(Yicai Global) Feb. 7 -- World-renowned Chinese-born Hong Kong scholar Jao Tsung-i died early yesterday morning in Hong Kong at the age of 101.
Jao was born in 1917 in Chao'an, China's southern Guangdong province. His father, was a well-known scholar and businessman in Chaozhou, also in Guangdong. His home was once known to have the largest collection of books in eastern Guangdong. As the eldest son of the family, Jao was well educated from childhood. He took over the family business while continuing to study at the age of 15 when his father died.
Jao was invited to teach at Sun Yat-sen University when he was 21 years old. However, due to the War of Resistance against Japan, the university had to be relocated to the hinterland in China's southwestern Yunnan province. Jao suffered a serious illness on the way to Yunnan. During his recuperation period in Hong Kong, Jao met Wang Yunwu, then-editor in chief at the Commercial Press, and Yeh Kung-cho, the former head of Sinology at Peking University. When people recall Jao's centenarian life, they always mentioned the illness because from then on, he formally turned to the study of Sinology.
At the age of 85, Jao once said in a public lecture: "I can only do one thing, that is, to continue my father's academic research. I have discovered this 'fate' many times, and I do not quite understand why it is like this. "
Jao moved to Hong Kong in 1949. In the following decades, apart from teaching at institutions of higher learning worldwide including Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University, Yale University, Kyoto University and Peking University, he focused on his academic research and enjoyed a strong reputation in global sinological circles.
Jao's field of research was quite extensive, covering a wide range of fields such as oracle bone inscriptions, paleography, archeology, bamboo slips and silk manuscripts, Dunhuang Studies, ritual music, Songs of Chu studies, religious studies, chorography studies and the history of West Asia. He wrote many works such as "Jao Tsung-i's collection of works in the twentieth century" consisting of 14 volumes and 20 books. In addition, Jao was good at painting and calligraphy, poetry and Guqin (an ancient Chinese musical instrument).
In real life, Jao loved to travel all over the world. When he was over 80, he travelled to South America, a place had never been before. He gained the greatest pleasure from verifying in person what he had learned from books about foreign countries. Sometimes, he would be satisfied, and sometimes new doubts would arise, prompting him to continue his study to pursue the answer when he returned.
"I often indulgently travel, meditate, read and seek answers, and I take great pleasure from these," he once said, adding, "I feel surprised that I still have the mentality of a teenager."
In November 2017, Jao, who resided in Hong Kong, made a trip to Beijing to participate in the opening ceremony of an exhibition titled "Glamour of Lotus Flowers: the Painting and Calligraphy Works of Professor Jao Tsung-i " held at Beijing's National Art Museum of China and he donated ten works. It marked the last time he appeared in public.