Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Academic Autobiography"
II—On the Farm with John Fairbank and Chen Pu
a universal truth. It is very rare that a person works and yet gains nothing.
On the other hand, there is never any harm in trying too hard. In farming it
is especially appropriate to be concerned about what you are doing. Mencius
said, “Will a farmer discard his plow when he leaves his land?” Ordinary
people will become idle if they have leisure and prosperity. Only those who
love farming, who behave in harmony with it, who take pleasure in talking
about it and think about it all the time will manage it without a moment’s
negligence. For these people a day’s work results in a day’s gain, a year’s
work in a year’s gain. How can they escape affluence?
are incapable of being meticulous, even if they should come by some profit,
they will soon lose it. For they will never understand that the transformation
of the small into the big is the result of persistent effort. To indulge in pleasure
and discard work whenever the chance arises and to meet matters only when
they become urgent is never the right way of doing things. Generally
speaking, ordinary people take pride in having prosperity to indulge in
temporary leisure. If there should be a man who remains diligent in
prosperity, everyone else will mark him as a misfit, so great is their lack of
After reading Chen Pu’s little treatise, the rhetoric of Fairbank’s Chinabound is startling. He was trying to build something, and the corporate body was Chinese studies in the United States.
the same time. One could stand in the corn on the side of town and see it
waving in the fields on the other side. From the top of a rise under the big sky
of the plains one could look farther over the quarter sections and farmsteads
and see man more in control of nature than anywhere else in the world. Later
on, when I was choosing a career, Chinese studies seemed like a limitless
opportunity, stretching away to an unknown horizon, waiting to be explored
Except, perhaps, to his native South Dakota.
Click here for the other posts in this Round and Square series on John King Fairbank's autobiography:
|[e] Impact RF|
 John King Fairbank, Chinabound (New York: Harper Collins, 1983), 4.
Fairbank, John King. Chinabound. New York: Harper Collins, 1983.