatized; the western theories and methods of bourgeois historical science were blindly rejected; and the historical function of class struggle was understood by vulgarization, and so on. As far as I am concerned, the development of historical science in the 17 years had a great number of shortcomings and faults. It is a truth that has no need for reticence.
However, if we regard the “17 year historical science” as that without a single redeeming feature or even regard it to stagnate and retrogress due to these shortcomings and faults, it will be very partial and not practical and realistic either. It is stated that some hot issues in this period such as the “Five Golden Flowers” that are criticized by some people are not only the peasant war. The discussion of the “Five Golden Flowers” have attracted a great number of famous historians to take part in, promoted the in-depth researches on relevant issues and improved everyone’s level of understanding. In the second place, a lot of outstanding achievements were made in the circles of historical science at that time. There were the general history, the specific history and they monographic study as well as the research results taking Marxism as guidance and the works based on the textual research. So far, these works are still the important reference books for the historians, especially the young scholars to engage in the historical studies and the history teaching. How can we regard the 17 year field of historical science as something without a single redeeming feature?
Zhao: You used to hold the posts of the research director of the Institute of History, the director as well as the secretary of the Party committee of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and you have made contribution to the construction of the Institute of History. You also used to hold the posts of member of Appraisal Group of the History Subject of the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council, the member of History Group of Social Science Fund, the vice president of the Chinese Historical Society and the president of the research society of History of Qin and Han Dynasties. You must have a lot of experience and understanding with respect to the academic organization, don’t you?
Lin: From the Institute of History was established up to the present, I am working here and I have a deep affection to the Institute of History. It has been more than a half century so far since the Institute of History was founded in 1954. The fruitful achievements have been made in the field of researches on historical science and a great number of outstanding historian talents have been fostered and delivered. There were a lot of famous historians who enjoy a high reputation at home and abroad in the Institute of History, such as Hou Wailu, Yin Da, Gu Jigang, Yang Xiangkui, Hu Houxuan, He Changqun, Zhang Zhengliang, Wang Yuquan, Sun Yutang and Xie Guozhen and so on. All of them are researchers from the Institute of History. There are also some famous historians such as Xiang Da, Meng Wentong, Tang Changru, Tan Qixiang, Bai Shouyi, Weng Dujian, Han Guoqin, Li Yan and Qiu Hansheng and so on who took part in the researches of the Institute of History and guided the young scholars by means of taking part-time job. So many famous historians gathered together and the scientific research power of the Institute of History at that time was second to none in our country. Many young scholars who had the ambition of engaging in the historical studies regarded the Institute of History as their first choice for applying for a job. The good academic atmosphere was also conducive to their development as well. Now, the experts from the older generation have passed away and many of the former key members in researches have retired. In recent years, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, including the Institute of History lacks advantage with respect to recruiting talents. The regulations with respect to the promotion of professional qualifications of the researchers are not up to expectations either. Therefore, some people who are in the prime of their life change their job, and thus the crisis of fault also appear in the “national team” of us.
The Chinese Academy of Social Science is the “think tank” of the country. We must not break away from such orientation with respect to the allocation of resources of talents. The historical science is a basic subject. We shall not only attach importance to the lineage of academics but also lay emphasis on the basic construction of the subject. In addition, we shall also pay attention to the development trend of this subject at home and abroad, to the demand of the country and the people and attach importance to the innovation of theories and academics. We are shouldering heavy responsibilities. The original major fields of the Institute of History were complete and had advantage of talents in several major fields. However, the advantage of major fields may have been lost at present. Every time when some old veteran comrades talk about this, they feel worried about it. It is no bad for the individuation of study approaches and research fields, but we shall pay attention to giving play to the collective advantages. The Institute of History shall cultivate excellent talents for the country and provide the country with the best achievements in the field of historical science. To our delight, in recent years, some middle-aged scholars have played a pivotal role and some young scholars have made a figure. They make others look at them with new eyes. I believe that the Institute of History is bound to do crate a new glory on the basis of inheriting the good traditions of the older generation and makes its due contribution to the prosperity and development of the historical science of our country.
Zhao: Mr. Lin, you have been engaged in the historical studies for more than fifty years and you have also been occupied in the works of academic organizations for a long time. You have a lot of contract with a great number of historians from the older generation, so you are certain to have a lot of anecdotes and interesting news in the academic circles. Such information itself is important material for historical studies and you have particularly favorable natural conditions with respect to this. Do you have the plan to sort the information by means of writing a book of reminiscences?
Lin: In 1994 when the Institute of History celebrated its 40th anniversary of its establishment, I used to write an article under the tile of A Review of the Forty Years, in which I talked about some opinions and recalled something with respect to my experience that I had gained during the 40 year long works in the Institute of History from the perspectives of the research missions, collective cooperation, learning of Marxist theories, maintenance of the original research advantages and the exploration of the new research fields and so on. In 2004 when the grand celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Institute of History, I wrote another article under the title of Memories and Thoughts of the Fifty Years, in which I added and supplemented some new contents and made some new thinking. There are some comrades who advice me to make a systemic recall and sorting of what I have seen and heard in the circle of historical science. I have also considered this issue but I do not have the plan to do this at present. One reason is that I still have some scientific research items at hand now. The other reason is that I still take the view that if one writes the book of reminiscences, no matter whether it is about his own experience, what he sees and hears, his course of pursuing studies or the journey of his heart, the book of reminiscences shall be not only true and reliable but also different from keeping a work journal or making a day-to-day account. It is not so easy for the writer to be thoughtful and express a true disposition in the book, let alone that there may sometimes be some errors of one’s memory. I will consider it if it is possible in the future.
Zhao: Three years ago, one time I talked with you about the book under the title of The Last Twenty Years of Chen Yanke. You said that there were something inconsistent with the truth and they would mislead the readers. You are the witness of the development of historical science of new China. Your memory and understanding of the development of historical science of new China are bound to have significant value for the later generations to do researches on this history of historical science. We, the scholars of younger age are fervently desired that in your spare time you can sort the past in the circle of historical science and make new contribution to the researches on the history of historical science from a new perspective. Both of your social experience and the way of pursing studies will inspire and encourage us. This interview has held up your precious time. Wish you good health! Thank you!
Zhao Kai male, is from Horinger County, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He is the assistant researcher in the Institute of History in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and editor of Journal of Chinese Historical Studies. His major research fields are the social history and political history of the Qin and Han Dynasties.
Translated by Xu Qiyuan.
Translated by Xu Qiyuan.
Editor: Wang Daohang