Prof Wang: It’s friends and family who matter
HIS mind is razor-sharp, his analysis convincing and projection extraordinary.
Prof Wang Gungwu, 87, kept the audience hooked to his interpretation of history and insightful perspectives on China and the world during his public lecture at Universiti Malaya.
Everyone – including the Sultan of Perak – listened attentively, proving that history is far from dull and boring.
Before starting his lecture on the evening of July 12, Prof Wang expressed his delight to be back in UM, where he taught in its early days of inception from 1959 to 1968, and eventually became the history professor and dean of the Faculty of Arts.
Born in Surabaya, Indonesia, Prof Wang grew up in Ipoh, Perak, where he attended Anderson School.
He obtained a degree and a master’s in history at the University of Malaya in Singapore, and later a PhD from the University of London.
His illustrious academic career included a teaching stint at UM Singapore, becoming a professor of Far Eastern History at the Australian National University and vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.
Today, Prof Wang is a professor and the chairman of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.
While his former classmates joined the civil service and “ran” Malaysia and Singapore, Prof Wang said he decided he would remain as an academic.
Although he was asked by his good friend, the late Tan Sri Dr Tan Chee Khoon – an MP known as Mr Opposition – to help set up Gerakan in the 1960s, he said he was not a party member and had never joined any political party.
Having spent all his life scrutinising nations and nation building, Prof Wang said he no longer “has any illusions” about nations.
“I respect nations and national interests but I am not politically committed to the idea that they are sacred anymore,” he tells Sunday Star.
Prof Wang now spends most of his time in Singapore with his wife Margaret. His three children reside in Melbourne and Sydney, while his four grandchildren are in Sydney, New York and Copenhagen.
What he holds dearest is not a country, but close friends and family members.
“I have very sentimental feelings about Ipoh. My friends are in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong… wherever I have friends, I feel at home.
“What does a place matter? In the end it is relationships and friendships.”