The University Committee on Asia & the Middle East (UCAME) is pleased to share the great news that the Tang Prize Committee, in a press conference from Taiwan earlier today, announced William Theodore de Bary, Professor Emeritus of Columbia University, the sole recipient of the 2016 Tang Prize in Sinology for his “pioneering contributions in Confucian studies.” Founded in 2012 by Samuel Yin who was inspired by the Nobel Prize, the award includes a cash prize of US$1.24 million, as well as a separate grant of approx. US$311,000 for awardees in each of its four categories: Sinology, Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, and Rule of Law. The inaugural winner of the Tang Prize in 2014 was Prof. Yu Ying-shih. This year’s award ceremony will take place in Taipei on September 25.
In unanimously nominating de Bary for this year’s award, the Academica Sinica pointed at length to his achievements on several fronts: his pioneering the field of Neo-Confucian studies, bringing to light especially the history and evolution of the Cheng-Zhu school of Neo-Confucianism; his groundbreaking reappraisal of Confucianism not as an obstacle to modernization but as core foundation of culture across East Asia, including as basis for values of individual personhood, freedom, and learning toward daotong or “the reconstitution of the Way”; and his indefatigable leadership in support of “the great civilized conversation” across cultures–not least through the enormous output of translations, sourcebooks, and teaching guides that provide the English-speaking world with key access to social, political, intellectual, and cultural traditions of China and other non-Western civilizations.
De Bary was described by the Tang Committee as former Provost of Columbia University, former Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and founder of both the Heyman Center for the Humanities and the University Committee on Asia & the Middle East (UCAME), at the latter of which he continues to serve as Chair of the Publications Committee. They summarized his contributions as follows: “Serving as a bridge between Confucian traditions and the modern world, Professor de Bary is a rare exemplar of a scholar known not only for his monumental scholarship and leadership in the field of Confucianism, but also for his unflagging dedication to renewing and realizing the great civilized conversation to iron out differences and foster mutual understanding [between civilizations]. Even now in his nineties, he continues to publish works that reflect his commitment to addressing key questions confronting humanity.”