June 24-25, 2017, Symposium on “Retrospect and Prospect of the Development of Contemporary Confucianism” held in the Songyang Academy

Jointly organized by the Institute for advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University and Songyang Academy, a symposium on “Retrospect and prospect of the Development of Contemporary Confucianism (Songyang Academy Conference Series No. Four) was held on June 24-25, 2017 at the Songyang Academy, located at the foot of the Songshan Mountain. 26 scholars from mainland China and Hong Kong and Taiwan had in-depth discussion and exchanges around six sub-themes — “Prospects of the development of contemporary Confucianism”, “Analysis and reflection on the development of contemporary Confucianism”, “Confucianism and world philosophy”, “Confucianism and the way of politics”, “Interpretation of classics and creative development”, and “Confucian classics and modern education”.

Viewed from the historical dimension, the revival of the traditional Chinese cultural represented mainly by Confucianism is a reversal of the wave against the Chinese culture at the beginning of the last century. Viewed from the spatial dimension, it is an important part of the rise of non-Western culture in the context of global modernization. The development of this transition will have a profound impact on China and the world today and in the future. The symposium was based exactly on understanding the importance of this transition. Interaction of various schools of thought at all levels and various practices with different focuses not only reflect the vitality of this revival of Confucianism, but also implies a variety of problems and disturbing tendencies. Participated by some of the leading scholars in the field of Confucian studies, the symposium was expected to reflect on the revival of contemporary Confucianism, and provide analysis on the past experience, current condition and future of the development of contemporary Confucianism.

Executive Vice Director of Songyang Academy Mr. Sun Peixin made welcome remarks on behalf of the sponsors of the conference. Citing a poem of a Qing Dynasty local scholar, Sun said that the place is once again seeing a “gathering of worthies” and witnessing “continuation of the tradition”.   

Director of the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University Professor Tu Weiming spoke highly of the great surge of Confucianism in China in the recent years. He said that he firmly believes that the humanitarian spirit represented by the Zi Si and Mencius lineage of Confucianism will be able to go beyond the secular humanism held by the Enlightenment movement, and become an indispensable reference for the 21st century human quest for peaceful development. Director of the School of National Studies at Tsinghua University, Professor Chen Lai, focused on the “creative transformation” of Chinese traditional culture, and pointed out the importance of inheritance of tradition for creativity and development.

Participating Scholars believe that the current revival of Confucianism shows the return of the subjectivity of Chinese culture. Most scholars believe that such a return requires us to overcome the antagonistic thinking between the East and the West, standing in the commanding heights, to accommodate the achievements of various civilizations, turn from passive acceptance of Western civilization to active participation in the construction of global civilization, and let Confucianism become a resource for wisdom and value that can be shared by everyone.

Scholars also warned of some of the disturbing tendencies in today’s Sinology craze, such as fundamentalist Confucianism, vulgarization of Confucianism, blind obedience and the revival of superstition. In his concluding speech, Professor Tu Weiming pointed out that, if the difficulties encountered by Confucianism in the past were because of its being too marginal and had no right to speak, the difficulties today are just the opposite—that it has gained an upper hand.

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