Prof. Frank Ching Lectures on the topic “What is Chinese?” (7/24/13)


On the morning of July 24, Professor Frank Ching, Adjunct Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and senior critic, delivered an English lecture entitled “What is Chinese?” The lecture was sponsored by Peking University’s Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies. Scholars present include Professor Tu Weiming, Director of the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University and Professor Chen Rongkai of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Over 100 teachers and students attended the lecture, and discussed issues including “who is Chinese,” “how to be Chinese,” “how to condense the Chinese cultural identity,” in response to Professor Frank Ching’s lecture. The lecture was stimulating, the discussion rich.


Prof. Ching’s lecture was divided into three parts: First, he started with the book The Chineseness of China by the renowned Chinese Singaporean scholar Wang Gengwu. The book embodies the sense of estrangement felt by the Chinese ethnics born abroad. They yearn to learn more about the land of their ancestors and the background of their families. Here also lies the personal concern of Professor Ching. Secondly, Prof. Ching recounted his own “road of root-searching”: he collected information about his genealogy and analyzed his own DNA sample with the aid of the American Genetic Geology Program. He then wrote the book A Thousand-year History of the Chings, and raised another question based on Wang Gengwu’s discussion of how the first generation of Chinese emerged, i.e. “how the first generation emerged in the global vision.” With these questions, Prof. Ching traced the change in the concept “Chinese” through history and touched on the contemporary interpretation of the concept–both official and unofficial. What lies behind is his efforts and true cares for reality, yearnings for motherland as an overseas Chinese.


At the end, Prof. Tu Weiming gave concluding remarks. He pointed out that regarding the question of cultural identity, Chinese Americans differ from African Americans and European Americans in that China has an irresistible attraction to overseas Chinese. No matter where they are, they want to come see their cultural motherland. In this sense, Cultural China must be an open, pluralistic concept, and only then can it be a rich and living concept.


The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies plan to conduct a series of related research about Cultural China.