A 93-year-old Korean revealed the journey that led to his learning Chinese:
“At the age of six, Confucius and Mencius appeared in my dreams and took turns to teach me Chinese and Confucian classics. When I failed to learn well, I was punished physically! Waking up the next morning, I would find bruises that were quite painful to the touch.”
Sages taught him Chinese in his dreams
Korean Confucian scholars normally have a Chinese name, an alternative name, and an alias. They call each other by their aliases. Wen Xianggao, alias Liang Baitang, was poor when he was young. He did not go to school to learn Chinese; however, Confucius and Mencius came to him in his dreams and taught him Chinese.
Liang revealed that not only Confucius and Mencius appeared, but two famous Korean Confucians, Li Huang and Li Er, also appeared in his dreams and taught him Chinese. He said:
“As a boy, when I told people in the village that I learned Chinese from my dreams, people thought that I was lying or mentally unstable.”
A champion of Chinese poetry
Liang never had a formal education. He not only learned Chinese in his dreams, he also taught Chinese from the age of 26 at the most reputable Korean Confucian institute, Sungkyunkwan. Even now, the 93-year-old Liang is still teaching Chinese at home. He said that he has had more than a thousand students, including the former South Korean President, Park Chung-Hee.
Liang has also successfully competed in Chinese poetry competitions and mentioned a dream that he had the night before one competition. The rules and styles of the poetry in the contest were revealed to him during the dream. The next day, as everyone was concentrating on how to complete the poetry, he handed in his answer sheet early.
The Korean MBC television anchor asked him:“The others are still agonizing over it; how did you finish so fast?” He told the truth, but the anchor thought he was joking.
Later, the anchor came to interview Liang at his home and asked how he learned Chinese. He responded: “I learned it from my mother.” He no longer explained to people that he learned Chinese in his dreams because no one believed him.
Photographic memory and divine hearing
Liang Baitang not only learned Chinese characters, but also all the Chinese language lessons in his dreams. He said that he has a photographic memory. If he recites a thick book a couple times, he can memorize the whole book by heart without any mistakes. Once,while traveling with a group of Chinese language professors in a car, he recited six hours of Confucian books for everyone.
During a interview with a newspaper reporter, he said:
“Some people were skeptical of my memory and they carried out an experiment. They recorded me reciting the ‘Comprehensive Mirror’ and then compared it to the original text. They found there were a few areas showing differences. In the end, it turned out to be typographical errors.”
In order to share his ability to the reporter, Liang randomly took a book off a shelf, handed it to the reporter, and asked him to open it up to a chapter. Liang began to recite the chapter word for word. He also told the reporter that he has divine hearing. Whenever he reads an unfamiliar word, there is a voice that tells him its meaning.
An extraordinary state of mind
During a presentation at a college, Liang mentioned a few things in his life to validate his extraordinary state of mind. When he was young, he was attending a party with a group of students when someone lost a roll of cash. Liang said that he had found the money and returned it to its owner. However, the money belonged to Liang, but he felt that if it was not immediately returned, the party would be ruined. Later that evening, everyone at the party learned that the money belonged to Liang when the real culprit was seen with the roll of cash and confessed to the crime.
During the Korean War, a North Korean military officer tried to kill Liang, but failed. The officer later surrendered because he had a family in the south. One day, he brought his daughter to the hospital where Liang worked as a pharmacist. Liang recognized the officer, but he refused to bear any grudge about the past. He quickly brewed the medicine and cured the man’s daughter of a stubborn illness. Eventually, Liang became close friends with his former enemy and was invited to his daughter’s wedding.
Mr Liang said:
“To repay evil with kindness is to remind the other party that he did wrong, and how could he do something like that to someone so nice. And thus, the other party would change his heart. That is a true gentleman.”
He disclosed that he was angry only once in his life and that was during the Korean War – when North Korea invaded South Korea and the communists from North Korea robbed his father of his life savings.
Reading Confucius’s teachings and cultivating his heart daily
Liang is very pious. He reveres divine beings and sages. He wears formal Korean clothing and bows down to Confucius and the gods from Heaven and the Earth every day. When he is not teaching, he can often be found in his study reading ancient texts, and he often writes down the passages and commits them to memory. He says:
“I mainly read Confucian scriptures. I often become emotional after reading them. I ask myself why it is that everything written in the books is so true, yet I cannot act accordingly. Why should I make mistakes so often? I want to be a follower of Confucius and I want to cultivate my heart. I must remind myself to do it faithfully.”
Translated by Natashe Yang.