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The Carletonian

Students reflect on legacy of Professor Zhao

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As a founder of the Chinese language program and Chinese Studies in China off-campus program at Carleton, professor Qiguang Zhao’s death on Friday, March 13 caused a lot of grief and sorrow among the students.

Zhao was a popular professor. One of his courses, “Taoist Way of Health and Longevity,” also known as the Tai Chi class for its signature outdoor Tai Chi sessions, was famous for its exceptionally long wait-list.

He was also an avid swimmer: he started swimming at the age of five and eventually became a champion swimmer in his home city, Beijing.

Students who knew Zhao outside of class offered their personal accounts and memories.

Hanna Lee ’15 took a class called “Chinese Poetry and Classical Chinese” with Qiguang last term and was part of his off-campus program in China during her sophomore fall.

“The impression I first got from him was that he was a very friendly, open person. Despite his old age, he was very open to new ideas and cultures, and he didn’t have any uneasiness or difficulty hanging out with us, young college kids.

“I especially liked the way he taught our class. He didn’t criticize people’s ideas but was really open toward different behaviors and speech styles…He treated the subject more casually by having fun activities than approaching it in a solid, rigid academic setting.

“Also, because he was a Taoist and a philosopher, he held a different viewpoint from most of us, including me, and talked about starting a Taoist movement in Northfield. I hope there’s someone who can continue his legacy.”

Catherine Pan ’16 took Zhao’s Tai Chi class last spring and personally got to know him last term during Chinese lunch table sessions as a Chinese language TA.

“I first met him through a Tai Chi class, but I didn’t have a chance to talk to him (because there were around 60 students in class) until last term when I ate at the Chinese language table at LDC. We started talking about where we’re originally from in China, and I felt a sort of connection when we talked about how China is changing and our new lives in the states.

“We ended up talking about his new book that he was working on and his previous television appearances. He was on the TV talk show that was really popular, just like The Oprah Winfrey Show, and I remember translating the show from Chinese to English when we watched it during our Tai Chi class.

“He was also a commentator on the famous Phoenix TV that I wanted to work for, so I was especially fascinated. He mentioned that he was retiring soon before he left for Florida and that he was planning on his next step in his life. He was a really passionate person, exuding positive energy wherever he went.”

Nora Liu ’15 worked with Qiguang as his TA since last spring and assisted several of his other projects, like editing and organiz- ing articles and essays he wrote.

“I haven’t thought of him as a professor but more as a friend. He’s a believer of Taoism, and we talked a lot about his philosophy and way of thinking and living.

“I would never forget our last conversation; it was the day before I received an email of his death, the first reading day. He asked me to have lunch together at LDC, and he told me about his plans for spring break with his family in Florida.

“We also talked a lot about my future plans, and in that sense, I see him more as a mentor, guiding my way through. He knew I was really interested in the apparel industry, and he was also thinking about retiring and had some projects in mind that he never had a chance to finish in school. So, he said, ‘Well, we could probably do something together,’ like building a Taoism organization or building and promote Taoism philosophy. We were planning to do something together after my graduation, so it was really a big shock to me.

I clearly remember when I received that email while I was studying at The Hideaway, and it still feels somewhat unreal to me.

“But, I also remember what he taught me: have great passion for whatever you do, love everyone around you, and always try to give something rather than wanting to receive.

“It was always about giving something to people around you, and he thought it would bring you the most happiness.”

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