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China mourns the loss of a spiritual teacher

By Xie Yu in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2012-10-09 10:32

China mourns the loss of a spiritual teacher

Villagers pay their respects to Nan Huaijin at his ancestral hometown in Dianhou village, Zhejiang province. Provided to China Daily

Nan Huaijin, one of the most renowned masters in Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist studies in modern China, passed away on Sept 29 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. He was 95.

Nan enjoys great fame and respect in the country for his contributions to China's traditional culture studies. He has written more than 50 books on subjects related to Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

In total, more than 20 million copies of his books have been sold in Chinese-speaking countries. Some of his more popular works have gone on their 20th printing editions and his works on Confucianism are used as standard university references on the mainland and in Taiwan.

Among his books, Lunyu Biecai - roughly translated as Analects from Other - which was published in 1976, rendered the profound prose of Confucius' Lunyu, or The Analects, into layman's language.

The book, which included wise stories and humorous explanations, sparked great discussion in Chinese society about the understanding of Confucius' ideas.

Zhou Ruijin, a doctoral tutor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says that in the capacity as Nan's student Zhou saw that Nan is a "synthesizer of traditional Chinese culture".

"Nan has been committed to helping and saving people, and spreading Chinese culture in his life. He also contributed to promoting the cross-Straits relations. He has accomplished a charitable and pious deed," Zhou says.

Born in 1918 to a scholar-class family in a small town in Zhejiang province, Nan studied various Confucian and Taoist works, traditional Chinese medicine and literature, calligraphy and martial arts.

In the late 1930s, Nan became a military commander in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Nan moved to Taiwan in 1949 where he became a well-known university professor and author. His first book, The Sea of Zen, was published in 1956.

Nan's books have achieved great popularity on the mainland and in Taiwan, and have been translated into several languages.

It is said that Nan had also acted as a secret envoy and contributed to the first talks between the mainland and Taiwan around 1990, when he was staying in Hong Kong. Officials across the Straits had a secret meeting in Hong Kong made possible by his help.

In 2004, Nan returned to the mainland. He later founded Taihu Great Learning Center in Suzhou. The private school is meant to spread traditional Chinese culture.

Nan's thoughts and books have greatly influenced Chinese society. Although there are people who criticized his works as not being rigorous enough, he has definitely crafted his own style and has many followers.

Nan even has his own set of commandments, called the "six qualities for being a person":

1. Be calm; speak less; listen more.

2. Be slow; do things steadily. Be patient, and avoid irritable and petulant feelings.

3. Be tolerant; when faced with injustice, don't become angry or give vent to pent-up emotion. It is wise to tolerate others.

4. Yield; step back; be as boundless as the sea and sky.

5. Be light; view everything lightly, as many things will become smoke as time goes by.

6. Be even; which is being ordinary and balanced.

xieyu@chinadaily.com.cn