Never Too Late: “Silver-Age” Professors in Xinjiang

2022-September-22 15:36 By:

All in their sixties or over, a group of experts and professors embarked on a journey to the west of China, leaving behind them the comfortable life in retirement to go back to classrooms, where they have devoted their whole lives to guiding and inspiring young minds.

Recently, Xinjiang University of Political Science and Law received applications for extended tenure from all of its “silver-age” teachers, who had arrived a year ago on a one-year aid program and, having excellently fulfilled their teaching tasks, decided to stay and prolong their service.

University staff were not surprised at all on receiving the application from Chen Changsheng and Feng Yuemei, a couple so passionate about helping Xinjiang that they participated twice in aid programs. Chen, the husband, now 69, retired as the Party Committee Secretary at the library of Jilin University in northeast China’s Jilin Province. His wife, professor Feng, is a researcher and teacher in computer graphics.

In 2020, when the Ministry of Education rolled out the “go west” program for “silver-age” professors, Feng immediately signed up and went to the College of Information Studies at Tarim University. Chen accompanied her there and was assigned the role as a library consultant. As their term ended in Tarim, they signed up for the second batch of aid programs and then came to Xinjiang University of Political Science and Law.

When construction of the university’s new library was to be completed, Chen Changsheng discovered a bunch of technical problems during inspection. With the help of the university management, Chen tried to fix those problems along with the designing group and the construction unit. There were 160,000 volumes of books to be moved from the school’s north campus to the south one, and Chen shuttled non-stop between the two campuses, examining the inventory of books and making plans for transportation.

“In order to build a first-rate university, a first-rate library is indispensable.” Speaking of the reason for his decision to stay, Chen said that the university’s library had just been brought on the right track, so he would like to further enhance its services and bring it to a next level.

“In China’s southern Xinjiang, I returned to the the podium, and was rewarded with applause, happiness and fulfillment. I’d love to continue living like this,” Li Ming, a retired professor from China University of Political Science and Law, said passionately. In 2021, professor Li traveled all the way from Beijing to Xinjiang. Taking up the job to teach “Legal History of China,” he has so far lectured over 400 students for more than 160 hours.

“Such courses can be quite mundane to listen to, but Professor Li has made it interesting,” says Wang Xinquan, a law student at the university. According to him, Professor Li’s profound understanding of what he teaches allows him to make effective and fascinating comparisons between different dynasties, which greatly impresses his students.

Li Ming’s lectures also attracted a group of young teachers. “When he steps onto the podium, it is hard for one to realize he is already in his 60s,” said a young teacher of the law school. “His passion, wisdom and insight deeply moves everyone in the classroom.”

Contributed by Shang Jie and Wang Yizhao, Guangming Daily correspondents.

Translated by Wang Jinhong

Editor: Zhang Zhou
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