A Free Spirit with Prin­ci­ples自在随意不逾矩

Special Focus - - HUMOR - By Tian Xiangyu 文 |田祥玉

Lyu Tongyu ac­cepted our th in­ter­view on Oc­to­ber 13 , th 2015, the day of the 111 birth­day of his fa­ther Lyu Zheng­cao. He didn’t look like a man of 73: though he was not dressed warmly in the bit­ingly frigid Oc­to­ber air in Bei­jing, his face shone with the ro­bust­ness of a man half his age. He doesn’t have a pri­vate car. In­stead of tak­ing a taxi, he got to the in­ter­view by sub­way and bus. As his usual trans­porta­tion is a scooter, he does not go more than five miles from his house on a sunny day.

The jour­nal­ist was sur­prised to see him com­ing by bus. He smiled and said: “My fa­ther could even play tennis when he was 90 years old. The sim­ple life makes us healthy and com­fort­able. It also brings longevity.” He is right. His fa­ther Lyu Zheng­cao died at 106 years old, mak­ing him the long­est liv­ing gen­eral of the found­ing fa­thers of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China.

Lyu Zheng­cao had acted as Gen­eral Zhang Xueliang’s lieu­tenant and sec­re­tary, and par­tic­i­pated in the war against Ja­panese in­vaders and the War of Lib­er­a­tion. He served as the Min­is­ter of Rail­ways after 1949, and made great con­tri­bu­tions to the devel­op­ment of the rail­way sys­tems in China. In spite of his great achieve­ments and con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try, Lyu Zheng­cao al­ways told his chil­dren mod­estly, “I only did three things in my life: fight­ing against Ja­panese in­vaders, build­ing rail­ways, and play­ing tennis. I like all three of those things, so I ded­i­cated my life to them; I feel very good about my life. I have no re­grets.”

Lyu Tongyu said that his fa­ther never in­ter­fered with their stud­ies and work, and he would never seek any ben­e­fit for them by us­ing his power. He didn’t care if his chil­dren would be rich or pow­er­ful. He just wanted his chil­dren to live a care­free life with prin­ci­ples, just like their fa­ther did.

“My fa­ther’s motto is ‘be­ing freespir­ited with prin­ci­ples,’” said Lyu Tongyu. His fa­ther never forced them to do any­thing. Lyu Tongyu was naughty in his child­hood. His fa­ther would never crit­i­cize him as long as he didn’t vi­o­late the rules. But if he vi­o­lated them, his fa­ther would

re­buke him.

Once when play­ing poker with friends, he found that a player had hid­den cards up into his sleeve, so he used the same trick, feel­ing that he would never win other­wise. His fa­ther was very an­gry about it when he found out, and scolded him, “Why didn’t you learn good be­hav­ior? You just learned how to cheat. You will achieve noth­ing if you be­have like this.”

Since then, Lyu Tongyu kept his fa­ther’s words in mind. No mat­ter whether of a test at school or a re­search after grad­u­a­tion, he al­ways worked dili­gently and earnestly, and never took any short­cuts or used any tricks to get ahead.

Lyu Tongyu once had an op­por­tu­nity to be pro­moted as direc­tor gen­eral be­fore he re­tired from the China Aerospace Sci­ence and In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion, but he would not be able to do re­search if he took on the role of an ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer. He hes­i­tated and then de­cided to ask for his fa­ther’s opin­ion. Lyu Zheng­cao said, “Don’t think about the power. What mat­ters is your abil­ity.” His fa­ther’s words were a real eye-opener. Lyu Tongyu stopped wor­ry­ing about the pro­mo­tion and de­voted his last years to sci­en­tific re­search be­fore re­tire­ment.

Lyu Zheng­cao never asked his chil­dren about their pro­fes­sional ti­tles or salaries. He of­ten told them, “Ac­tual con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try will bring you more peace and joy than to show off fame and wealth.” There­fore, Lyu Tongyu al­ways went to par­ties and gath­er­ings alone by his scooter, while other peo­ple drove lux­ury cars and wore de­signer clothes with bevies of beau­ti­ful sec­re­taries and en­tourages of strong body­guards fol­low­ing be­hind. He did not feel in­se­cure about the con­di­tions of his life, in fact he was per­fectly com­fort­able with it, and didn’t feel that he lost face in front of his friends.

Lyu Tongyu be­lieved that his fa­ther’s phi­los­o­phy of “be­ing freespir­ited” was es­tab­lished on the ba­sis of con­tin­u­ous study, think­ing, and exercising, which gave him a sound health both phys­i­cally and men­tally. Born to a poor farmer’s fam­ily, Lyu Zheng­cao was very knowl­edge­able in a great many fields, and had a wide va­ri­ety of in­ter­ests. The fact that he had ex­pe­ri­enced life and death on the bat­tle­fields gave him per­spec­tive.

There were very few tennis courts in Bei­jing in the 1950s, and even less peo­ple who played tennis, but Lyu Zheng­cao still man­aged to find tennis com­pan­ions. China had its own na­tional tennis team be­cause of Mr. Lyu’s pro­posal, and play­ers then had their own train­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Lyu Zheng­cao be­came fas­ci­nated with the game of bridge in his old age and of­ten played with pro­fes­sion­als. Be­sides sports, he also read books and wrote in his di­ary every day. Lyu Tongyu said, “My fa­ther called him­self a poly­math. He read phi­los­o­phy, eco­nom­ics, his­tory, art, and other books. He al­ways said that books were bought to read rather than for col­lec­tion. When some­one gave him a col­lec­tion of clas­sics with ex­quis­ite hard cov­ers, he would of­ten do­nate them to li­braries.”

Lyu Zheng­cao once wrote a poem, in which he said, “I most love the color­ful kalei­do­scope of ra­di­ant rose that paints the sky afire at dusk, how aus­pi­cious it is for the days to be full and fruit­ful, even at life’s sun sets.”

Lyu Zheng­cao played tennis un­til 90 years old and played bridge un­til he was 97. He even swam at the age of 98. He kept the habit of writ­ing diaries and read­ing un­til he passed away. Lyu Tongyu said that his fa­ther had suf­fered a lot dur­ing child­hood and had been wounded on the bat­tle­fields, but the rea­son why he could live to over 100 years old was that he had main­tained a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards life. His fa­ther’s motto of “be­ing free-spir­ited with prin­ci­ples” is the most valu­able trea­sure left to him and his off­springs.

( From Mar­riage and Fam­ily, De­cem­ber 2015. Trans­la­tion: Li Li.)

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