Dr. Wu Chunmei, Vice President of Anhui University (right) and Dr. Zhong Maosen, Vice President of the Puee Land School of Larning, Sdney, Australia,  at  the Unveialing Ceremony, Oct. 14, 2008



Dr. Qian Gengsen Delivers the Keynote Speech at the Unveiling Ceremony



The Values of Thomé H. Fang’s Philosophy


A Keynote Speech at the Unveiling Ceremony of

the Institute for Thomé H. Fang Studies

Anhui University


Qian Gengsen

Honorary Director


Concurrently Honorary President

Yellow Mountain Academy of Culture

Anhui, China


Tr. Suncrates & Sandra A. Wawrytko




Ms. Chairperson, Distinguished Guests, Esteemed Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:


The Institute for Thomé H. Fang Studies, Anhui University, was born today in the golden season of the year – a season when the autumn breeze is so delightfully refreshing, the cinnamon fragrance is so ethereally permeating, and the fruits are so gloriously growing in clusters on the great earth of the Yangzi and the Huai Rivers area; it was born amidst the enthusiastic applause from scholars on both sides of the Taiwan Straits!


Professor Thomé H. Fang (1899-1977) is a great figure in the history of contemporary Chinese philosophy; also he is an outstanding native worthy of the older generation in Anhui.  Thus he has aroused in me a profound interest to learn more about him.  I wanted to study his philosophical thought, and I came up subsequently with the idea of founding an Institute in his honor, particularly for this purpose.  About ten years ago, I somehow got in touch with one of his worthy disciples, Professor Zhang Shangde (from Taiwan).  Zhang was very enthusiastic too, and we continued our contacts for quite a few years, unfortunately, to no avail.  Professor Shi Xiangqian, Secretary-in-General for the Institute, had also participated in the work.  Recently, thanks to Dr. Zhong Maosen, a disciple of Senior Professor Ching Kung who himself is another worthy disciple of Professor Fang’s, I had the honor to approach His Eminence.  Master Ching Kung has long cherished in his mind the idea to repay Professor Fang for the great kindness received from his teachings.  Surely, there must be wonderful karma-resonating between us.  Rev. Ching Kung is extremely fervent in nature, quite willing to help and cooperate, so that with his great support, especially his most generous donation with money, we were able to establish a base, materially speaking, that the Institute became organized and founded conjointly by the Pure Land School of Learning, Sidney, Australia, Anhui University, and the Yellow Mountain Academy of Culture, Anhui, China.  Hence, the Institute for Thomé H. Fang Studies of the Anhui University now is hereby pleased to announce its official establishment on October 14, 2008.  Reportedly, on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, this Institute of ours turns out to be the first of its kind -- solely devoted to the Thomé H. Fang Studies.  Now, with my long-cherished wishes fulfilled, I am extremely happy!  Also, I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to Rev. Ching Kung!


It is my great privilege and honor, today, to present briefly my Keynote Speech on the subject “The Values of Thomé H. Fang’s Philosophy” as follows:




Master Thomé H. Fang (1899-1977), official name: Xun (Hsun), original name: Dehuai, personal name: Dongmei, hence his later adopted name (Thomé), was born on February 3 (Lunar Calendar: January 9) in the Dali Estate, Yangshuwan (Poplar Tree Gulf), Tongcheng City, Anhui, China, of which the new name reads: “the Dali Estate, Shuangxing Village, Yijin Town, Zongyang Xian, Anhui, China.”


At the age of fourteen, he passed the Entrance Examination to attend the well-known Tongcheng High School, from which he graduated in 1917.  At the age of eighteen, similarly, he entered the famous Jinling University, Nanking, Jiangsu, China.  In his native town he had spent a period of 18 years.  According to Suncrates, he “was bred up in the atmosphere of a typical Confucian family, deeply immersed in the Chinese classics.  At the age of three he was such a precocious wonder child, remarkably endowed, that he was able to learn by heart the entire Book of Odes just by listening to it as chanted.  Indeed, a brilliant prodigal like his 14th generation ancestral uncle Fang Yizhi!” (For documentation, cf. Mr. Chen Jing’s recent works in genealogical studies of Master Fang’s family heritage).


Thus we see that Master Fang was a prominent exemplar of our native worthies, as well as an eminent figure in the history and culture of our province.  Studying his thought in philosophy and culture, therefore, will naturally help us to spread and enhance our unique and authentic cultural contributions known as the “Hui Studies.”




From his birth in 1899 to his passing in 1977, Master Fang enjoyed a relatively long life, with three years of studies in the US (1922-25), he lived forty-nine years in Mainland China. From 1948 to 1977, except for four years of teaching and lecturing in the US (1959-61, 1964-66), he lived twenty-nine years in Taiwan. With such a dual relationship with both sides, he is deservedly regarded as an important symbol for philosophy and culture on mainland China and Taiwan as well.   In this sense, studying his thought in philosophy and culture will naturally help promote the cultural interflow between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.




Throughout his life Master Fang was a passionate lover of Chinese philosophy and culture; ever since his early years he had been under their influences.  Especially Confucianism, Daoism, and (Mahayana) Buddhism had tremendous, enduring, and profound impacts on his intellectual development.  From his first day at school he immersed himself in studies of Chinese classics, thus forming a sort of long established and inseparably close karma-linkage with these three leading schools.  As he once put it, Confucianism was his family tradition; Daoism, his temperament; and Buddhism, his religious inspiration.  Most significantly, after the outbreak of the War against Japanese Invasion in 1927, the older he became, the more passionately he loved Chinese philosophy and culture – a great cultural tradition which he had inherited entirely, studied deeply, and mastered impressively and to whose further development he made unique contributions.


On the other hand, throughout his life he was no less a great lover of Western philosophy and culture which similarly had also exerted deep impacts on him. It began with his attending Tongcheng High School, which, as an institution of learning, was well-known far and wide.  For his undergraduate studies he attended the famous Jinling University at Nanking, founded by US Christian Missionaries.  Even as an undergraduate, he was well known across the campus for his superior knowledge of classical Chinese studies.  Meanwhile, he attended a course on “Western Philosophy: the Ancient Period” offered by the famous American philosopher, Professor John Dewey (1920-21).  After his graduation cum laude, he was recommended for a scholarship to pursue advanced studies in the US, first at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), then at Ohio State University (Columbus), and finally back again to Wisconsin, where he completed his Master Thesis “A Critical Exposition of the Bergsonian Philosophy of Life” and his Doctorial Dissertation “A Comparative Study of the British and American neo-Realism” in 1923 and 1925, respectively.   The strict and systematic training he received in Western philosophy and culture surely had laid down a solid foundation for his lifetime in-depth studies in Western philosophy and culture.  After his return from abroad, he had been long engaged in teaching and researching on Western philosophy and culture for many years.  In his old age, however, he shifted his focus to the teaching of Chinese philosophy and culture exclusively.  In one word, for all his lifetime Master Fang’s career can be likened to an intellectual sort of “Ulysses’ journey,” venturing  across China and the West and linking the ancient and the modern.


On the basis of his comparative studies of China and the West (the term “West” in the broad sense covers Ancient India, Ancient Greece, and modern Europe), Master Fang was extremely adept in bringing a synthetic fusion of the French philosopher Henri Bergson’s philosophy of Life, the British philosopher A. N. Whitehead’s process philosophy (organism), and the Chinese philosophy of creativity (organism) embodied in the foremost of Chinese classics, The Book of Creativity and its Commentaries.  Thus seen, Master Fang’s philosophy of Life stands as a paradigm for the philosophical synthesis of East and West.  He will certainly guide us to do a better job for the transformation of traditional Chinese philosophy so as to realize the goal of modernization.




Can Master Fang’s philosophy be classified under the category of Neo-Confucianism?  What is the nature of his philosophy of Life?  How to define its position?  It is by no means easy to answer these questions definitely.  Even he himself admitted, “It is hard to explain.  Even if I wish to, you may not believe it.  I am a Confucian by family tradition; a Daoist by temperament, a Buddhist by religious inspiration; moreover, I am a Westerner by training.”  This is how he responded to the curious enquirers at the 1964 East and West Philosophers’ Conference, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, after his victory in debate over the British philosopher F. N. Findlay.  When the enquirers asked again, “How is it possible?” “That is a fact!” thus replied our philosopher— laconically.


But, whether for the discussants on either side of the Taiwan Strait, native or foreign, generally it is always the prevailing view – or what seems to be – that Master Fang can be considered a “Neo-Confucian.”


Of course, this is quite an important issue to be further looked into. We welcome “the wise finds it as wise; the benevolent finds it as benevolent,” as the Chinese proverb has it. “Let all the flowers bloom!”


With regard to his status as a Chinese, especially a Chinese philosopher, we notice that for Confucian philosophy he really had a special sentiment of indebtedness and reverence which was revealed in his favorite love for Chinese philosophy and his commitment thereto.  This is altogether natural because it is Confucianism that has proved the main strain of thought and the foundation of Chinese philosophy and culture.  I maintain thus, whether Master Fang could be counted as a Neo-Confucian or not, the plentitude and fruitfulness of his Confucian studies will always remain one of the indispensably important resources for us today in our effort to build up a spiritual community as the “common home” for the Chinese people, as a whole.




On November 2, 1973, Master Fang delivered a speech on “The Impacts of Chinese Philosophy on the World to Come.” In this speech, again Master Fang elucidated in detail his ingenious Diagram for “the Correlative Structure of Men and the World,” saying, “Here in this Diagram, objectively considered, the spirit of philosophy must be located in the actual and value-charged world.  At the same time, this actual and value-charged world won’t take the oxen or goat as it subject, or the monkey as its subject; rather, it takes the human beings as its subject.  For this reason, then, there are two main columns in this philosophical architecture: On the one side, the objective world; on the other side, the spirit of human life as the subject.  With these two main columns, we may now proceed to draw the blueprint.”  And he continues, “Therefore, in this blueprint, you see, there is a pagoda pattern, with the physical world at the bottom, the biotic world on the super-structure, and the psychic world still higher.  With all these three layers, we can make a pretty wholesome arrangement for the body, life, psyche, and soul of the human beings.  And then on this plane we may display fully our artistic ideals, so as to build up the realm of art; next, we need to cultivate our moral character, so as to establish the realm of morality; going through both art and morality, we should elevate Life ever higher up towards the realm of mystery – the realm of religion.  Hence, in our blueprint the universe must be differentiated into many worlds, ….” etc. 


Why must he say so? Why must he read the blueprint for “the Correlative Structure of Men and the World” in such a way?  What is his purpose -- What for?


He thus admitted, frankly:  “This Diagram, like a blueprint, I attempted to draw in a state of agony or, if you like, the so-called state of ecstasy, in which I am looking forwards to the Renaissance in philosophy of our time, especially in China. Then I wish to face the West with the thought generated thereby, hoping to stimulate and inspire a corresponding one in Western philosophy as well, which, as we all know, is already on its decline.  This is the rationale for the blueprint I have drawn.”


At the moment, we may not be quite carried away by the above-mentioned blueprint, the Diagram for “the Correlative Structure of Men and the World” Master Fang had so ingeniously designed; or after all we may still hesitate to endorse to it entirely. Yet, it is nonetheless true that his timely wisdom to perceive the urgent need for a philosophical Renaissance in China and the West alike, his persistent spirit to spur the latter with the former; and his ennobling ideal to perfectly settle the “Correlative Structure of Men and the World,” etc., all these, I maintain, will never cease to be a great source of inspiration for us in our endeavors to deal with a series of important issues at hand. These include how to further develop Chinese philosophy from now on, to enable it to make the kind of contributions it should for the philosophical development in the West? how to best solve the problems involved in the “Correlative Structure of Men and the World,” etc.?  Furthermore we have those rational, positive, and wholesome parts implied therein which, of course, will always remain the precious legacy Master Fang so graciously bequeathed to us.





There are two assertions in The Book of Creativity (Chapter 6, The Commentary to Appended Judgments or, for Fang, Conspectus) that impressed Master Fang tremendously: “Hence, the Creative, static in its concentration and dynamic in its directional energy, is made to represent the magnificent Life.  Hence, the Pro-Creative, static in its embrace and dynamic in its unfolding, is made to stand for the expansive Life.”  In sum, he called “Qian” the Creative Principle and “Kun” the Pro-Creative Principle.  And so creatively had he appropriated and adopted them as the two most fundamental notions and principles in his own philosophical system to explain the universe and human life.  For him, both the universe and man are conceived to be always in the perpetual process of creative advance.  The universe is by no means a mere array of mechanical and physical activities; rather, it is the world of an all-pervasive Universal Life:  The universe, “as seen through the mind eye of the Time man, is an all-comprehensive urge of Life, and all-pervading vital energy, not for a single moment ceasing to create and pro-create and not for a single spot ceasing to overflow and interpenetrate.” It is simply an Eternal Flux Itself.  Again, for him, the universe is an eidetic system of equilibrium and harmony, finite in matter, whereas infinite if functionally considered.  In other words, all things are in the state of mutual response by interaction, completely free from any segregation from one another, thus generating the state of infinite joyousness and harmoniousness.


Master Fang points out the limitations involved in the Western bifurcational mode of thought as the method of dualistic opposition.  He said, “The Europeans are fond of chopping in two the whole man as soul vs. body; the whole state as the ruling vs. the ruled; the whole universe as reality vs. appearance, thus treating each pair of terms as mutually hostile towards one another.  This attitude has become a habit in terms of which they tend to interpret the heaven-man relationship as one of irreconcilable hostilities.”  But Master Fang, on the contrary, fully affirms the typical Chinese unitive mode of thought as the method of “cosmic identification.”  He said, “For Chinese philosophers, the relationship between heaven and man is one very satisfactory in nature.  Heaven and man are always in the state of mutual response by interaction.  Not only free from hostility and conflict they display, moreover, a remarkable cosmic orderliness of harmony -- ubiquitously.  . . .  Such a tendency of thought permeates Chinese philosophy throughout.”  Master Fang’s mellow and profound way of thinking on the harmony of Man and Cosmos is indeed valuable and precious.


Master Fang further affirms: With our experiential realization of the creative creativity and harmony of the universe, as human beings we should be self-aware that, accordingly, we too must be “perpetually self-creating and self-reinforcing”; and towards the others we must adopt the (pro-creative) attitude of “sustaining all things with profound excellence.”  That is to say, as human beings we should and could develop to the utmost the heavenly endowed creative power within us for activities of excellence, so as to strive after the state of “round” harmony and consummate perfection in terms of Good and Beauty.  In other words, by abiding both to the creative potency of the heaven high above and to the pro-creative power of the earth down below, as human beings in between we should be able to participate in the same cosmic process of creative advance as co-workers with heaven and earth.  We shall combine these two sets of creative forces within our ourselves (as authentic being) -- the miraculous power of creation of the heaven and the all-embracing power of pro-creation of the earth; thus we can take a humanistic stand to work on various forms of human creations, that is, creations in pursuit of the consummation of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.


This shows perfectly that Master Fang wishes to take the state of “Creative Creativity” and “Comprehensive Harmony” as the highest ideal world for philosophical aspirations, as well as the perfectly ideal state for human life.


Obviously, Master Fang’s idea of “Creative Creativity” and “Comprehensive Harmony” will become for us one of the most important resources for our goal to build up a spiritual community as the common home for the Chinese people, to construct Harmonious Societies and one Great Harmonious World, and finally to realize the great UN goal of Peace and Development.


In sum, the reason that we are gathering together here today to establish this Institute is to provide a certain common site to promote the learning, study, and enhancement of Master Fang’s thought in philosophy and culture.  We adopt open-minded approaches to run the Institute.  Therefore, we earnestly welcome all philosophical comrades, Institute members or outsiders alike, to work together in a cooperative spirit to improve our works on the learning, study and enhancement of Master Fang’s thought in philosophy and culture.  My humble opinions stated above are merely suggested to serve “as bricks thrown out to attract the jade works” in your response. Any comments on the inadequacies involved are appreciated.  Thank you all!