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International Masters Frontier Forum and the 4th Chen Yinque Academic Lecture Series Held at Sun Yat-sen University

Last updated :2018-05-28

Source: Boya (Liberal Arts) College
Written by: Boya (Liberal Arts) College
Edited by: Wang Dongmei

Organized by the Center for Classical Studies and Boya (Liberal Arts) College, and supported by the Office of International Cooperation & Exchange of Sun Yat-sen University, the International Masters Frontier Forum and the 4th Chen Yinque Academic Lecture Series was held on Guangzhou South Campus. Professor Roel Sterckx was invited to present three lectures on different topics respectively on May 8, 10 and 17.

Professor Sterckx, from Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies of University of Cambridge, is the Joeph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization. Elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013, he has devoted to studies on ancient Chinese culture and religion and has published multiple influential works.

Starting with illustrating the philosophical ideas relating to animals of ancient China in Malraux’s la Tentation de I’Occident’s plot of a French touring in China and communicating with a Chinese friend who is also traveling, Professor Sterckx then referred to texts of the Warring States and Han Dynasty and researches of sinologists from the 19th to 20th century, delicately analyzing relevant remarks of Confucius, Lao Zi and Xun Zi to discuss the relations of man and beasts. After that, this thinking mode was interpreted in two aspects based on the form of early Chinese politic power and the debate on how to become a saint. Professor Sterckx concluded that Chinese tradition of description of animals is helpful for acknowledgement of human’s position in the nature and the awareness of animals are deeply planted in their consciousness. The ideal of a state governed by the best man has determined that the focus of scholars would only be morality instead of animals.

In Professor Sterckx’s second lecture on the afternoon of May 10, the theme was techniques of agriculture. Through reflecting on pre-existing researches of Chinese techniques and philosophy, Professor Sterckx declared his preference for materials scattered in non-agriculture texts against those in agricultural books. By analyzing metaphors of seed, irrigation and so on with relevant texts, he drew the conclusion that in philosophers’ argumentation using metaphors of agriculture, it is its philosophical meaning that overrules the technique itself, for those texts all contained moral implication.

In Professor Sterckx’s third lecture on the afternoon of May 17, he emphatically analyzed the relationship between the status of ancient Chinese peasants and merchants along with the comparison of profit and morality. In his point, there is a tension attached to China’s attention on agriculture and the structure of ‘Si Min’, that ‘Nong’ (agriculture) is not just a branch of economics, but a kind of mentality represented by ‘Pu’ (simple) and ‘Qin’ (industrious). Though with the rise of tax state, the Chinese understanding of human economic behaviors was still deeply influenced by the tradition and custom of Li (ceremonies).

With his natural taste of humor, Professor Sterckx switched between English and Chinese with high proficiency during his lecture, not only warming up the atmosphere but also enhancing students’ comprehension, successfully attracting listeners from different colleges including Boya College, Department of Chinese, Department of Philosophy, etc. After the lectures, Professor Sterckx responded to questions from the audience, including the Needham Problem, Confucian metaphor on implements, the influnce of Confucian ideology on economy, and methods to study philosophy and cultural history.