Chen Yunsheng, the first doctor of constitutional law in New China.
Born in 1942 in Pinggu County, Beijing (now Pinggu District);
In 1966, he graduated from the Law Department of Beijing Institute of Political Science and Law (now China University of Political Science and Law); after graduation, he worked in judicial, educational, and administrative work in Guangxi; in 1978, he was admitted to the Law Department of the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for further study.After graduating with a master’s degree, he worked at the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; in 1983, he studied for a doctorate in constitutional law under the tutelage of jurist Zhang Youyu;
In 1987, he received a doctorate in law;
He has successively served as deputy director, professor and doctoral tutor of the Constitutional Administrative Law Research Office of the Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, part-time professor and doctoral tutor at 7 universities including Shanghai Jiao Tong University Law School and Beijing Normal University Law School, and expert advisory committee of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. Honorary expert advisory committee member, enjoying special allowance from the State Council.
In October 2023, Chen Yunsheng was in his study in the suburbs of Beijing. (Southern Weekend reporter Chen Yifan/photo)
81-year-old Chen Yunsheng seldom rests.
His days start at four or five in the morning, walking briskly, cooking, reading and writing in Pinggu District on the outskirts of Beijing, leading a regular old age life. He planted beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and corn on a piece of wasteland he “claimed”, and irrigated and cultivated it from time to time.
His interest in farming stems from his background.
This rural boy, born in Pinggu in 1942, was the first high school student, the first college student, and the first doctor of law in the village. In 1966, after graduating from Beijing University of Political Science and Law (now China University of Political Science and Law), he was assigned to rural areas in Guangxi, where he ate and lived with farmers, waking up to the steaming heat of beef and feces every day.
After the country resumed its postgraduate examinations, he relied on a textbook on constitutional law that “survived” and was admitted to the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences with the first score in the re-examination. Later, he studied for a doctorate and became the only student of the famous legal scholar Zhang Youyu.
During this period, he read all the professional books in the law school and went from being a “minion” in constitutional law to becoming “the first person in the country to supervise the constitution.” In 1980, he participated in the formulation of the “82nd Constitution” amendment. He always believed that the true meaning of the Constitution did not lie in the constitutional document itself.
On his academic journey, he did not like to participate in administrative affairs and turned away many opportunities. He laughs at himself as “a lonely ghost in academia”, who only seeks to achieve the ultimate in knowledge and will never be swayed by trends.
He advised students to endure loneliness. He always followed the third item of Descartes’ code of conduct: he always only sought to overcome himself, not to overcome fate, but only to change his own desires, not to change the order of the world.
“God help me”
Southern Weekend:What is your daily life like now after retirement?
Chen Yunsheng:I usually get up at four in the morning, eat something simple, and then go to the river to exercise. I used to run or walk. After I got seriously ill in May or June this year and was exhausted, I cycled for an hour to exercise. Then come back to research or write for an hour, then make breakfast and clean up. After breakfast, I go to work in the fields, usually for two hours, and then come back to continue my research. Two days ago, I was still harvesting vegetables grown in the fields. After lunch break, I worked at my desk again. Then I went to the fields to do some work, and then rode a bike for exercise in the evening. There are no weekends or holidays, and I don’t know what day of the week it is every day. It has been the same day for decades. For me, going out to give lectures and attend societies is also a rare way to rest.
Southern Weekend:There are not many old people like you who are still farming in their eighties. Why do you live such a life as a farmer?
Chen Yunsheng:My family has been poor farmers for generations. There are five brothers in my family, and I am the second oldest. When I was a child, Confucius said, “I am a young man, so I can do many despicable things.” In addition to going to school, I had to help the family with work, such as planting land, harvesting wild vegetables, cutting firewood, and feeding pigs and cows. I did all the work that rural children do. Pass.
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