On December 10th FASS was delighted to commemorate the 80th Birthday of NUS University Professor and eminent Chinese historian Wang Gungwu at the second Inter-Asian Connections Conference. In honour of the occasion, FASS invited Harvard University Emeritus Prof Philip Kuhn (a former study mate of Professor Wang from their postgraduate studies at SOAS in the 1950s) to deliver a keynote lecture on “China and Chineseness: Civilization as Historical Storehouse”.
Following kind welcome remarks from FASS Dean Prof Brenda Yeoh, Prof Kuhn revealed his continuing admiration for Prof Wang’s intricate interweaving of scholarship, statesmanship, administration and teaching over his illustrious career. Prof Kuhn’s colloquy proceeded to refer to Prof Wang’s 1992 book, ‘The Chineseness of China’ and the abiding distinctiveness of Chinese civilization as a mediator between permanence and change. It can be argued that this ‘storehouse’ of culture, including ideas such as the Analects of Confucius, have been used and misused throughout China’s history to suit the purposes of those with access to power. Kuhn then drew parallels between the historical figure of Feng Dao and the more contemporary Wang Meng.
There then followed a very vibrant Q&A session focused on Confucius’ doctrine of the mean (中庸 zhōng yōng) and its multifarious interpretations. Wang Gungwu thanked Prof Kuhn and reminded all that Confucianism has come in and out of favour with different historical periods. The session ended with gifts of appreciation for Prof Wang from FASS and the SSRC and a cake cutting ceremony.
To watch the video of Prof Kuhn’s lecture, please click here: //nuscast.nus.edu.sg/PublicEvents/PE.asp?yr=2010