Reading by candlelight on an autumn night

Liu Yuxi (劉禹錫, 772-842) was a famous poet and one of the representative literary figures of the mid-Tang Dynasty. He was good at using metaphors and the rich overtone of his poems often leaves people much room to contemplate. One of his poems was about meeting an old friend when he was demoted to Xiaoxiang, the ancient name of the now Hunan province. When he was relegated to an unimportant post in the remote areas of Xiaoxiang, he lived a very simple life. One of the two phrases of the poem says*:

There are several shacks laid quietly along the river.

In one of them, I read with a flickering candle lamp on an autumn night.

The poem paints a very beautiful picture of reading alone and taking in the tranquillity of the night. It reminds me of my time spent in Western Ontario of Canada during my doctoral studies in the late 1970s. During which, I read not only books and academic papers about statistics, but books in a wide range of disciplines including science, war history, philosophy, Christian spirituality, and religious studies. Studying abroad alone could sometimes means loneliness. Books have become my best companion since then. The feeling of connecting with great minds in human history encourages me to endure the hardship and motivates me to continue to move forward.

Since I took up a departmental management role more than twenty years ago, I have been engaged in various academic administrative positions with the latest being the Dean of FLASS at this University. Because of the management work, it has become increasingly difficult for me to spare long hours to read. However, the occasional read of a good book still thrills me. In today’s world where knowledge is expanding exponentially, there is a growing urgency for we, as an academic, to take some time out of our busy schedule to read books that could broaden our horizons, elevate us to a higher level, and gives us a peaceful moment away from the hustle and bustle of the mundane world.

Oftentimes, the busyness of our modern lives drags us into a whirlpool of emotion, disconnecting us with our inner voices. Besides books, many people nowadays like to reclaim a sense of peacefulness through different sorts of mindfulness exercises. Dr Claudia Wong Ming-yu from the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPE), an elite swimmer turned mindfulness coach, has been practicing mindful self-compassion for some years. In this issue of FLASS FORWARD, she shares with us how she gains a deeper understanding of her inner self through the practice of self-compassion, and how such practice stills her mind.

A strong body is as important as a calm mind. Through regular physical exercises, we can keep ourselves physically and mentally fit. In recent years, the outstanding performances of Hong Kong athletes have aroused interest among the general public in sports. This issue includes an interview with Dr Lawrence Ho Ka-ki from the Department of Social Sciences and Policy Studies (SSPS)** and Dr Gary Chow Chi-ching from HPE. They share with us their views on sports development in Hong Kong, including what factors contributed to the successes of our athletes and what should we do if the city wants to attain an even higher level of achievements in sports.

Among the athletes who achieved good results in recent international tournaments, there was no lack of students from this University. These EdUHK elite athletes, all of them studying at HPE, have undergone tough training for the glory at the games. In this issue, several elite athletes share with us their moments of triumph at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games. Four FLASS students who have received the President Honour accolades and two students winning the AIA Scholarships also tell us their accounts on how to live a balanced university life between academic pursuit, character building, and community service.

Dr Isabella Ng Fung-sheung from SSPS is an esteemed scholar on cross-boundary migration studies. She is currently working on a large-scale EU-funded transnational research project on migration led by the Université libre de Bruxelles of Belgium. Hailing from a journalism background, she talks about her current research work and the three elements necessary for a successful research work: a sensitivity in your observations, a passion for your research, and the commitment to seek truth.

Winter is the time where graduates come back to the campus to celebrate their accomplishments after years of devoted studies. I congratulate all new graduates of FLASS and wish them every success in their future endeavours. In September 2023, a group of alumni from the former Department of Social Sciences** who have worked in society for several years also came back to campus to teach their fellow juniors how to find a job that they can unleash their potentials, and give them tips about how to perform in the workplace. Go to the Community Voices section of this newsletter to read more about their sharing.

We acquire knowledge through books. We can also learn from real-life experience, visits, and exchange of ideas with different people. In October 2023, about 30 students from the Department of Cultural and Creative Arts, together with their teacher Dr Matthew D. Thibeault, played improvised music at The Wanch, one of the oldest live music venues in the city, and experienced the power of improvisation and participatory music. In December 2023, students from SSPS took part in an Overseas Field-based Learning trip in Tokyo, Japan. Through museum visits, seminars and on-site observations, these students gained a deeper understanding about the urban development, technological advancements, and culture of Japan.


The faculty will face a few challenges in the years to come. These include the third audit cycle to be conducted by the Quality Assurance Council, the Planning Exercise Proposal for the triennial period of 2025-28, and the expansion of non-local student intake quota for undergraduate programmes to 40%. Handling these challenges demands our determination and hard work. It also requires us to have a clear and focused mind. Reading with a flickering candle on an autumn night in a shack next to the river evokes the feeling of serenity. It inspires us with wisdom of the past and stimulates us to think of new ways to overcome challenges.

The Year of the Dragon is right around the corner. I want to thank all of you for the contributions you have made to the faculty. I wish everyone a wonderful reunion with your family this season. May you find happiness and success at work and at home in the new year.

Wish you prosperity in the Year of the Dragon!

Professor Li Wai-keung

Dean of FLASS



* The two phrases are translation of 「數間茅屋閒臨水,一盞秋燈夜讀書。」

The name of the poem is 《送曹璩歸越中舊隱詩》.

The full poem is as follows:





** On 1 July 2023, the former Department of Social Sciences (SSC) and Department of Asian and Policy Studies (APS) were merged to form the Department of Social Sciences and Policy Studies (SSPS).