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Sun, Jan 09, 2000 - Page 21 News List

What

Taiwan

is reading

By Joyce Yen

Born in China in 1946, Yu Qiouyu stunned Taiwan's readers with his immense learning and exquisite language in 1992, when his lyrical collection of essays, Bitter Journey Down a Culture, was published in Taipei.

In 1997, when the drama scholar came to visit Taiwan from Shanghai, his lectures packed auditoriums around the country.

By 1999, when Yu's book Chill Over a Long River was published, his literary reputation was so well established throughout the Chinese-language reading world that Chill Over a Long River became the first book in a decade to make the bestseller lists simultaneously in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei.

Yu's most famous essay is perhaps "Dark Corners of History," included in a 1995 collection titled Mountain Notes.

As much a leadership lesson as a commentary on history, "Dark Corners of History" is an in-depth discussion of a Confucian concept that has baffled Chinese philosophers for centuries.

In classical texts like the Analects, the Small Man often appears as the antithesis of the Gentleman.

But who exactly is the Small Man? In what way is he small?

According to Yu, the Small Man can be a rich, powerful, or even well-educated and highly cultured. He is not necessarily a petty criminal because he may be no criminal at all.

The Small Man creates confusion and helps bring great enterprises down by telling lies, spreading rumors and making insinuations.

He thrives because he can be very effective in carrying out his master's darker will.

Once the dirty task is done, he will be as effective in earning sympathy for himself by shedding tears and putting all the blame on someone else, such as his own master.

Can the Small Man be cured of his smallness?

Yu's answer is pessimistic and has provoked much discussion on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

But fortunately, while the Small Man is willing to go to all kinds of trouble for his own personal gain, he can't bear scrutiny.

Therefore, according to Yu, by paying more attention to what the Small Man is doing, we will be well on our way in the march against "smallness."

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