Xinya College Undertakes7th National ClassicalAnnual Meeting
FromNovember 1st to3rd, 2019, hosted by theProfessional Committee of Classical Studies of theChina Comparative Literature Association, undertaken by Xinya College ofTsinghua University and co-organized by the Centerfor the Study of Classical Civilization ofRenmin University of China, Centerfor the Study of Rituals ofPeking University, Centerfor the Study of Classics ofSun Yat-Sen University, Centerfor the Study of Classics ofChongqing University andYuelu Academy of Hulan University,the 7th National Classical Annual Meeting washeld at Tsinghua University.Themed “the classic and the modern”, theClassical Annual Meeting covered Chinese and Western classics and enlightenment, histories of Chinese and Westernclassical civilization, theorigins of modernity in China and the West,the relationship betweenclassics and modernity, and other topics. More than 120experts and scholars and over 30doctoral students from more than 40 universities andscientific research institutes participated in the discussion.
The opening ceremony was hosted byProfessor Gan Yang, Dean of Xinya College of Tsinghua University,and addressed byProfessor Zhang Hui, Vice President of the China Comparative Literature Association, and Professor Wu Fei,Head of the Professional Committee of Classical Studies.
Professor Zhang Hui reviewedtopics of concern to the Classical Society over the years, then pointed out that no matter whether we are studying the West orChina, the classical studies we engage in arenotgeneral but have their ownfoundations,openness and inclusiveness, andwestrive not just to learn Chinese classics but to modestlyunderstand the classics ofothers.Professor Zhang Hui said that people who study comparativeclassics in China should shoulder a dual missionto learn to understand the West correctly and comprehensively, especially the classical West in contrast to the modern West, and to make great efforts through ourstudies to arouse the warmth and respect of Chinese civilization, and be aware of and probe into its fundamental issues.
In his speech, Professor Wu Fei analyzed three pairs of tensions, namely that between China and the West, between Chinese traditional philology and moral principles, and between classical studies and modern context, and said that the last tension is the most fundamental andrequires attention and consideration. He believes that the theme of this annual meeting, the classic and the modern, istargeted at the lasttension, and points out that classical studies should avoid the abstract and dogmatic discussion of ancient values, and should be based on modern life, go deep into ancientbooks, experience theprofound value of classical civilization, and respond to problems in modern life.
TheKeynote Address to theMeeting was hosted bySecretary-General of the Professional Committee of Classical Studies and Associate Professor Li Changchunofthe Department of Philosophy ofSun Yat-sen University,and included reportsgiven byProfessor Ding Yunofthe Department of Philosophy of Fudan University,Professor Tang Wenmingofthe Department of Philosophyof Tsinghua University,Professor Li Qingliangof Yuelu Academyof Hunan University and Professor Han Chaoof the Department of Philosophyof Tongji University.
Professor Ding Yun made thekeynote addressLife and Career:Breakthroughin Contemporary Philosophy. He started withan investigation intohis mental condition andacademic situation, briefly reviewedthe academic discussion onlife and careerto explain the profoundsignificance of this problem and itsinternal relations to classicalstudies, and proposed that the discussionof classical studies is not only about the eternal topics but alsoan important resource with which to solve current problems. He further reflected on the motive force and purpose of classical studies, deeply explained its significance to modern society and life, and emphasized that the ancient and modern Chinese and Westernproblems discussed by classical studies should be further deepened so astouse it torefine our thinking about basicphilosophical problems.
Professor Tang Wenming made the speechVirtue Ethics, Confucian Tradition and the Universal Dilemma of Modern Society in which he interpreted the basic viewpoint and theoretical basis of the relationship between Confucian ethics and virtue ethics, responded to thediscussion of public morality and private virtue via the differentiation betweenvirtue ethics and ruleethics, added four standards to definethe meanings of public morality and private virtue, and pointed out thatthe destruction of virtue is a universal dilemma that cannot be solved by modern society.
Professor Li Qingliang gave thekeynote addressXunzi’s Discussion of the Purpose, Conditions and Self-Cultivation of Classical Interpretation.As past studies depend excessivelyon the theory ofWestern hermeneutics, he proposed to start with theintrinsic ideological context ofXunzi andthe pre-Qin Confucian schools in order topresent the true connotations of Xunzi’s classical hermeneutical thought.Through an analysisof the hermeneutical teleology of“To Be a Sage”,hermeneutical condition theory of“AccumulatedDeception” andhermeneutical cultivation theory of“Freedom fromDeception” inXunzi’s classical hermeneutical thought, he showed thattheChineseclassical hermeneutical tradition is an unique and characteristicacademic heritage andhermeneutical doctrine oftraditional society inChinese civilization, soChinese and Western civilizations have their own unique hermeneutical contexts.
InProfessor Han Chao’skeynote speechResearch on the Source of Thought of Polybius, he validated the source of thought ofPolybius,emphatically discussed the source ofthe equilibrium andrestrictiontheory usually considered ashaving been originated byPolybius, pointed out thatfear of balance cannot be supported by ancient mainstream political thought,fear inspires skepticism and agnosticism, andThucydides’ fear theory is very close to the view of the Sophists at that time, while Antiphon’s expression is similar to that of Hermocrates. In his opinion, the theory of the separation of powers and equilibrium andrestriction is not just a theory of checks and balances on power within a regime, but a hypothesis on human nature, the origin of human nature and the origin of society.
On the morning of November 3rd, after the group discussion, a round-table conference themed“Classical studies and Modernity”washeld. It waschaired byLi Meng,Professor of thePhilosophy Department and Dean of Yuanpei College of Peking University.Many scholarsjoined together to conductafull andenergetic discussion, including Zhang Zhiqiang, Professor of theInstitute of Philosophy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,Wu Zengding, Professor of theDepartment of Philosophy of Peking University,Cheng Zhimin, Professor of the Social Science Centerof Hainan University,Ke Xiaogang, Professor of theDepartment of Philosophy atTongji University,Zhao Xiaoli, theAssociate Professor of theSchool of Law of Tsinghua University,Zhang Xu, Professor of theDepartment of Philosophy of Renmin University of China, Liang Zhan, Researcher of theInstitute of Foreign Languages of theChinese Academy of Social Sciences,Lin Zhimeng,Associate Professor of theDepartment of Philosophy of Zhejiang University,Liu Wei,Associate Professor of theDepartment of Philosophy of Sun Yat-sen University and others.
Professor Zhang Zhiqiang expressed his belief that thought on classical studies in today’s situation is based on the current sense of context and involves the evolution of the clash of civilizations. The relationship betweenclassical studies and modernitycontains pursuit of value choices and the appeal of humanism, including finding the root of the fracture between classical traditions and modernity, and controlling the development of modernity. The exploration of the historical way from classical traditions to modernity is an overcoming of history formed during history and not an overcoming of history itself. We should go back to history itself to understandtheclassics, and understandingtheclassics from history is the premise of understanding the classics from modern times. He pointed out that classical studies can by definition include all studies of history, and endow it with value goals at the same time. Thus, classical studies shouldprovide existing classical or ancient studieswitha holistic framework. When facinghistory, ancient people were calm; that is,we can learn from ancient people to control modern changes and obtaintangible structures.Such calmness is worth learning, anditis also the intention of classical studies.
Professor Wu Zengding expressed his belief that classical studies refer not only to classical courses but also to classical learning in a broad sense. Hepointed out thatthe main problem in current academic circles is the loss of the common discourse system and the “world of meaning”. The role of classical studies lies in bridging the segments between disciplines and creating possibilities for mutual communication. Classical studies should also include philosophical studies and give consideration to specific situations at different times.
Professor Cheng Zhimin said that the reason we have entered the modern era is precisely due to the continuous decline of classical traditions. Nowadays, the disappearance of the sacred and holistic meaning in classical thought leads to tension and hostility between humans and the world, and the world cannot beunderstood as a result. This, if we wish to seek a new way in modernity, we need to return to the once infinitely rich classical thought.
Professor Ke Xiaogang pointed out that the premise ofunderstanding ancient and modernchanges is to distinguish between classical and ancient times, as well as between modern and contemporary times. The classics cannot be understood as the ancient opposed to the modern in a ready-made sense.The contemporary belongs to everyone who lives in his time.Both the contemporary and the classical have the significance of transcending the objective history of positivism.Thus,the normalization and eternity ofthe classical run through the “contemporary” of every era, and are constantly generated. The key purpose of activating Chineseclassics lies in contemplating the common concerns of the current era.
Associate Professor Zhao Xiaoli expressed his belief that in the discussion of modernity, we should first judge at what moment modernity is in, the connotations ofclassical studies and the cause of the “critical moment”. He pointed out that classical studies should remain open and free, reflect on the current living situation and its problems, and identify the reasons behind such problems. This mission can only be undertakenvia classical studies.
Professor Zhang Xu pointed out thatthe discussion in this annual meeting runs through common problems and clues, including the construction of Chinese classical studies from theperspective oftheinterpretation ofcivilized/culturalself-consciousness, the construction ofthe Western Canon starting from the spirits oftheWestern“negative classics”,namely thedilemma and problems of modernity, and the construction of the classicalfrom the perspective of comparativeclassics. Hebelieves that the most fundamental philosophical problems should be put forward throughthought onmodernity and the construction ofclassical studies.
Researcher Liang Zhan pointed out that thedispute between theclassical andthemodern laid the foundation for thedual structure of respect for authority and rationality that was thenoverthrown by research in the20th century.We should link political modernity with enlightenment and emphasize that studyingthe classics is not a series of political and historical conditionsresulting from studying works, but finding tension in freedom and eventually creating new people rather than returning to a certaintime in thepast.
Associate Professor Lin Zhimeng said that in recent years, various political events in China and the West haveenabled ustofeel that the classical understanding of politics, ethics, literature, and art is still deeply enlightening. With the help of classical thought, we can deeply reflect on the decline of modern countries, the nothingness of values and the growing inequality. Great changes have taken place inthe forms ofmodern life,so some value demands must be reformulated.
Associate Professor Liu Wei expressed his belief that the focus onclassical studies is mainly due to dissatisfaction with the disciplinary division caused by the division of labor in modern life. We should try to pursue integrity outside thestructures of modern disciplines. For currentphilosophical research,how to transcend the social division of labor and gain a sense of wholeness, and how to useclassical studies to criticize modernity and oppose the division of labor in modern society and the achieved modern disciplinary mechanism, are important issues worth considering.
The closing ceremony was hosted byAssociate Professor Lin Zhimeng, Deputy Secretary General of the Professional Committee of Classical Studies,and addressed byProfessor Liu Xiaofeng ofthe School of Liberal Arts of Renmin University of China,Professor Gan Yang, Dean of Xinya College of Tsinghua University, andProfessor Wu Fei, Chairman of the Professional Committee of Classical Studies.
Professor Liu Xiaofeng first pointed out thattheNational Research Instituteof Tsinghua University from 1925 to 1929 was the earliest source of classical studies in modern China. “Studies of Chinese ancient civilization” was closely related to the problems faced by the country at that time. Theshift from Studies of Chinese ancient civilization to classical studies reflects not only the academic changes in China but also the influence of the Western world. This annual meetinghas been heldat TsinghuaUniversity to remindclassics scholars ofclassical studies to pay attention to their own historicalcircumstances.Later, Professor Liu Xiaofeng said that, compared with Western classics, Chinese classics form a kind of learning direction and interest, with special historical and national conditions as their contents. Finally, he pointed out that the differences between ancient and modern times are fundamental in our basic understanding of the world and human nature; emphasizing the classics does not mean objecting to the progress of modern civilization in terms of utensils and regimes, or simply rejecting modernity.
Professor Gan Yang expounded upon the differences between classical and modern educational ideas. He pointed out that, before the establishment of modern universities, both Chinese and Western classical educational ideas were aimed at shaping values, cultivating character, anddeveloping virtues, with the educational goal of cultivatingmen of noble character or Western gentlemen. In the mid-19th century, the rise of modern universities emphasized knowledge orientation, which acceleratedknowledge production in terms ofpositive significance but led to the“soulless expert” asdescribed byWeber interms ofnegative consequences and dangers.He agreed that the concept of university education should be a lexicographically ordered trinity of “value shaping, ability training and knowledge imparting”, and emphasized that the subject of the school motto “Self-Discipline and Social Commitment” set by Liang Qichao for Tsinghua University in that year was “gentlemen”; that is to say, modern universities in China should still cultivate gentlemen who can explore knowledge as their ideal.
Professor Wu Fei pointed out that the reason for the vitality and development of the Professional Committee of Classical Studies is that the classics do not represent a specific profession or discipline, which enablesclassical studies tosecure the resources within the system from folk academic research and thus gain the requiredstrength for virtue and vitality. He fully affirmed the scale and quality of the annual meeting, and looked forward to more innovations and further improvements in the future. Finally, he expressed his sincere gratitude to the organizer of this annual meeting, Xinya College of Tsinghua University, and announced that the 8th National Classical Academic Year willtake place at Sun Yat-sen University as scheduled next year.
The annual meeting included24symposiums anddoctoral sessions at whichtheattending scholarsheld detailed dialogues from different angles and discussedthe philosophy, poetics and history of ancient Greece and Rome,interpretation of Chinese classics, debates overConfucian classics andthe historical record,comparison between Chinese and Western thought, study of Western medieval and modern philosophy, and other topics.The successful convening of this annual meeting hasboosted the in-depth development of classical studies, promoted profound reflection on modernity, stimulated the vitality of the study of Chinese and Western classical civilizations, andgivenfurther consideration to the relationship between traditional classics and modern life, and between Chinese and Western classics.