Editor’s Note:  On April 5, 2005, at the invitation of Dr. John Cobb, Jr., a Seminar on Thomé H. Fang was held at the Center for Process Studies.  The following supplementary materials were provided for reference, which we believe can be shared with our global community of readership.  Grateful acknowledgement is due to both Dr. John Cobb, Jr.,  Director of the Center, and Dr. John Quiring, Program Director, for their invitation and hospitality.




for References]



Why Thomé H. Fang?


---- A Great Eastern Ally

      of Process Thought


Presented to


Thomé H. Fang Seminar


 Center for Process Studies


School of Theology


Claremont, California


April 5, 2005








Thomé H. Fang Institute , Inc.


Mobile, Alabama , USA


















I.         Introductory


(1)   Resume ……………………………………………………..1

(2) Thomé H. Fang, the Man and His Career …………….2

(3) Bibliography ………………………………………………11


II.    Creativism as World Philosophy

A Ninefold Characterization ...…………………………………14


III.  A Prelude to Fang’s Thought:

“Three Types of Philosophical Wisdom: Greek, European,

 and Chinese  …………………………………………………….19

(1)     Translators’ Introduction ………………………………….20

(2)     Author’s Preface ……………………………………………26


IV.  An Epilogue:

An Outline: Ideals of Life and Patterns of Culture ----

Prolegomena to a Comparative Philosophy of Life

(or, Four Types of Philosophical Wisdom: Greek, European,

Chinese, Indian) …………………………………………………80


V.     Philosophical Anthropology: Ernst Cassirer, Max Scheler,

and Thomé Fang …………………………………………………85


VI.  Architectohnics for a Philosophy to Come (Diagram) ……..89


VII.          A Glimpse of World Appraisals ……………………………90





Name:              Thomé H. Fang (Fang Hsun;  personal name: Dong-mei)

Birth Date:        February 9, 1899 (Lunar Calender)

Birth Place:       Tongcheng, Anhui Province, China

Education:         (1) First Tongcheng Middle School, Tongcheng, Anhui, China

(2) B.A. in Philosophy, Jinling University, now Nanjing University (1917-21), 

      Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China

(3) M.A. in Philosophy, University of Wisconsin (1921-22), Madison, Wisconsin

(4) Graduate Studies, Ohio State University (1922-23), Columbus, Ohio

(5) Ph.D. in Philosophy, University of Wisconsin (1023-24), Madison, Wisconsin

Master Thesis:   “A Critical Exposition of the Bergsonian Philosophy of Life” (1922);

                        Director: Evander Bradley McGilvary

Doctorial Dissertation: “A Comparative Study of the British and American Neo-Realism” (1923);

                        Director: Evander Bradley McGilvary

Early Mentors:  Clarence Hamilton, John Dewey, J. A. Leighton, Evander Bradley McGilvary, …


Working Experience:

(1)    Associate Professor, National Wuchang University (1924-25), Wuchang, Hubei Provinve, China;

(2)    Professor, National Southeastern University (1925-27), Nanking, Jiangsu Province, China;

(3)    Professor, Central Institute of Political Sciences (1927-36), Nanking;

(4)    Professor, University of Nanking (1927-32), Nanking;

(5)    Professor, National Central University (1929-48), Nanking & Chungking ;

(6)    Directors, Institute of Advanced Studies in Philosophy, National Central University (1938-48), Chungking;

(7)    Professor, & Chairman, Philosophy Department, National Taiwan University (1948-49). Taipei, Taiwan, ROC;

(8)    Professor (1947-69), Research Professor (1969-73), Philosophy Department, National Taiwan University;

(9)    Chair Professor, Philosophy Department, Fu Jen Catholic University (1973-77);

(10)      Visiting Professor, Philosophy Department, State University of South           Dakota (1959-60);

(11)      Visiting Professor, Philosophy Department, University of Missouri (1960-61), Columbia, Missouri;

(12)      Mead-Swing Lecturership, School of Theology, Oberlin College, Ohio (1960).

(13)      Distinguished Visiting Professor, Philosophy Department, Michigan State University (1964-66), East Lanson,  Michigan;


International Academic Conferences:

(1)    Participating in East-West Philosophers’ Conference on “The World and the Individual” (1964), University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI;

(2)    Participating in East-West Philosophers’ Conference on “The Alienation of Man” (1969), University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI;

(3)    Participating in the 5th Centennial Symposium on Wang Yang-ming (1972), University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI.


Twice awarded “the Medal of Distinguished Service Professor” by Ministry of Education, Republic of China, 1956 & 1964.


Date of Passing:  July 13, 1977, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.      




---- A PROFILE[1]

Suncrates, 1978



Text Box: “ I am a Confucian by family tradition; 
a Taoist by temperament;
a Buddhist by religious inspiration; 
moreover, I am a Westerner by training.”


On being asked about the philosophical affiliation he belonged to by some curious Westerners at the 1964 East-West Philosophers’ Conference, Honolulu, Hawail, our philospher replied with the above cited self-portrait.  “How is it possible?” asked again the enquirer. ‘That is a fact!”  Thus, he answered, so laconically.  Indeed, it is.

1.         Family Background

Born on February 9, 1899 (according to the Lunar Calendar) of an illustrious family in Tong Cheng, An-hui, China, that has produced a galaxy of eminent scholars, thinkers, and men of letters in Chinese classics, including several Royal Tutors at the Imperial Palace during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (such as Fang Gongcheng, Fang Guanchen, etc.), Thomé H. Fang -- whose official name was Fang Xun. personal name: Dong-mei, meaning thereby “Eastern Beauty”-- is the sixteenth generation descendant of Fang Bao (1668-1749), a towering figure in the literary world of the seventeenth century China, founder of the famous Tong Cheng Movement in the history of Chinese literature. 

Yet another even greater figure among his ancestors was Fang Yizhi, his fourteenth ancestor, one of the Four Young Lords of the late Ming Dynasty, son of Fang Kongzhao, Defence Minister at the time.  Fang Yizhi was a pioneer in modern science; he was acquaintanced with several eminent Catholic missionary figures, such as Rev. Methew Rici.  Yi-zhi was truely a full-personality: he was thoroughly versed in Chinese classic scholarship, versatile in the fine arts, too, e.g., in poetry, calligraphy, painting, music, phonetics, philology, and even martial arts and military strategy. He played a leading role in the Renovation Society (Fu Shê), organized by the brilliant and rebellious Imperial University students in campagin against the corruption at the court.   A youth friend with Zheng Cheng-gong, the national hero who defeated the Dutches for recovery of Taiwan to the territory of China, as modern historians found out, he had taken part in the movement of Restoration for the Ming Dynasty.   For twenty years he served as Abbot of the Qing Yuan Temple, continuing the direct linkage of the Chan (Zen) Sect established by the Six Patrarch Hui-neng in the Tang Dynasty of the 7th century.  But as “the most wanted” for Emperor Kang Xi, he ended up by suicide.   His works and thought are still assidiously studied in Japan as subjects for many doctorial dissertations.  He is remmembered both as a pioneer scientiest of inter-relativity and a pioneer philosopher of Comprehensive Harmony (“quan jun,” in his own words), a grand theme fully taken up and developed by his ablest great descendant, our philosopher today.

Early in his tender age, Thomé was deeply immersed in the studies of Chinese classics; he was such a precocious boy that he could learn by heart the entire Book of Odes while he was only three! Besides the family cultural heritage in which he was brought up, Thomé enjoyed the special advantage of being educated at several leading universities both at home and abroad--an advantage which none of his illustrious forefathers had ever enjoyed.

2.         Student Days and Activities

At sixteen he attended the University of Nanking, a most advanced Christian missionary institution in the capital of China. Far from being a merely contemplative mind dwelling in the “ivory tower,” Thomé was very active and deeply involved in the current issues and world affairs. Even early in his student days, he was the founder of the CPS (Chinese Philosophical Society) and became its first President. When John Dewey visited Nanking in 1920, he was the one who gave the Welcome Speech on behalf of the Society. During the May-Fourth Movement in 1919, he played the key-role for initiating the student movements in Nanking and Shanghai that was soon to spread across all Southeastern provinces of China and to spell a new shock for the young China throughout. At the University of Nanking, Dewey became his first teacher of the History of Western Philosophy: the ancient period.  At first Thomé was much interested in Dewey as a scholar of history of ideas, but he soon found himself unable to appreciate Dewey’s pragmatism. Divergent in temperaments, eventually each went his own way.

In 1918—one year before the May-Fourth Movement—when he was barely over nineteen, along with a group of brilliant young men, such as Huang Zhongshu, Zuo Shunsheng (who after-wards became the President of the Chinese Youth Party), Thomé joined the Young China Association founded by Dr. Wang Guangqi (who later became a professor of History of Music at the University of Bonn, Germany, and died there in 1936). Paradoxically, this Young China Association, composed of 108 members drawn from the flower of Chinese youth in the early 20s, and intended to be a non-­political organization devoted to the cause of China modernization through social reform rather than political revolution, turned out to be the meeting ground for all the future leadership of various political parties that have played decisive roles in the political scene of China ever since: for instances, Zuo Shunsheng and Lee Huang for the Chinese Youth Party; Lee  Dazhao and Mao Zedong for the Chinese Communist Party; and a host of others for the Democratic Socialist Party founded by Dr. Carson Chang, and the Nationalist Party formed by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. With his literary brilliance, Thomé was elected Chief Editor of the two journals published by the Association, The Young China and The Young World, until 1921 when he set out for the United States for advanced studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Throughout his life he remained non-political and non-partisan, true to the spirit and ideals on which the Association was founded.  As such he was esteemed as its perfect member to be modelled after.

His coming to the United States marked a turning point in the course of his intellectual development as a result of a crisis that might have ended regrettably but for the generous intervention of his teacher, Dr. Clarence Hamilton at the University of Nanking. The story runs roughly as follows:

Brilliant yet non-conformist at school, Thomé was so dissatisfied with the educa­tional policy of the University that he was outspoken in criticism—which really irritated some of the conservative missionary authorities. Consequently, a case was brought against him in the faculty meeting and he was designated for dismissal or honorable withdrawal from the school; for he was caught right on the spot as reading some Chinese romantic novels instead of The Holy Bible during the Sunday ceremony.  Fortunately, present at the meeting was Dr. Clarence Hamilton, who protested by proposing an alternative, that the whole University be closed rather than have such a brilliant young man dismissed for merely a minor breach of the school rules. For, without a sound university educational policy, he argued, the University itself had lost all its raison d’être! The case immediately caught the attention of University President, Dr. Baldwin on campus, who arranged an inter­view with this young man, and was so impressed with his ability and audacity, his judgment and insight, that instead of having him dismissed, he accepted his criticism, put into practice his suggestions after due consideration, and decided to recommend him for advanced studies in the United States after graduation.  So Thomé went to study in the United States, first at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then at Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio, and finally back again to Wisconsin. His three years stay in the United States (1921-24) left a permanent deposit in his own intellectual lore as it laid down a solid foundation for his training in Western philosophy and culture. Forty years later—in the early 60s—when he was invited by the State Department to visit 37 of American universities in a series of lecture tours, he did not forget to pay a visit to his former mentor, Dr. Clarence Hamilton, then above 80, living in retirement at home in Oberlin, OH.

Two anecdotes that took place during his stay in the United States are worth mentioning, both having something to do with Bertrand Russell. After his China trip in 1920-21, Russell was invited to give a lecture at the University of Wisconsin. Thomé and several other Chinese students paid him a visit at the hotel where he stayed.  They were so enthusiastically engaged in discussions on various aspects of the so called “China problem,” philosophical and otherwise, that Russell forgot the lecture appointment entirely, thus leaving the audience waiting in the lecture hall in vain!  Another event was due to Russell’s harsh and unsympathetic criticism of Henri Bergson. During this period Thomé was much fascinated by neo-realism that was just in vogue; but mentally he was so conditioned that the more critical people were of a certain figure, the more curious he became, and determined to make a thoroughgoing study of that figure under the fire of criticism.  Paradoxically, just because of Russell’s unsympathetic criticism of Bergson, Thomé has become a passionate lover of the great French process philosopher ever since. He presented “A Critical Exposition of the Bergsonian Philosophy of Life” as his Master Thesis to the Philosophical Faculty at Wisconsin. One of its readers,— so the story goes, according to his old friend Dr. Xu Guang (Ziming) — Professor Evander Bradley McGilvary, who was an expert on Hegel, Bergson, Whitehead, and biological sciences as well, showed it to the Graduate Faculty with the remark: “I am wondering how many American graduate students have even his excellent command of English, to say nothing of the substance of this brilliant study!” The philosophical atmosphere at Wisconsin at the time was predominantly neo-realistic and anti-Hegelian. It had been said that Professor McGilvary was once pressed so hard to give a course on Hegel that he had to turn down the very idea by saying, “One cannot make the same mistake twice!” This puzzled Thomé so much that he decided to leave Wisconsin for Ohio State University, with the sole purpose in mind to study more of Hegel under Professor J. A. Leighton, promising that he would return as soon as he had satisfied his intellectual “itch” for Hegelianism.  In fact, he did. After one year’s stay at Ohio State, he kept his promise by returning to Wisconsin and completed his Doctorial Dissertation “A Comparative Study of the British and American Neo-Realism.”  His early acquaintance with Bergson and Hegel had provided him with a new perspective in light of which he was in a position to see the main streams of Chinese philosophy as a form of organicism in the process tradition. Furthermore, his familiarity with Whitehead, especiaily the Whiteheadian insight that ultimately philo­sophy is akin to poetry, had provided him with an excellent apparatus of all the necessary terminology in terms of which he was enabled to formulate the ultimate principles, i.e., ideas or notions of ultimate generalities, in Chinese metaphysics, as exemplified by his middle work The Chinese View of Life: A Philosophy of Comprehensive Harmony (1957).  It appeared as a result of certain challenging suggestions made by Sarvepalli Radharkrishnan, the chief exponent and spokesman of Indian philosophy to the West, during his visit to Chungking,  the wartime capital of China, in 1939-40.  Radharkrishnan urged Thomé to do the same for China as he was doing for India by serving as the spokeman for their respective cultural heritages.

2.      Teaching Career


In 1924, as urged by his family and friends at home, Thomé returned to China; at twenty-five, he was male Associate Professor of philosophy at the National Wuchang University in central China, and reassumed the Chief Editorship for The Young China and The Young World.  While teaching at Wuchang, he was eyewitness to the first bloody split between the Nationalists and the Communists, the rightists and the leftists, with friends on both sides. A compassionate and warm-hearted person, he was extremely agonized and almost torn apart within; for the first time in his life he had tasted the bitter experience of the dirty business of Real-Politik. For the rest of his life, he had deliberately stayed away from the hot-water of politics in a spirit of detachment, yet nonetheless with profound compassion and deep concern for the destiny of China and that of the whole world.

In April 1937, on the eve of the Japanese invasion of China, just three months before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, Thomé delivered a series of lectures as a national address to the Chinese people broadcast nation-wide through the CBS (Chinese Broadcasting Station), titled Essentials of Chinese Philosophy of Life, which is comparable in many aspects to Fichte’s “Address to the German Nation,” yet superior in grandeur and sublimity.

His teaching career covers a span of over half a century 1924-77 (See “Brief Resume” for reference). From 1937 to 1945, Thomé had spent eight years in agony and anguish with keen awareness of the existential sense of anxiety, sorrow and suffering. Besides his regular teaching duties at the National Central University, he had managed to put himself up with a farm house in the countryside in order to escape the heavy bombing during the Japanese air raids. He applied himself, whenever possible, to the composing of poems (nearly 1000 of them were thus produced during the wartime) and the perusal of thousands of Buddhist S­ãtras, especially the Avatamsaka (Hua Yen) School of Chinese Mah~y~naic Buddhism,which he borrowed from a nearby Buddhist Temple. After World War II, he returned to Nanking where he taught for about three years at the Central University until 1948. He was made the first Chairman of the Philosophy Department and Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy at the National Taiwan University following the Island’s restoration to China after fifty years of Japanese occupation. In 1948-49, on the eve of the Communist take-over of China mainland, he proposed to save as many as possible of the Chinese intellectuals on the mainland. Hundreds of application letters came daily from various Chinese leading Universities. Unfortunately, his project failed to materialize in time, victimized to the so called academic politics in the higher educational circle. Thus numerous distinguished scholars, e.g., Professors Liang Shuming, Shiung Shihli, Tang Yongtong, Zhu Guangqian (then Dean of Liberal Arts, National Peking University), had to remain on the mainland, hence to suffer a series of purges and public castigations of all sorts, especially during the terrible “Cultural Revolution” period. Thomé was so frustrated and upset with the whole situation that, in protest, he resigned at once his chairmanship and directorship in the department, to be succeeded by his former student Professor Ludwig Chung-huan Chen, the eminent Aristotelian scholar.

3.                At the East-West Philosophers’ Conferences

In 1964 Thomé was invited to participate the Fourth East-West Philosophers’ Conference at Honolulu, Hawaii, heading the Chinese delegates as a substitute for Hu Shih, the famous Dewey disciple in China. Thomé presented “The World and the Individual in Chinese Metaphysics,” which had won great admiration from men like D. T. Suzuki; and his dramatic Chan styled debate with Professor J. A. Findlay from England cut, as it were, quite a spicy anecdote for the whole conference.

After the conference, D. T. Suzuki (then above 93) sent his greeting card through his personal secretary Miss Mihoko Okamura to Thomé at the hotel. These two great minds of the East met, for the first and the last time as well, at the Academy Museum of Honolulu, enjoying the beauty and charm of the Japanese-styled garden there. Suzuki told Thomé that he was working hard on the translation with commentaries of some classical works of the Hua Yen (Avatamsaka) School of Mah­~y~na Buddhism; perhaps he would not die until he had completed the task. After his return to Taipei, Thomé often received words of greetings from Suzuki through some Chinese graduate students (e.g., Rev. Chang) studying at the Otani University, Kamakura, Kyoto, Japan, until 1966 when Suzuki dropped him the brief message on a post card that his task had been nearly finished. These few words sounded so symbolic that, on first hearing, Thomé was stuck by a shock that ran through his whole being, “Does this mean that he is going to leave ... the world?” A few days afterwards, his apprehension was perfectly confirmed:  Dr. D. T. Suzuki passed away at the age of 95.

In addition, Thomé attended both the 5th East-West Philosophers’ Conference in 1969 on  “the Alienation of Man” and the Fifth Centenial Anniversary Symposium in 1972 on Wang Yang-ming sponsored by Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii, to which he presented respectively ‘The Alienation of Man in Philosophy, Religion, and Philosophical Anthropology” and “The Essence of Wang Yang-ming’s Philosophy in an Historical Perspective.”


5.  Retirement

In the summer of 1973 Thomé retired from the National Taiwan University after an unbroken record of fifty years of distinguished service as a university professor: He had taught five generations of Chinese philosophers and intellectuals alike. In the memory of those who attended his lectures, spellbound by his magnetic personality and erudite scholarship, he has remained always as a powerfully inspiring teacher: com­prehensive in perspective; thoroughgoing in treatment; elegant in expression; penetrative in insight; and synoptic in vision. As a philosopher, he exemplified the Spinozistic ideal: simple living and noble thinking. As a person, he is a man of perfect sincerity and integrity dedicated to the principle that politics should follow the ideals of culture, not the other way around.

Professor Charles Moore of the University of Hawaii said in 1964, “Never until now do I know who is the greatest philosopher of China.” According to O’brien Briere, the contemporary French historian of ideas, in his Fifty Years of Chinese Philosophy: 1898-1950, Thomé Fang will be remembered by posterity even for his short essay “Three Types of Philosophical Wisdom: Greek, European, and Chinese” (alone)!  In the words of Professor Lewis E. Hahn, formerly Dean of the Graduate School, Washington University at St. Louis, Missouri, Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy, and Editor for Library of Living Philosophers, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, “Any one who has exchanged just a few words with Thomé Fang will recognize him as a great scholar, no matter how much or how little he has published!”

A candlelight farewell party was given in his honor in 1973, attended by hundreds of his former pupils in Taipei. In a slightly dry and low voice, with tears in his own eyes along with those of the young faces, in the glow of the candleights, he said, “I have none of my own children to pass on the torch that is in my hand; I have only my intellectual heirs.”

Four years later, on July 13, 1977, he passed away after seven months of the most painful suffering caused by cancer in the lungs and liver. His body was cremated, in acconlance with his Will, and his ashes and bones contained in a marble urn were sunk down beneath the deep waters of the Liao-luo Gulf, somewhere between Kinmen and the Taiwan Strait. The funeral was attended by his eldest son, Dr. Fabian T. Fang, and a group of his devoted disciples headed by Army General Wang Sheng, on July 21, 1977. One year later, on the occasion of the First Anniversary of his passing (July 13, 1978), a Memorial Pavilion enshrining an inscription on Marble was erected in Shah-mei, a small town east of Kinmen facing the China mainland, for edifying the greatest philosophical personality China has ever produced in the last 500 hundred years since Wang Yang-ming. To quote Plato’s Phaedo, “Such was the end of our friend, whom I may truly call the wisest, and the justest, and best of all men whom I have ever known.” (in Jowett’s translation.)

His intellectual heirs, as we believe, are not confined to the Chinese nation alone, for the torch of human philosophical wisdom as embodied in his opus magnum, Chinese Philosophy: Its Spirit and Its Development (which will prove to be a Herculean feast and a monumental contribution to world philosophy), will be passed on to all mankind as a whole. Dedicated to the late great philosopher is the following Epitaph:

Here lies a man at long rest,

Who has dreamt the dream of life

At its best:

A philosopher of Life

Has he become;

Sublime and sober,

A teacher of ages to come.


Nay, perhaps, all such but a misnomer

For one whose life is spent

As a fighter to the end!


Acrossing the space

Like a comet,

Unto a dwelling place

Who is is to forget?

Timeless, serene, above ages all:

—What a poet, a prophet,

And a sage, withal!




















































In Memoriam:  Master Thomé H. Fang



A towering figure standing, like a pillar, atop myriad cliffs,

Casts his eyes surveying the course of events

Of all times -- from the ancient down to the present.

Of his personal name “Eastern Beauty” (dong mei),

He is truly worthy:

meaning thereby  “Wisdom

Round and Divine,” i.e., flexible, and never stiff!

No less easily has he swallowed up

the waters of various rivers in one sipping,

Than has he readily opened up

the ford of “Four Types of Philosophical Wisdom”

with one bidding.

To young men and women

He transmits the sagely teachings

So as to help release the Creative in the human,

Thus, to Comprehensive Harmony does he testify

as consummation consummated.

Participating in the creative acts in heavens up on high

While leveling up all things as co-related

here upon the earth,

To the workings of the Wheel Universal

he refers

as Lord the Supreme above all.

(according to his ancestor Fang Yizhi, the Ming philosopher)

Now, has he returned home to the Realm of Sunyata,

Yet for those of his erratic and simple pupils like us,

He always remains

To be thus warmly missed:

As the springtime’s seasonable rains

So refreshing, nourishing,

and transforming,

as he truly is.



Lofty and cool as the snow-clad cliffs, clear

and refreshing as the distant icy brooks,

Great Square knows no corners,” remote or near!

Yet, deeply solitary he looks.

Once has he drunken up the West rivers

He retruns to the East Sea; once

Has he plucked up the South dipper,

He swiftly turns to the North ones.

Single-handedly he upholds the Beauty

of “Three Types of Philosophical Wisdom,”

While merging myriad differences in sum

Total into the Realm of One Great Truth of Identity

As viewed under the aspect of Unitive Intuition.

Now, has he returned home to the Realm of Sunyata.


And disappears as the extinct Unicorn (an allusion

 to Kongzi). It is forever

Lamented, from time immemorial,

Alike by the human and the spiritual!




[1]Editor’s Note: Grateful acknowledgement is due to Mrs. Lillian Y. Fang for many valuable suggestions she has provided on the biographical and bibliographical data of her late husband in Appendices I-III in this opus magnum: Chinese Philosophy: Its Spirit and Its Development.