【China Science Daily】Academician Miao Changwen Recalled the Matriculation Examination: Grinding without Phosphorus

By 杭添Viewed 61 2019-02-18

No matriculation examination had been carried out for over 10 years in China before 1977.

Deng Xiaoping’s proposal of resuming the matriculation examination has changed the destiny of one generation and provided new opportunities to the national development.

Personally speaking, the matriculation examination has fulfilled my dream of continuing study.




When I wasfilling my application, I didn’t persist in Tsinghua University or Peking University, but fixed a normal college near my hometown. On the one hand, it was my dream to be a respected teacher, the same as my grandfather and father; secondly, I would study whatever major as long as I could study further. I never thought about getting advanced in the society or striving for fame and wealth, believing the opportunities will favor those who have made full preparations.

In December 1977, he participated in the matriculation examination and was enrolled by Nanjing Institute of Technology (currently Southeast University) majoring in building materials and products. In February 1982, he started to work at China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research. Then he’s been working at Jiangsu Research Institute of Building Science Co., Ltd. since July 1984. Academician Miao Changwen is now serving as a full-time professor, Ph.D. tutor, Director of the School’s Academic Committee, Chairman of Jiangsu Research Institute of Building Science Co., Ltd., Chief Scientist of the State Key Laboratory of High-Performance Civil Engineering Materials, representative of the 9th, 10th and 11th National People's Congress. Besides, he is also concurrently serving as Chairman of the International Joint Laboratory of Advanced Civil Engineering Materials, member of the Management and Decision-making Committee of International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, System and Structures (RELEM), Executive Director of China Building Materials Federation and Executive Director of China Civil Engineering Society. He has been long engaged in theoretical research of civil engineering materials and the application of engineering technology. He has undertaken more than 30 scientific research projects at national, provincial and ministerial level including the national “973” project and the key projects supported by Natural Science Foundation, etc.. Besides, he has made abundant achievements regarding studies on key technology of concrete crack resistance, the service life and durability of major infrastructure projects, and R&D of multifunctional civil engineering materials, etc.. He’s possessed 82 national invention patents, published 4 monographs and more than 200 papers, among which 150 papers were included by SCI, EI or ISTP. In November 2011, he was elected academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering.

My grandfather told me the rules of life.

I was born at Jiangyan District, Jiangsu Province in August 1957.

My grandfather who once taught at an old-style private school was my first teacher when I was still young. I read all ancient books collected at home, including the Twenty-Four Historiesand the Analects of Confucius, etc.




I still remembered the saying “grinding without phosphorus”, abstracted from the Analects of Confucius, which has been deemed as the root of my principle. With this sentence kept in my mind, I was not as naughty as peers during my childhood and I have been always rigorous about myself with my study results always ranked at the top.

My grandfather has been always greatly respected at my hometown for his job as a teacher. Neighbors always called him “xiansheng” (an old-style calling of teacher) and took good care of us.

I seldom worked in the fields before my graduation from the senior high school, but I was then assigned to pick up the feces at the countryside due to the “Cultural Revolution” in 1974. I had never done such work before. After a few days of work, the carrying pole wore out the clothes on my shoulders and pierced my shoulders. The pain wasunbearable, but I cannot stop my work.

I still remembered when I harvested corn in the fall, I shuttled back and forth in a corn field as high as a person. It was inevitably to be hurt by corn leaves, which even wounded my neck. It really hurt.However, the food supply was still in shortage despite heavy agricultural work. the staple food provided by the big dining hall began to be porridge. Duringthe period of “Emulating Da-Zhai on Agriculture” Campaign, you could see a few grains of rice, but later, it was almost water and really difficult to get full.

The hard experience is always memorable, which made me deeply understand the meaning of “every single grain is the fruit of hard work”.

Then I was adjusted to the work team in charge of writing papers. In 1976, there was a chance of advanced study, which excited me a lot in that I was in great desire of study.However, thisrare opportunity was offered to another elder people in the family. It was in 1977 that the matriculation examination was resumed, which brought me hope of further study.

During my study period, my math teacher concerned me a lot and sometimes let me live at his home. I just made use of this opportunity to read his books and get known of calculus, which was to be taught at university. Thanks to my study during that period, I passed the matriculation examination and studied advanced mathematics effortlessly.

In the process of preparation for the matriculation examination, I was mostly confused about the application. As a matter of fact, I mostly wished to be a teacher, just like my grandfather and father to teach students knowledge and rules to be a good man.Based on my outstanding performance, the principal suggested me to apply for Nanjing Institute of Technology, known as “Tsinghua University in South China” and “MIT in China”. I was not very confident and just changed my application, believing the normal university closer to my home would be more suitable to me personally.

But the principal persuaded my father again, who changed my application back to Nanjing Institute of Technology and I didn’t think too much about my major as long as I could be admitted. The principal suggested me to register for material, which was not popular with higher possibility of enrollment.

In July, when the matriculation examination ended, I continued to work at the publicity team of the commune and one day, I was told there was a registered letter for me at the post office. I first thought it was wrong because no one would write me a letter and my father’s name was usually written on the letter to home. I thought again whether it was the university’s offer. Thus I arrived at the post office in a hurry, but still missed the operation time. I waited before the post office the next early morning and open the letter. It was the offer from Nanjing Institute of Technology. I still cannot express my excitement at that moment. In that year, a total of 12 persons were admitted by the universities, among others, 6 were admitted by key universities. I was one of 6. My family members and even all the villagers felt proud of me because I was the first person in the village to be admitted by the university.

I really treasure the rare chance of study and focused on study. In order to study English better, I cut the English vocabulary book to strips of the same size to transcribe English words and sentences thereon, then bundledit with a rubber band, easy to carry with me. In this case, I can read and memorize vocabularies at any moment while walking.

For Chemistry and Physics, the two courses ignored at the senior high school, became the most important courses of my major and even derived several sub-courses, including General Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry and Applied Chemistry, etc.; the Mechanics further included Theoretical Mechanics, Material Mechanics and Structure Mechanics, etc.

The students were serious and the teachers even worked harder.

I also saw from my teacher that my grandfather had always told me how to behave well and work well. They not only teach students knowledge, but also took the lead in teaching students how to behave well and work well.

At that time, after all, the matriculation examination was just been resumed. Many teachers also needed to adapt themselves to the university teachers. If they did not prepare for the class seriously, they would probably be troubled by the students' problems the next day.

Moreover, engineering materials science was a discipline introduced from the Soviet Union. At that time, there were no ready-made textbooks. Some textbooks were even printed by the teacher after handwriting.

Among these teachers, I was mostly impressed by Professor Sun Wei, who taught us material science (in 2005, he was elected academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering).

Academician Sun Wei graduated from the Nanjing Institute of Technology with a major in civil engineering and construction and was then transferred to study building materials. He was teaching while studying.

However, because the research direction of material science was indefinite at the time, some students changed their majors, but I did not.

I don't regret choosing this major, just as I didn’t apply Tsinghua University, although I later knew that I could be admitted by Tsinghua University with my score.

After graduation from the undergraduate program, I was assigned to work at China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research in Beijing. I was the only person majoring in material science for the entire department. The superior equipment here allowed me to practice the basic theories learnt at school.

After many years of hard work in concrete, I really fell in love with this field and I have studied it deeply.




In 1986, I was designated to study in Denmark. I had to admit that the living and working environment abroad was better than that domestically. The professional equipment there was more advanced with more complete information and more channels to get information. My study there for one year benefited me a lot; at meantime, I also felt the great cultural shock between oriental and western cultures.

Domestically, the students received exam-oriented education from their childhood and only started to inject their own thinking during the graduate studies. But the students were exposed to heuristic education, which enabled me to think about the difference.

After my study in Denmark, the Denmark Universities greatly expected that I could continue my scientific researches there. I had to admit that both the living and work environment were better. It was a great choice for me personally and even my family. But I made the opposite choice because of my education received from the childhood.  

Because of filial piety, because I have a grateful heart, if I chose to stay, how can I repay my country who offered me the opportunity of studying abroad and cultivate me?so I resolutely gave up the opportunity and return to China on time.

After return, I also realized my dream of becoming a teacher. I took advantage of the opportunity of being hired as a professor by the university and taught several undergraduate courses at the university. I did not continue my teaching course because of researches.

Right now, my research team covers nearly 200 people. Although I no longer teach in class, I still have the responsibility of a teacher.

When teaching students, I always remembered the teachings of the university teacher, the same required on my students.

An old teacher once mentioned that the scientist can't be cultivated in eight hours. No pains, no gains. Even the innovation is sublimed in continuous knowledge accumulation. The groundless innovation just likes the cloud-castle.

Just like Academician Sun Wei, she was so passionate about material science. In order to facilitate her research, she even moved into the school office together with her husband when she was in her 70s, and lived there just to save time on the road...

With hard work, we must not only persist in the enthusiasm for research, but also unremitting thinking. Even in the face of the classic content that has been demonstrated once and again, we need to think carefully because the times are changing and the science is progressing; as a result, the classic knowledge will be also subject to change.

In addition to the persistence of the discipline, I think the most important thing is to be a good person without any moral flaw.

This is what I requested the students, just as my grandfather always taught me to “grind without to be phosphorus”. Strive to be a good person with lofty morality, which shall not to be changed with the environment.

In this way, no matter what kind of work you’re engaged in, you can get more recognition from the society and get more opportunities because of lofty morality and concentration.

Moreover, we must pay attention to reflection. I often ask my students to observe more and listen more, but talk less, and sometimes reconsider its appropriateness in advance.

In retrospect, it was the matriculation examination that offered me the opportunity of further study so that I can meet excellent teachers during the university, who taught us how to be a good person and learn knowledge. They are my models. In addition, the university education has broadened my vision and ideas, and greatly changed my ideology.

“Grinding without phosphorus”, I will stick to this principle and continue to serve the motherland in educating people and scientific research.