The Workshop “Confucianism in the Age of Enlightenment” was held at Peking University


The Institute of Advanced Humanistic Studies (IAHS) at Peking University and its affiliated World Ethics Institute Beijing (WEIB) have held a high profile international workshop on the topic of “Confucianism in the Age of Enlightenment,” from Nov.26th to Nov.28th, 2016, at Peking University. Twenty-eight distinguished scholars from different countries, including Germany, France, United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and different institutions in China, gathered together and had deep discussions about how classics of Confucianism were translated into European languages and how they were introduced, interpreted, and received by the European Enlightenment thinkers.

The conference began with an opening address by Professor Tu Weiming, the Director of the IAHS. He called for in-depth dialogues in a broad context of humanistic perspective and an understanding of the inter-dependence between the self, community, nature, and the Way of heaven. Professor Meng Hua of the Institute of Comparative Literature and Comparative Cultures at Peking University gave a key speech which pointed out that the international workshop was designed to be inter-disciplinary, inter-cultural, and cross generations.

Throughout the two and half days workshop, participants presented rich historical materials and their insightful analysis. Among these, renowned Leibniz expert Professor Li Wenchao of the University of Hannover (Germany) presented four major models of interpretation of Confucius and his thoughts among the early Enlightenment thinkers, Leibniz, Thomasius, Walff, and Bilfinger. Professor Isabelle Landry-DERON from France examined the changing images of Confucius in the biographies and paintings of the Chinese master during the 17th century Europe. Professor Ronnie P. Hsia from the U.S. spoke about how Matteo Ricci’s interpretation of Confucianism was challenged by Michele Ruggieri. Professor Luo Ying from Beijing Foreign Studies University took the translation of the book of Zhongyong as an example to show a glimpse of how Jesuit missionaries interpreted Confucian classics. Professor Thierry Meynard of Zhongshan University gave a detailed report on how Jesuit missionary François Noël functioned as a turning point in the 17-18 century reception of Confucianism in Europe, who gave Song-Ming neo-Confucians a positive account. Professor Meng Hua discussed the detailed notes on the margins of a copy of the book of Mencius taken by French writer Voltaire, who claimed himself a “disciple of Confucius.” Professor Li Shengwen from Canada, Han Qi from Chinese Academy of Sciences, Luo Weidong of Zhejiang University, Han Ling of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Gao Yi of Peking University, and Japanese scholar Igawa Yoshitsugu all gave informative and thought inspiring talks at the workshop.

The last key speech by Professor Zhang Xiping of Beijing Foreign Studies University called for reflections on all the historical facts presented by the other participants of the workshop and for overcoming the nihilistic post-modern attitude toward the history. His speech was a perfect transition to the roundtable discussion chaired by Professor Tu Weiming during the final morning session. The roundtable discussants were Professor Roger T. Ames, Chen Pingyuan, Liu Shuseng, Ni Peimin of Peking University, and Professor Yang Huilin of Renmin University. The conversation led to a clearer understanding of the role and significance of Confucianism in the progression of world civilizations and suggested topics for further exploration. Professor Meng Hua gave the closing speech and declared that the workshop was a big success.