Memories of the Group

I started teaching three years ago at a small law school in China after having retired from a university in Japan. While the Japan-China relations have not been the best, the people-to-people relations have always been very warm and friendly, and the professors and students of this law school have been extremely kind to me.

I only taught graduate students, and my courses were given in English, as my Chinese was non-existent. The first group of students I had then, nine students in total, were all extremely bright and hardworking, and I am heartily proud of them (1). The below is my brief note on each of my students (2), with whom I have had delightful memories over the past three years (3).


Ye Canglan:
He is a young man of extraordinary sense of responsibility, and that is why he is deeply trusted by everyone. His report on the ICJ judgment on the Temple of Preah Vihear case was excellent. Canglan’s English has greatly improved, probably with the help of his fiancé. Since my Chinese is non-existent (4), Canglan, with Shan-ying, helped me a lot and showed me around at a number of scenic places of Beijing, including the Summer Palace 頤和園 and Botanic Garden, where I saw the recreated house of 曹雪芹 (Cao Xue-Qin), the author of 紅楼夢 (Dreams of Red Chambers)(5). Visit to 大観園 also satisfied my interest in 紅楼夢.

Nobody is perfect, and he may not be the best plant-grower (6), but he will certainly be very successful as a prosecutor fighting against injustice, like the hero in the movie 追捕 (7). 

Nang Hanqin:
A very smart young lawyer with warm heart and delicacy to others. I was deeply impressed by her paper on the “Relationship between International Law and Domestic Law in China.”

Also impressed was by her 60-second speech training at the Jessup class on “Roommate” for its extremely well-calculated structure: She started it by saying “I don’t want to have a roommate,” ending up with the remark that “Tang Huan was my wonderful roommate!”

Hanqin, with her abundant wisdom, will no doubt be a great judge in her future career in the judiciary, probably like Portia in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Gao Anbo:
During the first year of my course, we always had lively discussions in class, but whenever there was a silent moment, I looked at Anbo for help. Amazingly, she always had enlightening inputs to fill in the silence.

Anbo visited Geneva to watch the session of the International Law Commission (ILC) after having attended courses of The Hague Academy of International Law. I am confident that, with her excellent command of English and mastery of law, she will be a most successful lawyer dealing with international legal matters.

Anbo seems to have an enduring passion for gourmet, as shown in her WeChat profile, filled with photos of the dishes that she tasted (8). She sang so beautifully the song “Remembering December” at a Christmas party, which was truly romantic and inspiring. I will certainly remember Anbo every December for the rest of my life!

Hong Yifan:
Yifan served as the first reporter of my International Lawmaking class in September 2014, reporting on the PCIJ’s Lotus case, and his well-prepared presentation set the standard for the succeeding reporters in the seminar. He is now a competent university administrative officer at our university, and therefore, my employer!

Yifan, with Zhuixun, took me to 国子監 (Imperial University) where the hero of my novel (9) had studied in 1838-41. I once said to someone, “Hong Yifan is the most wonderful male person I have ever met in China. He is so considerate and warm-hearted. He is also very funny. If a girl of our university wants to have a boyfriend, Yifan should be her first choice” (10).

Li Ai:
She managed successfully the double role of being a graduate student and at the same time a mother-to-be. Her daughter was listening to my lectures of international law when she was yet to be born. Just like the parents who want their child to be a great musician and play music for that purpose to an unborn child as part of prenatal training,

I believe that Ai’s daughter, having listened to my lectures even before her arrival, may be a great international lawyer in future (11). I wish Ai all the best in raising her child as well as in pursuing her professional career.

Tang Huan:
I recall that the term paper on Disaster Law that she submitted for my International Lawmaking course was the best, truly the best.

I also recall that, when she was called upon to present a report at a seminar or to give a pleading at a moot court, she had a brilliant (but reserved) smile, which demonstrated her pleasure, enthusiasm and confidence. So, she was always shining at the podium.

Studying at Leiden, she has been greatly missed by all of us this year, but I am sure that she will continue to be active and successful in the study and/or practice of international legal affairs.

Lin Shan-ying:
She served so marvelously as my teaching assistant for the two long years at our Law School. She performed it with profound care and thoughtfulness.

While Shan-ying looks so feminine and modest, she was courageous in raising the first question to Professor Sean Murphy at The Hague Academy about the ITLOS South China Sea dispute. This perhaps reflects that my course on International Dispute Settlement might have been useful! On her way back from The Hague, Shan-ying visited Geneva to see the ILC session. I am sure that Shan-ying will be most successful in her future endeavors.

She helped me writing an episode in my novel (12), my hero’s love story while in Beijing, in the course of which we discussed a lot on 紅楼夢 (Dreams of the Red Chambers) (13). Shan-ying also gave me some important material on Professor Liang Si-Cheng 梁思成 and his wife Lin Whei-Ying 林徽因, and I was deeply moved by their life, full of love and mutual respect (14).

In one of Shan-ying’s first email messages addressed to me in autumn 2014, she wrote, “Even when depressed by the smog preventing the sunshine, I try to have the sunshine in my heart.” I was deeply touched by this, and the song “You Are My Sunshine” has become my favorite song (15).

Zhou Maoli:
She is probably the member of the seminar who has absorbed most of what I wanted to convey in my lectures, which I sensed already when she gave a report on the Bhopal case in the International Lawmaking course, stressing the importance of “gray areas” and “gaps” in law in the study of international law.

She attended The Hague Academy and the ILC session in Geneva. While all of the graduate students who joined my seminar on International Environmental Law contributed greatly to writing up the ILC reports for me, Maoli has been my formidable research assistant in recent years. It is amazing that she is able to find instantly whatever sources I need to find.

I am a Maolist, if not a Maoist. I owe her a great deal, which explains why I have chosen to have this dinner today rather than yesterday (15 April) (16). With her abundant intellectual capability and hard work, I am confident that she will be a great scholar of international law in the future.

Zhang Zhuixun:
I remember her brilliant presentation on the ICJ’s Gabčikovo-Nagymaros case, which was highly praised by a famous professor of Renmin University who happened to be present at our seminar that day.

Zhuxun is both strong and tender, the character that she must have inherited from her mother. I liked hearing about her great parents and I hope that she will write about her family someday. I always appreciate her open and frank talk, from which I have learned so much about the society and people of China. The dumpling party she once organized for me was most memorable.

Zhuixun, with Shan-ying, took me to 恭王府, the model site of the Red Chambers of 紅楼夢. She also helped me in writing my novel (17). Zhuixun gave me a birthday gift, a pen with the inscription “Forever 42” (18) which I show off to everybody.

Zhuixun is starting her professional career as a member of the People’s Prosecutorate near her home Province. Her name Zhuixun 追尋is most fitting for a prosecutor who seeks and searches for truth. She is a young lady with strong leadership quality, extremely intelligent and determined, and I am convinced that she will truly be a great leader in the future.


Dear Friends, it has been my great pleasure to get to know you and follow your progress in your academic goals as well as your extracurricular interests. Your contributions are highly expected, as the Chinese perspectives on international law will become increasingly important in the coming decades.

Thank you for your friendship, which I value immensely for the rest of my life. As you are graduating in June, I will miss you very much (19).

As a token of my farewell, I would like to give you the words below by SATO Issai, the 19th century Confucius philosopher of Japan (20). The first sentence is primarily for you, while I will be working on the third.              (Sunday, 16 April 2017 Shinya Murase 村村)

If you study while young, you will achieve when you are matured.
If you study while matured, you will not decline when you are old.
If you study while old, you will not perish after death.

少而学 及壮有為 (少(わか)くして学べば、壮に及びて為す有り)
壮而学 及老不衰 (壮にして学べば、老いに及びて衰えず)
老而学 及死不朽 (老いて学べば、死に及びて朽ちず)
佐藤一斎 SATO Issai


(1) The names of the students appearing in this essay are all pseudonyms.

(2) This is not in any way intended to be an objective observation but is based on my personal bias and preferences as a 反面教師 (please see my essay “My Alibi as a Professor” in this blog).

(3) This group reminds me of Mary McCarthy’s 1959 debut novel, “Group.” This American writer almost got a Nobel Prize for Literature. My sister married her son, and so, I am remotely related, though I never met her. She died some 10 years ago.

The story of “Group” starts from their graduation from Vassar College (famous women’s college where daughters of the bourgeois families attend) in 1933. The book describes these women’s lives post-graduation, beginning with the marriage of one of the friends, Kay Strong, and ending with her funeral of mysterious death in 1940. Each character struggles with different issues, including sexism, child-rearing, financial difficulties and family crises.

As highly educated women from affluent backgrounds, they must strive for autonomy and independence in a time when a woman’s role is still largely restricted to marriage and childbirth. The plot is influenced by the political and economic atmosphere of the time. I have learned that the book was published in Chinese in 2016.

(4) The only Chinese sentence I can say is “Ni hao piao liang” 你好漂亮 (You are very beautiful), by which I have survived in Beijing for the past three years.

(5) I am grateful to Canglan for giving me the complete three volume English version of the book.

(6) Canglan failed in taking care of the plant, a nice gift to me from his fiancé, which I had asked him to take care during my absence in the summer 2016. This failure seemed to have caused some tension between them, but, thanks to Lin Shan-ying, who magically revived the dying plant, I am glad to note that their relationship came back to normal.

(7) 追捕 is a Japanese film of 1975. It is not really a great film, and is just for entertainment with a lot of chases and runs with some romantic flavor. I understand, however, that the film was strongly supported by the Chinese people in 1976, mainly because this was the first foreign movie shown in China right after the end of the Cultural Revolution. There were many people in China those days who were deeply influenced by the movie. So, the actor 高倉健 (who died in November 2014) and actress 中野良子 have been very popular in China.

The movie is about a young prosecutor, trapped by a group of evil but powerful politicians. He was pursued by the police, headed by the detective who used to work for him in investigating a political scandal. Looking for a couple who lodged a fake accusation against him, he went from Tokyo to Noto 能登, where he found the young wife killed at her home. He then went to Hokkaido 北海道 looking for her husband, but he barely escaped from the police ambush and sought safety in the deep woods. There he heard a girl screaming for help. A growling wild bear was threatening her life. The girl he saved was a daughter of a rich businessman.

From there, he moved back to Tokyo by a small airplane given by that businessman, being chased by the Air Forces fighter jets, etc. As a fugitive, he was helped by a number of good people, including a bar hostess to whom he says: “As a prosecutor, I was trying to apply the Black Letter rules of the law strictly, but now I realize that justice should sometimes go beyond the dictates of the existing law.”

The hero finally succeeded in reaching the evil politician with the help of his girlfriend and of the police detective who had turned to be on his side. It is said that the movie became so popular in China, because there were many innocent people who had been “trapped” and persecuted during the 1960s and 70s. I also learned that the re-making of the movie by Chinese actors and actresses is planned for release in 2018.

(8) I wish to know how she can keep her good style while eating so much! You know I was thinner and more handsome three years ago, but have gained weight since then. The problem of the Chinese food is that it tastes so good!

(9) 黒内彪吾 (Hyogo KUROUCHI, a Japanized name of Hugo Grotius), 『幻影的嘉例吉』(Beyond Illusion: Love and Hope in the Kingdom of Ryukyu, Shinzansha, 2016). The hero, a real historic figure, was 牧志朝忠 (MAKISHI Chochu). I hope that this novel will be translated into Chinese someday.

(10) Although I have to admit that my ability to judge girls is rather limited (I made many mistakes in my life!), rest assured that, as far as boys are concerned, my judgment is quite reliable.

(11) When my son (Ryu’ichi or Dragon No. One, born in 1991) was two years old as Ai’s daughter now is, I trained him to reply to my question “Who is Hugo Grotius?,” to repeat the phrase “He is the Father of International Law!” Being only two years old, he impressed everybody by this performance. Unfortunately, however, this training did not work for making him an international lawyer: He chose chemistry instead.

(12) Op. cit., supra note 9.

(13) Between 賈宝玉 (Jia Bao Yu) and 林黛玉(Lin Dai Yu), my preference would be the latter. I find that 花襲人 (Hua Shi-Jen) is also quite interesting.

(14) Professor Liang Si-Cheng was an architect who tried desperately to save Beijing walls from destruction. I then learned that he exerted his influence to save Kyoto and Nara, Japan’s ancient cities, from bombing during World War II.

Japan owes a great deal to Professor Liang. (There was a plan to erect his statue in Nara, and donations were successfully collected, with the inaugural ceremony held in April 2010, which was attended by the high-ranking officials who came from Beijing as well as the Japanese counterparts. However, the events that took place later that year created tensions between the two countries, and as a result the plan was abandoned, with the money returned to the donors. This was most unfortunate, and I hope that the plan be revived in the near future.)

Professor Liang was a member of the international architects’ board that designed the UN building in New York in the late 1940s (for which he was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution), and I think of him whenever I visit the UN to attend the General Assembly meeting. Lin Whei-Ying, when she was sixteen in 1920, accompanied her father in Europe as his companion and interpreter. Her father was a director of China’s League of Nations Association in London, and they must have spent sometime in Geneva, the site of the League’s Headquarters. I think of her, when I stay in Geneva to attend the ILC session every summer. See, Wilma Fairbank, Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past, Univ. of Penn. Press, 1994 (a gift from Shan-ying).

(15) I found it later from its lyrics that the song was about a boy’s broken heart, crying, “Please don’t take my sunshine away”! So, I am not in a position to sing this song. With regard to air pollution, the air quality in Tokyo was awful in the 1960s and early 70s, which, notwithstanding, I survived, and I am therefore “immune” to air pollution.

(16) I gave a modest dinner at the restaurant on campus for the International Environmental Law seminar on 15 April 2015. Maoli came in a new dress, so beautiful as she was that evening. I thought it was for the host of the dinner (me!). Then, somebody whispered: “Today is the birthday of her boyfriend!” I said, “Oh, Yeah? How nice…”

When I met him sometime later over diner, I told him that, even though I did not know his name, I knew his birthday. We discussed about movies that evening. I said I liked romantic movies, to which he said he did not like romantic movies. He said he liked science fiction, to which I said I did not like science fiction. So, we had a pleasant conversation that evening. (To my regret, my son also likes science fiction.)

(17) Op. cit., supra note 9.

(18) I pretended to be 38 year old when I was teaching in Tokyo, but gradually, it became difficult to maintain. That is why I came to Beijing, and this time, my pretention has been 42. As you recall, I declared in my first class that I would be teaching at this university for twenty years.

Realistically, however, I think I can be considered useful as long as I serve as member of the ILC, and my hope is, if possible at all, to continue teaching until 2021 when my term at ILC expires. After that, I will be a full-time writer of novels in Okinawa (or Ryukyu, properly so called as My Kingdom!).

(19) I know I will be in tears here. A man, by nature, is not supposed to be weepy, while a woman is weepy. I find I am more easily given to tears as I get older. Does this mean that I am no longer a man!?

(20) A Scholar of Confucius philosophy (1772-1859); President of Gakumonsho (precursor to the University of Tokyo): A samurai without a sword.

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