Pyramids and Mummies: Egyptology at CUHK

September 2010

The comparison of ancient civilizations always carries a strong attraction to humanities scholars, and creates an inner urge for them to research on the subject, and to contemplate the similarities and differences. Professor Poo Mu-chou is Professor of History at CUHK. Among his many research interests his principal specialty, and first love, is Egyptology, a rare subject among Asian scholars.

The ancient Egyptians, with a history longer than that of the Chinese and a civilization developed to a very high level of sophistication very early on, held out a lot of fascination to Professor Poo.

Hong Kong is a place strategically well positioned for promoting the study of ancient civilizations. This is the major reason why Professor Poo gave up so much of his teaching and research to come to Hong Kong. But unlike other major cities in the world, Hong Kong cannot boast of any ancient Egyptian artifacts, let alone a collection, in its museums. However, according to Professor Poo, this inadequacy may soon be remedied by the introduction of virtual museums, which is now under serious consideration by the authorities and which, when extensively implemented, will be of tremendous benefit in attracting young people to ancient Egyptian culture, and in sustaining the interest of those who wish to study it academically.

Egyptology derives much of its significance from the fact that there is a natural yearning to study, to probe and to contemplate on what fascinates the human mind and provokes man's intellectual curiosity. The ancient world, with its astounding monuments now standing in ruins, calls the modern man to reflect on matters of a higher plane, which will always reward him with healthy mental refreshment and a better understanding of eternity.

Professor Poo said, "The study of an ancient civilization also inspires us to a greater concern for ecological matters, especially the issue of conservation. When we survey the remote past, we realize what we have lost over the ages, and cannot help feeling that, in many ways, the ancient might yet be better than the present. As we contemplate the past, we seem to be hearing a voice asking us whether the present state of global pollution could go on forever, and whether we should not return to the cleaner manner of living of the ancients."

Professor Poo was delighted to see budding interests in Egyptology among students in Hong Kong, the Mainland and Taiwan. He said, "I once gave a lecture on the subject at Peking University and it drew no less than four hundred very attentive and motivated students. I have also recently enrolled a PhD student with excellent academic credentials for the study of Egyptology at CUHK under me." So apparently the challenge of ancient Egyptian civilization is there and is gradually attracting more students on both sides of the Strait.

For a full interview of Professor Poo, please click here.