Citation: Professor the Hon Louis CHA Doctor of Letters, honoris causa


A citation Written by Professor Danny PAAU and translated by Ms. Andrea HOPE

Mr. President,

It is my great honour to present Professor Louis Cha for the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

Professor Cha has had a rich and colourful career. In business, one of his most significant achievements is to have founded the highly respected Ming Pao Daily News and the Ming Pao Monthly which provides a platform for Chinese people all over the world to express their varied views and creativity. He is highly esteemed in the Chinese intelligentsia worldwide.

He has also made major contributions to public service particularly towards the highly valued rule of law in Hong Kong and its reunification with China: he has been a member of the Advisory Committee on Corruption, the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong, the HKSAR Preparatory Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the convener of its Sub-group on the Political System, and member of the Basic Law Consultative Committee.

Professor Cha has published in a wide range of areas including history, Buddhism, Chinese folk art, screenplays, film reviews, translation and, of course, his well known political editorials. The most widely read and influential of all however, must be his contribution to the martial arts genre. Professor Cha adopted “Jin Rong” as his pen-name for his 15 martial arts novels of which over 300 million copies have been sold to-date. Although Professor Cha stopped writing martial arts novels almost forty years ago, they remain in print and have been translated into English, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and other languages for his countless readers worldwide. They have been adapted for radio, TV, film and stage productions. If one takes into account the comic books, animations, computer games and even theme parks that are based on his characters and stories, it becomes clear that he has enriched Chinese folk culture and legends and also made a major contribution to its cultural and tourist industries.

Prof Cha and Dr Hu

His influence on Chinese cultural development has earned him worldwide recognition. He has received nine honorary degrees from institutions all over the world and has been appointed as honorary fellow or honorary professor at nineteen prominent universities including Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and Peking and Tsing Hua University in China. In addition, he has received fourteen awards and honours including three medals for lifetime achievement, three medals from the British and French governments, the title of “Contemporary Literary Giant of Hong Kong” and a Golden Bauhinia Medal from the HKSAR Government. The International Astronomical Union named a minor planet “Jin Rong”, after him. In recognition of his contribution to public service, Professor Cha’s readers have also unofficially named him “Cha the Great Knight-errant”, since, as he had said that, “A great knight-errant should serve the nation and the people”.

Many scholars had already studied and commented on the literary merit of Professor Cha’s novels “Jinology”, with over three hundred monographs already published is after all now an accepted research area in universities. I would however add a personal footnote on the magical power of his martial arts literature for readers of all ages. In the 1960’s, my humble family could only afford for me to rent Professor Cha’s novels one by one. Every time I had rented a book, I could not wait to read it and would skim through the whole book on my short journey home. Sometimes, I was so desperate for the next volume, I would return the finished one and exchange it for the next before going home, forgetting that my father was still desperately waiting to read the episode I had already returned! When I was studying for my PhD in the States in 1973, Taiwanese students not personally acquainted with me would knock on my door in the middle of the night pleading for a copy of Jin Rong’s novels but urging me to keep this secret from other Taiwanese students as Professor Cha’ books were banned in Taiwan at that time. These small incidents speak to the fact that Professor Cha’s martial arts literature has provided indispensible nourishment to the souls of Chinese around the world for several generations.

Professor Cha is a lifelong student of Chinese history. The fictional universe created in his novels featured real historical figures, places and events. In 2004, at the age of 80, he registered for a PhD at the University of Cambridge. He completed a thesis on Imperial Succession during the early Tang period and the degree was awarded in July of this year.

Like many Chinese intellectuals over the past century who have been zealous advocates for the modernization of China, Professor Cha has embraced ideas from the west such as democracy and freedom in his martial arts literature and in his own career. While subscribing to these “universal” ideals, he is also able to find room for the unique Chinese tradition to contribute to world culture. Most importantly, he holds fast to the national dream of building a unified, strong, harmonious democratic and free modern state. “Overthrow the [Manchu] Qing to Restore the [Han] Ming” is often the main theme of martial arts novels—including some of his. Professor Cha, however, is not narrow-mindedly Han-centric. In his novels, an emperor needs to be good but not necessarily a Han. Note the final page of his last publication, “The Deer and the Cauldron”: the courtesan mother of the leading character finally provides an answer, of sorts, to her son’s question about who his biological father was. She cannot not say with certainty, but recollected that her last five customers included a Han, a Manchu, a Mongol, a Hui and a Tibetan. This perhaps mirrors Professor Cha’s vision and yearning for a unified nation embracing all races in harmony.

Professor Cha was born in 1924 to an eminent Chinese family but his many accomplishments are based on his unparalleled talents and lifelong endeavours in Hong Kong. To Hong Kong readers of his novels who have only  a fragmentary knowledge of modern Chinese history—particularly the young—he passes on the national vision of building a unified, strong, harmonious, democratic and free Chinese state. For our graduates today, Professor Cha himself epitomizes the noble quest for enlightenment through lifelong learning to which they aspire.

Mr. President, for his many contributions to the Chinese worldwide, I commend to you Professor Louis Cha, for the award of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

From: December Issue 2010

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