The book is not a particularly political one. Tang's reflections are not only interesting in themselves but also as a indication of what the authorities (or at least editors scared of the authorities) think had best be left out of books these days. The section below was left out of the 1993 Chinese edition and of the later 1999 English language edition.
[Context of censored section on p. 221 -- in a chapter discussing a trip to German nature parks, Tang mentions his correspondence with an American friend named Kitty. Kitty had written to Tang, "It is hard for me to accept the explanation that much of China is worn out and damaged beyond repair because of thousand of years of overuse by a people who did not traditionally have reverence for nature, the land and living things. :" I do not believe that there is such a thing as an entire people whose cultural tradition sanctions destruction of the natural environment. There has to be another explanation." Tang replied, "Kitty, my dear friend thank you for your letter. ... A difference in living conditions, historical backgrounds and cultural levels has naturally given us different understandings of nature. Questions that mean nothing to you could be very serious to us.
"As you have noticed, a disregard for nature is widespread in China. Two types of people notice this: Chinese who go abroad and then return and foreigners who come to China. Why is there such disregard? Apart from pressures of a large population, there are many reasons which relate to political, economic and cultural factors. You raised a very important questions when you said :" I do not believe that there is such a thing as an entire people whose cultural tradition sanctions destruction of the natural environment." You question left me sleepless for several nights. I continue to ponder the question. Is the Chinese cultural tradition entirely without any nature-loving element?
I have not enough learning to answer this question, so I am just expressing my feeling instead of my knowledge. Observing the present is helpful in better understanding history, and reviewing history is helpful in better understanding the present. ]
Begin censored section
The Tiananmen Square incident has left a very deep impression on me. All the newspapers, journals, radio and TV programs changed to uniform words and tone almost overnight, as if the happening involving a million people that had taken place the night before was unreal. A downright lie became 100 percent truth. In an instant intelligent men devoting themselves to the cause of democracy became criminals, while those engaged in repressing the masses were honored as "Defenders of the Republic" Beijing University, with its long history and international fame, was allowed to enroll only eight hundred new students this year, and all of them must leave Beijing to receive one year of military training. The bitter and suffocating yesterday that parted us not long ago has returned suddenly. Some people said, "This is because of the intimidation of guns." I said, "It's not entirely the power of guns but more the pernicious influence of thousands of years of traditional culture." This can be seen from the articles published following the incident, for these took a 180 degree turn -- but how plausible and emotional they sounded! If you think these writings were the outcome of political and military pressure, then why did a certain Professor Chen, living in the United States, also speak against his own conscience? (His essay was published by the overseas edition of Liaowang magazine.)
Let's compare conditions in Eastern Europe. When the peoples of Poland, Hungary and East Germany awakened to the necessity for reform, reform became an irresistible tide. However, when the Chinese people awakened and began to act, they induced bloody suppression. That reminds me of various farmers' rebellions in former eras. Even if some of the rebellions were successful, the result was simply a shift in rulers, the fruits of success never passed into the hands of the common people. I'm also reminded of the burning of books and burying alive of scholars by the Emperor Qinshihuang, the state examination system started in the Tang Dynasty, and the various political movements started by Mao Zedong aimed at punishing intellectuals, which I experienced myself. [End Censored Section In such a cultural environment -- [Censored "prolonged, closed, dictatorial, lacking in democracy, domestically and in interflow internationally ]
[Censor inserts "closed to the outside world" -- it was very difficult to develop science and technology as well as a tradition of loving nature.
[After this section Tang names several nature loving writers and poets -- Tao Yuanming, Li Bai/Li Po, and Xu Xiake, and then remarks, "However, their nature-loving spirit failed to penetrate traditional Chinese culture. Even though their writings were popular among intellectuals and their activities did evoke some response from intellectuals who were political escapists, it was impossible to transform their love of nature into a cultural philosophy for mass consumption under conditions prevailing at the time."]