2019 June 11-13, Confucianism in Dialogue with Cultures and Religions, A Conference in Honor of Professor Tu Weiming, Georgetown University

Prof. Tu Weiming (1940-) has played a leading role in the creative development of modern Confucianism as a global intellectual discourse. Beginning his studies of the Confucian classics at the age of 14, Tu has spent more than six decades in ongoing dialogue with other Axial Age civilisations and indigenous spiritual traditions, refining the essence of the Confucian legacy for the modern world. Instead of adopting a narrowly academic approach in his writing, he has forged a pioneering path consonant with Confucian humanism itself, abandoning the academic publication treadmill and the contemporary bandwagon of increasing specialisation in favour of more authentically humanistic discourse.

Tu has lectured at more than a hundred universities around the world, occupied leadership roles in various international organisations, and engaged in dialogues with a broad spectrum of intellectual leaders with the aim of strengthening the flame of Confucianism for future generations. Examining the Confucian tradition in a spirit of critical innovation and intellectual honesty against a backdrop of cultural globalisation, Tu has sought to promote nothing less than a renaissance of Chinese culture. Transcending modern and postmodern secularism, he has achieved international prominence with four open-ended projects: 

  1. The Creative Transformation of Confucianism in the 21st Century 
    Tu defines Chinese culture as a “culture of learning,” namely an ongoing process of “learning to be human,”, highlighting Chinese culture’s traditional ability to absorb foreign wisdom and to engage in self-criticism and reflection. 

2. Cultural China 
This concept transcends geography and politics to offer a common roof to all those who are intellectually and emotionally connected to China and its people. 

3. Evaluating the Legacy of the Enlightenment 
Tu enlists the rich Confucian tradition as an ally in the fight to right the excesses of environmental degradation and anthropocentrism produced by overreliance on the “Enlightenment mentality.” 

4. Dialogue of Civilisations 
Though he can scarcely be credited with initiating this project on his own, Tu has been a leading Confucian voice in the global chorus of opposition to the Clash of Civilisations paradigm. 

In 2009, Tu left his Professor’s chair at Harvard University for Peking University’s Department of Philosophy; his mission was to contribute to reform of Chinese humanistic education against a tide of rising nationalism and anti-globalisation sentiment. Over the past decade, enriched by a lifetime of global dialogue, he has brought his broad Confucian perspective to bear, beyond traditional academic boundaries, on a range of challenges facing the real world. His advocacy of reform in the humanities – a reform commensurate with the challenges of the 21st Century – has culminated in his coining of the term “Spiritual Humanism.” 

Spiritual Humanism is an attempt to situate the universal call of ethics in an open, integrated and harmonious house in which body and spirit, the individual and society, humanity and nature, the secular and the sacred are all welcome, and to provide human rather than abstract solutions to the many problems we face. 

Over the course of his long career, Prof. Tu has offered guidance to thousands of undergraduate students, as well as supervision to hundreds of postgraduates from every corner of the globe. Many of these former students have since assumed leadership positions within the Academy and beyond. 

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