I never had the chance to meet Professor Liang Sicheng in person, but I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to listen to a recording of his voice. I never doubted that the metal frame he was wearing was not the only thing that supported the unstable bones of his thin body, and I have searched for meaning of the pillar (in society). In this exhibition marking the 120thanniversary of Liang’s birth I would like to share my thoughts with you.
Pillar in the society requires height and depth in the thought. Thus, this exhibition starts with Liang’s quest to improve himself and learn. His pursuit of knowledge was the result of several factors: his family heritage; the global mindset gained from his studying experience in the West; the direction given by traditional Chinese culture; and his own personality. These factors formed the starting point for Liang’s achievements, or to be more precise, they heightened the prospect for Liang’s academia success.
Pillar is strong and thrived under pressure. And Liang like that pillar developed a strength and skill in expressing himself in writing. Therefore, the core content of this exhibition is the story of Chinese architecture history studies written by Liang Sicheng and his colleagues, who turned a fragmented collection of past events into a compelling narrative (after they had carried out in-depth research to confirm the facts).Additionally, despite the many difficult situations Liang had to overcome in his life, Liang’s respect for the past was contagious and brought many others to cherish and preserve old Chinese buildings.
Pillarrequires intersectoral and multidisciplinary character. Liang waslike the pillar which carried social responsibility and supported education ranging from design practice to theory, from cultural heritage preservation to the future of the human habitat. In this sense, this exhibition covers a small but very diverse range of topics including Liang’s design proposals of the Chinese National Emblem, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the preservation of the historical city of Beijing, as well as his contributions to the establishment of the architecture departments of Northeastern University and Tsinghua University. Furthermore, although Liang began his life journey with academic research, he made his research later useful to society, which reflects the stages of his life (growing from a young man into a father, grandfather, and distinguished scholar) as well as his personal commitment and willingness to sacrifice.
Pillar in the society does not see self-sacrifice as a sacrifice, pressure was not a burden, because withstanding a pressure was a necessary condition for success and happiness. Liang once claimed that he was a diligent but happy “workman”. Liang’s great quote is one that we probably still can draw inspiration from and use as a motto to live our lives by in the Age of Celebrity.