Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Request for info and assistance on translation

The following is an open letter from Hans Kuijper and Wang Ronghua; please see below for their contact info, and respond directly to them if you are interested in the project here described. Of course, discussion on the blog of the ideas raised here is also encouraged! (I have edited the letter slightly.)

To whom it may concern:

The resurrection of China over the last three decades or so has taken the world by surprise, and the cause(s), nature, scale and speed of her transformation have been the subject of numerous publications in the Western world. The mounting interest in the country that fast moves to the center stage of world politics is not confined to universities, for more and more people outside of academia are curious about China’s economy, polity, society, history, and culture. Though it is questionable whether all these publications are based on solid research and bear witness to a sound theory, it is certain that many misconceptions about China prevail, misconceptions that may easily result in the pursuit of wrong, if not disastrous, policies towards it.


Remarkably, whereas in-depth knowledge about such core concepts of Chinese thought as 道, 阴, 阳, 易, 化, 一, 德, 天, 命, 理, 礼, 乐, 法, 权 数, 势, 气, 性, 心, 儒, 仁, 怨, 恕, 义, 信, 忠, 教, 学, 智, 观, 觉, 顿, 识, 悟, 玄, 通, 意, 诚, 朴, 孝, 悌, 敬, 勇, 耻, 罪, 为, 圣, 神, 灵, 本, 体, 用, 空, 虚, 实, 无, 有, 善, 美, 真, 谛, 缘, 文, 公, 和, 中, 庸, 皇, 民 and 国 is of utmost importance for genuine understanding the Chinese, the study of these cultural categories is mostly a virgin field in the West. Consequently, very few Westerners are able to read the Chinese mindset.

Concepts, and a fortiori basic concepts, cannot be grasped when taken out of their context, and statements about them cannot be understood when isolated. So the need for translating the books in which they prominently occur is obvious. And yet, the translation of Xiong Shili’s Xin Weishilun (a new treatise on consciousness-only) and Feng Youlan’s Zhen Yuan Liu Shu (six books on purity and primacy), to name but a few titles, is still a desideratum. These masterpieces, published in 1932 and 1939-46 respectively and harking back to the main issues of neo-Confucianism, a form of Confucianism that originated in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and became prominent in the Song dynasty (960-1279), have not only had tremendous influence on contemporary Chinese thinkers; they also vividly remind the reader of the yawning and seemingly unbridgeable chasm between natural sciences and humanities currently hotly debated in the West.

The time has thus come to render the masterpieces of modern Chinese thinkers into English. However, such a long-term project cannot be brought to successful completion by the signatories of this letter alone.  We therefore respectfully request you to lend your moral support to the project and invite you to participate actively in it by taking part in a survey of all those who are somehow interested, in order to find out which Chinese books written or edited by modern Chinese thinkers should be translated, rather than being only discussed! In this way, and with the help of competent, qualified translators who hopefully will step forward, declaring to be willing to take on the challenge, we would be able to complete the project in the years to come.

Before addressing ourselves for financial matters to, say, Harvard University Press, Columbia University Press, Princeton University Press, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Springer Publishing, World Scientific Publishing, Brill or Routledge, we would like to assure ourselves that you readily support our initiative and accept our invitation to active participation in the proposed translation project.

Yours sincerely,

Hans Kuijper (Retired Civil Servant; graduated in Sinology from Leiden University)
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Email: j_kuijper@online.nl
Wang Ronghua (Distinguished Professor at the University of International Business and Economics, Beijing)
Beijing, People’s Republic of China
Email: wangronghua@vip.sina.com

January 29th, 2018 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Translation | one comment

One Response to Request for info and assistance on translation

  1. Federico Mina says:

    I think Xiong Shili’s “Xin Weishi lun” was already translated by John Makeham in 2015, I havent read it.

    https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300191578/new-treatise-uniqueness-consciousness

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