Death of A Professor | Fiction

“Serve the people” was his mantra—but the venerable professor was about to learn a real-life lesson from outside his ivory tower

The professor was just over 60, and on his sagely skull only a bit of wispy hair was left, like smoke curling from his head. A very plain pair of spectacles rested on his frail nose. The eyes behind their lenses were calm and meticulous. He was short, and wore a white, full-length lab coat year round. To anyone who looked at him, one word came reflexively to mind—scholar.

The professor was an authority in animal husbandry and had published papers in both China and abroad, which gained a lot of attention. Several foreign universities had offered him professorships, with high salaries, all of which he politely declined. Fame and wealth never entered his consideration. In his study, a large plaque hung with the short sentence “To serve the people,” the calligraphy by Chairman Mao. These words were his lifelong belief; even though he’d also suffered as a “scholar-tyrant” during the Cultural Revolution, even as many people threw out this slogan and the revolution with the dredges of history, he believed it still more firmly. He believed in living an honorable life, conducting oneself in ways worthy of one’s conscience and the judgment of history—save for one incident, where things could have gone two ways.

It was a summer 10 years ago, when the professor learned that in Liudaowan village, on the outskirts of the city, there was a cow suspected of having foot-and-mouth disease. He’d hurried to investigate, and the results showed, sadly, that all six of the farmer’s cows were infected. He knew that if it were to spread, the disease could threaten the livestock of the entire province, so he organized a team to inspect the village; thankfully, it was just the one household.

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Death of A Professor | Fiction is a story from our issue, “Fast Forward.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Xiren . (夕人)

Xiren . (夕人) is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

Translated By

Moy Hau is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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