My paternal grandfather, Kang Peng, is the last president of Jiao Tong University and the founder of Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU). I have never seen him in person because he passed away before my birth. Moreover, I had been kept in the dark about such an amazing paternal grandfather until my second year at the middle school.
Coincidentally, during my second year at the middle school, I saw the XJTU enrollment guide for students of the Special Class for the Gifted Young (SCGY, also called Juvenile Class) that was circulated to my school, the First Affiliated Middle School of Beijing Normal University.
Math has been my great strength since primary school. Thanks to the outstanding performance in the math competitions, I have been recommended for admission to middle school and then to high school. In my second year of middle school, I won the second place in the Beijing Mathematical Olympiad for Middle School Students. Only the top 30 students in the city were able to receive awards from this annual program then. I am the only student who has been awarded by the program for three consecutive years, from the second year and third year of middle school to the first year of high school. As a regular of the Beijing Mathematical Olympiad School class almost every weekend from the first year of middle school to that of high school, I’d like to point out that my attendance of the class is out of my fondness of the subject, rather than coercion.
Speaking about the enrollment guide, I had entertained a thought of pursuing studies in the university at a far-away place since my childhood, for sensing the gloom over my family. After reading the story about the SCGY students during my second year of middle school, the idea of joining the XJTU Juvenile Class occurred to me. Therefore，when I was 14 years old, my father escorted me to take an entrance examination for the Juvenile Class in Xi’an City but I failed. To my astonishment, I saw a white marble statue of my paternal grandfather in the West Garden of XJTU. Before that, my family had never informed me about what kind of person the paternal grandfather is. However, even when I saw the statue, my knowledge about him was only limited to the president of XJTU and a venerable person. As the first grader of high school, I took the entrance exam for the Class again and got the first place in the math exam with a score of 119 (the full score is 120). This time my dream came true!
Before ultimately making up my mind to study at XJTU, I consulted my math teacher Chen Wen in the First Affiliated Middle School of Beijing Normal University about how the university is and whether it is worthwhile to go to. She told me that some of her students are admitted to XJTU and it is a great institution of higher learning.
In this way, I was admitted to XJTU at the age of 16 years and but was subject to a tremendous pressure beyond my expectation. I would not dare to approach the West Garden if I had a poor score in the examination. Fortunately, I graduated from the university smoothly in the end.
By the way, after I went to Xi’an for schooling, the Beijing Mathematical Olympiad School called my family and inquired about my whereabouts and the reason for missing the class. Given that the Chinese candidates for the International Mathematical Olympiad for Middle School Students should pass a series of selections at various levels, I might have been regarded as a potential student for attending the competition at that time.
My Great Uncle – General Shiqu Chen, has contributed significantly to the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
During the Cultural Revolution, my paternal grandfather was tortured to death and my paternal grandmother was paralyzed under the vegetable state in Xi’an. My parents, together with the paternal grandmother, came to Beijing and sought protection of my Great Uncle. Therefore, I was born in Beijing and grew up in the Great Uncle’s house. Later, my family suffered a second persecution due to the political fights between my Great Uncle and Deng Xiaoping. In a bid to protect me, my family sent me to take refuge in my maternal grandfather in Nanjing and kept me in the dark about the second persecution and the connection between my Great Uncle and me. I was told that I went to Nanjing because of the Bejing earthquake and that I should call Great Uncle “Grandpa in the Suburb”. Since my trip to Nanjing, I have no longer met “Grandpa in the Suburb”.
In around 1990s (I do not remember the exact time) I found that the “Grandpa in the Suburb” looks identical to my maternal grandfather after comparing their photos. Then I asked my parents about it and they told me that “Grandpa in the Suburb” is the elderly brother of my maternal grandfather. Only after the publication of a book entitled From Jinggang Mountain to Zhongnanhai (later renamed to A Staunch Adherent of Mao Zedong), I came to know his numerous war stories with legendary qualities. For example, he captured the first Japanese enemy for the Eighth Route Army; he served as the chief of staff for Ye Ting, Lin Biao, and Su Yu; he, as the commander of the Eighth Corps of the Third Field Army, took the lead in occupying the Nanjing Presidential Palace. In 1995, I graduated from university and offered to visit “Grandpa in the Suburb”. However my father said the poor health state made him unavailable for visitors then. It is better to see him when he turns better off. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards he died on July 22, 1995.
When my family was subject to the second persecution, my pregnant mother was imprisoned, leading to the birth of my younger sister with congenital heart disease. Her disease was cured with thoracotomy later. Therefore, I am the only one in my family without going through trials and tribulations.