PKU head apologizes for motto mispronunciation

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 7, 2018
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The head of Peking University has apologized for making a pronunciation error in a speech he delivered last Friday to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the prestigious university.

Lin Jianhua, president of Peking University, speaks at a ceremony marking the 120th anniversary of the top university in Beijing, May 4, 2018. [Photo/The Beijing News]

Lin Jianhua, president of the university, quoted an ancient motto but mispronounced "hong hu zhi" (swans' noble aspirations) of it as "hong hao zhi" in his speech in front of students, faculty, alumni and government officials. The slip triggered internet buzz about how a distinguished academic could make such a mistake.

Lin himself came forward to explain himself the day following the incident on Peking University's bulletin board system. 

In the apology letter, Lin apologized for his mistake and said, "I'm really unfamiliar with the word's pronunciation, now I learned, but in a way with high cost."

Lin said the incident has exposed the fact that he has a poor foundational knowledge of literature due to his growing up during the turbulent time of Cultural Revolution, which caused him to receive inadequate education. 

He said he was not trying to defend his ignorance and mistake, but that he wanted people to know "the real me." He wrote, "Your president is not a perfect person. He has disadvantages and deficiencies; he can also make mistakes."

But the professor said what truly disappointed him and filled him with regret, was that the mistake drew more attention than the message he wanted to convey through the speech. "Anxiety and questioning aren’t of any value; instead they will prevent us from stepping into the future. What can lead us to the future are firm confidence and the courage to face reality and the action of facing the future. "

Public opinions have differed following his apology. Some have praised his courage to be "the first university president" to stand up and confess to a mistake, but some have been confused by the message he wished to convey. 

"As an educator, he said 'questioning is of no value'? This worries us," wrote Wang Sicong, an entrepreneur and the son of Chairman Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group, on his microblog account. "Don't humanity's knowledge and wisdom all come from questioning in the first place?"

Lin graduated from Peking University in 1986 with a PhD in chemistry. He later taught chemistry and molecular engineering at the university and has published more than 140 academic papers and undertaken more than 800 research projects. He was appointed the president of Peking University in April 2001.

The ceremony marking the 120th anniversary of Peking University was held at the university's Khoo Teck Puat Gymnasium in Beijing on May 4, attended by preeminent figures including president of Yale University Peter Salovey, Chinese economist Li Yining, and CEO of Baidu Li Yanhong.

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