Rico Ng, Year 1 student of the Faculty of Arts, Lingnan University, has recently been presented with the “Hong Kong Young Historian Award”, which was organised for the second year. He was awarded for a short essay about his thoughts on historical studies and outstanding performance in two rounds of interviews. “Studying history is more than about pursuing knowledge and understanding the dynastic changes and historical cycles. It is more important to learn the wisdom, study and promote it for continuous self-improvement and discovery,” Rico said at the award presentation ceremony.
Unlike many students who find Chinese history a bit too hard and lofty, Rico enjoys studying the subject very much, “Although the Chinese history and world history curricula at secondary school are quite elementary without much depth, they are good enough to inspire me to find extra-curricular books on these subjects for leisure reading.” Rico also thanked his parents for encouraging and supporting him to choose his interest when applying for an undergraduate programme, rather than selecting those that are seemingly “more useful”.
Rico reads a lot, and enjoys comparing the narratives of historical incidents from different perspectives. From these experiences he has learned something valuable, “Master of Chinese studies Chien Mu told us in his An Outline of National History that the Song Dynasty was weak and poor. But from the narratives of other historians, we know that the Song economy was very prosperous with the highest GDP of all imperial times. It also had robust networks of domestic and foreign trade with the Maritime Trade Supervisorate in place and the circulation of paper currency. From these we can see that even if the narrator takes away his subjective emotions and value judgment, how can he make sure what he sees is the whole truth rather than a tree in the woods? After a second thought, I also question whether finding the truth is everything about historical studies. Is truthfulness the only measure of studying history? Sima Qian once said in The Records of the Grand Historian, ‘To have an exhaustive understanding of the relationship of the heaven and humanity, to know the changes of the past and present, to develop one’s own view.’ Apart from learning the truth, I think it is more important to learn lessons from history.”
When asked about his study major, however, Rico said he has chosen Chinese, rather than history, as the first priority, and is now awaiting results from the Faculty of Arts. “I’m convinced that literature, history and philosophy are essentially one thing. Different schools of knowledge eventually end up in the same destination. Indeed, I love history, but more so everything about Chinese culture. I hope I can enhance my understanding of the subject and explore it from various perspectives,” Rico explained.