The Persevering Spirits: The 2018 Tang Prize Laureates, Stories About How Big Dreams Are Achieved

  • The Persevering Spirits: The 2018 Tang Prize Laureates, Stories About How Big Dreams Are Achieved
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Have you ever dreamed about making useful contributions to society? If so, the book about the latest Tang Prize laureates, penned by veteran journalist Yu-Fang Liang and published on July 22nd by Linking Publishing Company, is a must read for you. Detailing the setbacks, frustrations and heartache the laureates have experienced, these stories reveal some honest truth behind their remarkable achievements, that they were not always the winners but they always took it as their responsibility to make the world a better place. It is this noble motivation that made them men of great successes, to whose significant contributions to mankind the Tang Prize Foundation decided to pay its tribute in 2018. 


Proving that the Earth is increasingly warmer and predicating that more erratic climate change was in the offing, former NASA scientist James Hansen is one of the 2018 Tang Prize winners for Sustainable Development. Born into a farming family in 1941, Dr. Hansen benefited from America’s education policies at the time which made it possible for children from deprived backgrounds to study at universities, and his whole life was thus changed. In 1987, he published a paper, offering scientific evidence to sound a stern warning about climate change. As the world started to pay attention to his premonition, he also got an invitation to testify before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Though he dramatically increased public awareness of human-induced climate change, there were the slings and arrows from the White House, attempting to forbid him to keep giving public statements. But nothing can deter him from making this issue as clear as possible to everyone. Therefore, now aged 78, he continues to give press interviews and take part in street protests, so as to wake up young people with his actions and call on them to join him in protecting our planet.  


Here is a friendly word of advice to young people from Dr. Brian Druker, recipient of the 2018 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science: though there will always be people voicing their doubts, what really matters is your inner voice telling you that anything is possible. Actually, you would be hard-pressed to believe that as the scientist who developed Gleevec, a small-molecule drug that has saved many patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, Dr. Druker was once rejected by Harvard, Stanford, Yale and many other top universities, before finally getting an offer from the University of California, San Diego, where the admission committee obviously saw his great potential as a physician-scientist. Nonetheless, mockeries, criticisms and disapprovals never left him along. On this research journey, he often encountered naysayers telling him there was no way he would ever succeed or he should just quit doing research. Sometimes upset, sometimes in deep despair, he was still able to see each of these frustrations as a yardstick that has helped him recalibrate the direction he was moving in. As a matter of fact, it took him 12 solid years to grow from a novice doctor to a medical researcher with serious publications under his belt.  


“I had to fight to be allowed to do it (study Chinese). In the long run, I ended as the Chair of Comparative Literature at Harvard.” Prof. Stephen Owen, winner of the 2018 Tang Prize in Sinology, so narrated his story. The James Bryant Conant University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and one of the most important western scholars in the field of classical Chinese literature, Prof. Owen was born into a middle-class family where his father was a physicist and his mother a doctor. When he decided to study Chinese, his parents, not unlike many other parents, were worried that their son wouldn’t be able to make a living. Fully aware that the road he had chosen was long and hard and there was a price to be paid, he however had known from an early age where his heart lay. As the Chinese saying goes: never swerve from what you are devoted to and you will find true joy in it. To these words of wisdom Prof. Owen stands as a powerful testimony as his perseverance saw him defy skepticism and eventually carve out his own niche.   


While there are plenty of touching stories in this book, at the core of it is the emphasis on a kind of innate values that have to be discovered and cultivated. The perseverance of all 2018 laureates doesn’t just manifest as their admirable valor or the motivations behind their actions. It is also a deeply-rooted belief and an integral part of their soul. To the outside world, perseverance is the reason they are in the vanguards of their chosen professions. But more importantly, when the going gets tough, it enables them to be the tough who get going.

The digital version of this book, including several video clips, is now available on our official website. For a short introduction of the book, please visit the website’s publication section.