Ma Yong



MA YONG (1934–1985)

Professor Ma, who, among many other posts, held also those of Head of the Division of the History of Ancient Relations between China and Other Countries in the Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Society for Central Asian Studies, was known to only few of the PIAC’s members. He attended only one of our meetings — Walberberg, 1984 — but, in this way, he became the first scholar from the People’s Republic of China ever to join our group.

I first met Professor Ma in Paris where he was Chinese delegate to the editorial board of the History of the Civilizations of Central Asia prepared under the aegis of UNESCO. He took this task very seriously indeed, and it took some persuading to convince him that no one on the Committee, the USSR included, had any desire to diminish the part Chinese scholars should play in the project. At subsequent meetings he showed himself a perceptive colleague, an excellent team-worker. By chance, I met him also in September 1983 at the International Conference of Karakorum Culture held in Gilgit where he courageously tried to over-come his grave physical handicap. His frail body was no match for his consuming intellectual ambition, his burning desire to catch up with the time lost because of his country’s previous troubles. It was his aim to combine the results of Chinese and Western scholarship and apply them to the elucidation of China’s early relations with Inner Asia. Most of his published work, including the book The Historical Cultural Relics in Xin Jiang (in Chinese, 1975), reflected this preoccupation. He also realized that if one wished to secure administrative Support for scholarly projects, the best way to achieve this was to take the administration into one’s own hand.

His interests were vast, his knowledge, even of Western culture, most impressive. At a concert in Walberberg I discovered that he had a good knowledge and keen appreciation of Western classical music. He told me that with a visit to Beethoven’s house in Bonn an old dream of his had been fulfilled.

It had been my hope that Professor Ma’s energy would lead to increased Chinese participation in the PIAC. It was not to be. He passed away after a long illness at the early age of only 51. It is meet and just that his memory be honored by the PIAC.

Denis Sinor

(Source: Permanent International Altaistic Conference Newsletter No. 16, August 1986, p. 6)