When Fudan University professor Zhang Qingxiong went to deliver his lecture at 1:30pm on November 10, he came upon an empty classroom.
The professor of philosophy learned later that Hong Kong entertainers including movie superstar Tony Leung Chiu Wai were to appear on campus at 6:30pm, but students had begun to gather at 3pm.
Anticipating the draw of these celebrities, the University Communist Youth League canceled the class and directed the students in Zhang's "Philosophy Armed Police Class" to help keep order at the crowd site.
For your reference, philosophy courses usually refer to courses such as dialectic materialism, scientific socialism and other subjects.
Angered and humiliated, the professor wrote an article titled "The sound from the mulberry fields by the bank of the Pu River signals national doom."
Zhang alluded to one book of the Confucian canon, Liji (The Book of Rites), in which mulberry bushes are a trysting place for lovers, suggesting the sounds of sexual activity.
"For many years I had always been proud of Fudan students ... but now a considerable number of the students have apparently viewed chasing stars and entertainment as above anything else," he wrote.
Zhang said Fudan students used to be very enthusiastic about lectures given by well-known scientists, but now their role models are no longer scientists, but those who make the most money.
Of course the students do not wake up to the value of money overnight.
Decades ago, would-be college students began to choose their majors in light of the money-making potential of a particular profession. That explains why investment banking is now the dream job for many.
If students are told to rank their subjects in order of decreasing importance, many will not be surprised if philosophy ends up at the bottom of the list.
Even archeologists are turning a good profit today.
As to philosophers - Plato once considered the philosopher to be the ideal ruler of a kingdom - they have grave difficulty justifying their existence in the market place.
Since philosophy concerns itself with fundamental issues of human existence, philosophizing would almost inevitably get in the way of worldly success.
Thus, although many a philosophy course languishes unattended, it is a miracle that it survives at all. It give researchers ample material for churning out papers, and earns the students the needed credits.
The sad state of affairs for philosophy is also related with how the courses are being offered.
Yi Junqing, chief of the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, explained that the lack of enthusiasm about Marxism among college students is chiefly not a problem with Marxism itself - which is vigorous as ever - but with the teaching methodology.
The real problem with philosophy today may be that it is little more than teaching methodology. It has degenerated into a scholastic discipline, but ceases to be a power that can inform our attitudes and outlook on life.
In an article on "the dialogue about human religion and civilization" (Weihui Daily, November 21), scholars Tu Weiming and Robert Bellah exchange their views about the problems brought about by modernization, during a forum at Peking University on November 5.
Bellah cites Pierre Hadot's "Philosophy as a Way of Life" in its observations that philosophy is no longer a way of life. To classical Greek philosophers it would be unthinkable that someone devoid of beliefs and morality could pursue philosophical investigation; the same can be said of Confucianism.
Professor Tu of Peking University said the pressing issues confronting our times concern not only deteriorating ecology, but also problems of order, our loss of a sense of history, connectivity, integrity, and family-individual relations.
Tu said that like all religions and traditions in the world, the Confucianism is faced with the erosion of the Western world.